Debra Silver, PhD – Biography

Associate Professor
Duke Institute for Brain Sciences Investigator

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Debby Silver received her B.S. in Biology from Tufts University in 1993. Following her undergraduate degree she worked with Dr. James Sellers at the NIH (National Heart Lung and Blood Institute), where she applied biochemistry to study the cytoskeleton. Her graduate training was with Dr. Denise Montell of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. For her thesis, she discovered a novel essential role for the JAK/STAT signaling complex in cell migration of Drosophila ovarian epithelial cells and human ovarian cancer cells. This work was recognized with several graduate student awards, including the national Weintraub award.

For her postdoctoral studies, Dr. Silver trained with Dr. William Pavan of the National Human Genome Research Institute, where she used mouse genetics to study neural development in mice, with a focus on regulation of neural crest and cortical development. This work led to the discovery of an RNA binding complex essential for cerebral cortex development and brain size. Her research was funded both extramurally and intramurally (NIGMS PRAT fellowship (Pharmacology Research and Training) and NINDS NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00).

In 2010, Dr. Silver joined the MGM Department at Duke University Medical Center and the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. In 2011 she became a secondary faculty member in the Department of Neurobiology and the Department of Cell Biology. Her lab studies embryonic brain development, with a focus on the process of neurogenesis in which neurons are produced from neural progenitors. The lab aims to better understand the genetic and cellular mechanisms controlling neurogenesis and contributing to neurodevelopmental disorders such as microcephaly and autism. A major focus of the lab is on post-transcriptional regulation of neural stem cells. The lab is also interested in elucidating genomic loci that are relevant for neurogenesis and evolution of the human neocortex.