Van der Waals Colloquium - Jeroen van Zon (AMOLF): 'Canalization and variability in C. elegans development'



16.00 hrs


Sitterzaal, Oort building, Leiden



During embryonic development, a single fertilized egg cell gives rise to a vastly larger and highly complex adult organism. It is a fundamental open question how development occurs with astounding reproducibility, particularly as cells are known to be inherently variable on the molecular level. We study this question in the simple nematode worm C. elegans, that consists of only ~1000 cells. In my talk, I will present two recent results. First, we used quantitative microscopy combined with mathematical modeling to explain the surprising observation that organ development in C. elegans is ‘canalized’, meaning that, despite strong anatomical variability at the start, the process of organ formation always resulted in the same, ‘correct’ structure at the end. Second, we developed a microscopy technique that makes it possible to perform time-lapse microscopy at single-cell resolution in moving and growing nematodes. To demonstrate the power of our approach, I will discuss our quantitative analysis of the dynamics of cell division, cell migration and gene expression, as recorded over the full 48 hour development of newly hatched larva to adult nematode.


Host: Stefan Semrau

The Van der Waals colloquium takes place at 16:00 sharp in the Sitterzaal, and is followed by a borrel (Beer! Snacks! Physics!). Each colloquium starts with an opening act by a local student (10min) before the main talk (45+10min). Unless otherwise noted, a special coffee hour for PhD students takes place on the morning of the colloquium, 11.30 – 12.30h in the C.J.Gorterzaal (1st floor Oortbuilding). If you would like to talk to the guest, please contact Yvonne ( or the host.