Billie Swalla, Professor, Biology Department and Friday Harbor Laboratories, University of Washington
Professor Billie J. Swalla is Director of Friday Harbor Laboratories and Professor of Biology at the University of Washington and an expert in Marine Genomics. Professor Swalla began her career at the University of Iowa, working on cartilage and muscle differentiation and limb patterning in chicken embryos with Professor Michael Solursh. A summer taking Embryology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA changed her life and she moved to Postdoctoral studies with Professor William R. Jeffery at the University of Texas at Austin and Bodega Marine Lab at the University of California at Davis. Dr. Swalla worked on the molecular basis of development in tailed and tailless ascidians for Postdoctoral studies, and continued research into the evolution of chordates. Early in the 1990's she began working on molecular phylogenies of the deuterostomes and proposed a new hypothesis for a worm-like deuterostome ancestor in 2000. Molecular phylogenies led to her understanding the importance of hemichordates to understanding the evolution of chordates, and she began working on hemichordate evolution and development in 1997. Her lab continues to work on tunicate and hemichordate phylogenies, evolution and development, and chordate origins. In 2010, she began a new project studying ctenophore evolution and development with Professor Leonid Moroz from the University of Florida. Her lab currently uses transcriptomics and genomics to investigate the evolution of animal body plans.