Susan E. Mango, whose study of pharynx development in nematode worms has provided biologists with one of their most robust models of organ development, has been named professor of molecular and cellular biology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), effective July 1, 2009.

Mango, 46, was previously professor of oncological sciences at the University of Utah’s School of Medicine and Huntsman Cancer Institute.

“An exemplary scientist whose lively intellect attracts students and colleagues alike, Professor Mango is a leader in the field of organogenesis,” says Jeremy Bloxham, dean of science in FAS. “Her groundbreaking studies of the pathways involved in organ development have opened up alternative ways of thinking about developmental hierarchies and networks.”

Using the much-studied nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans as her model, Mango’s research aims to discover genes that govern the formation and physiology of the digestive tract. Mutations in these genes are frequently associated with both cancer and birth defects.

Her laboratory also focuses on the general cellular mechanisms that generate tubelike structures in organisms; the role of the digestive tract during starvation; and the processes controlling recruitment of cells to become part of the developing digestive tract.

Mango uses microarray technology, time-lapse microscopy, and RNAi gene interference to understand how C. elegans manages the complex patterns of genetic expression needed to develop organs. Through her study of this organism’s pharynx, she hopes to identify and understand proteins that establish cellular identity and clarify how a single transcription factor can coordinate the expression of hundreds of genes as part of this process. A better understanding of these developmental processes could lead to new treatments to silence malfunctioning genes that can lead to cancer.

Mango earned her A.B. from Harvard in 1983 and her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1990. Following postdoctoral research at the University of Wisconsin, she joined the Utah faculty as an assistant professor in 1996.