Dr. Irish obtained her B.A. in Biology from Wesleyan University and her Ph.D. in Cellular and Developmental Biology from Harvard University under the mentorship of William Gelbart. As a graduate student, she showed that the DPP/TGFbeta signaling pathway is necessary to specify dorsal-ventral polarity in the Drosophila embryo. As a Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Fellow with Michael Akam in the Department of Genetics, Cambridge University, she continued to investigate patterning processes in the Drosophila embryo, elucidating how maternal effect and homeotic genes act to establish anterior-posterior polarity. Dr. Irish then turned her attention to exploring patterning processes in the Arabidopsis flower, as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow with Ian Sussex at Yale University. She joined the faculty at Yale in 1991 and, for a number of years, has focused on characterizing the genes and pathways regulating organogenesis and growth in the flower. She has also explored the extent to which these pathways are conserved across different flowering plant species. Dr. Irish is a past president of the Society for Developmental Biology, and serves as editor for the journals Developmental Biology and Evolution & Development.
Using molecular, genetic, genomic and modeling approaches, the Irish lab focuses on understanding how plants regulate developmental plasticity to elaborate particular organ types. These interests range from investigating how stem cell proliferation is controlled to how biomechanical forces impact the specification of organ and cell shape. Much of the lab’s work is centered on understanding how these processes are integrated in forming a petal, a simple laminar organ of few cell types, but whose form varies widely in different plant species.