Derek Dean

Derek Dean

Senior Lecturer in Biology

Hopper Science Center Rm 224
At Williams since 2004


B.A. Oberlin College/Conservatory (1994)
Ph.D. Cornell University (2004)

Areas of Expertise

Drosophila as a model system to study seizure disorders and wing development. Laboratory curriculum development that engages students in novel research.

Scholarship/Creative Work


  • Dean DM, Deitcher DL, Paster CO*, Xu M*, Loehlin DW (2022). “A fly appeared”: sable, a classic Drosophila mutation, maps to Yippee, a gene affecting body color, wings, and bristles, G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics. 12(5), jkac058,   pdf
  • Dean DM, Deitcher DL, Loehlin DW, Banta LM. (2020). Mapping a mutation to its gene: The “fly lab” as a modern research experience. CourseSource.
  • Dean D, Weinstein H*, Amin S*, Karno B*, McAvoy E*, Hoy R, Recknagel A, Jarvis C, and Deitcher DL. (2017). Extending julius seizure, a bang-sensitive gene, as a model for studying epileptogenesis: Cold shock, and a new insertional mutation. Fly (Austin). Nov 10:0. doi: 10.1080/19336934.2017.1402993. pdf
  • Dean DM, Maroja L, Bomkamp B*, Cottrill S*, Westervelt K*, and Deitcher DL. (2015). The wavy mutation maps to the Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate 3-kinase 2 (IP3K2) gene of Drosophila and interacts with IP3R to affect wing development. G3 (Bethesda). 2015 Nov 27;6(2):299-310. doi: 10.1534/g3.115.024307. pdf
  • Banta LM et al. (2012). Integrating Genomics Research throughout the Undergraduate Curriculum: A Collection of Inquiry-Based Genomics Lab Modules. CBE Life Sci Educ. 11(3): 203-208. pdf
  • Lahr EC, Dean D, and Ewer J. (2012). Genetic analysis of ecdysis behavior in Drosophila reveals partially overlapping functions of two unrelated neuropeptides. J Neurosci. 32(20): 6819-29. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5301- 11.2012.
  • Dean DM (2012). Streamlined strategies to better visualize Southern blotting. American Biology Teacher. 74(4): 270-271. 
  • Dean DM and Wilder J (2011). The “Frankenplasmid” Lab: an investigative exercise for teaching recombinant DNA methods. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education. Sep-Oct;39(5):367-74. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20531. Epub 2011 Jul 25. pdf
  • Dean DM, Himes CM, Behrman E*, and Savage RM (2009). Hunchback-like protein is expressed in cleavage blastomeres, gastrula epithelium, and ciliary structures in gastropods. Biological Bulletin. Oct; 217 (2). pdf
  • Paré AC¹, Dean DM¹, Ewer J (2009). Constructing deletions with defined endpoints in Drosophila using P-elements in trans. Genetics. Jan; 181(1):53-63. pdf
  • Bayline RJ, Dean DM, Booker R (2005). Inhibitors of ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis can delay programmed cell death of adult intersegmental muscles in the moth Manduca sexta. Dev Dyn. 2005 Jun;233(2):445-55. pdf


  • Dean DM and Maroja LS. (2012). Adapting the “Fly Lab” for primary research in the genetics classroom. Abstract 887B (poster). 53rd Annual Drosophila Research Conference, Genetics Society of America.
  • Dean DM, Pyi Son MK*, Cortes C*, Nachun D*, and Liu J*. (2011). PI3K signaling modulates the bang sensitivity of slamdance mutants. Abstract 997A (poster). 52nd Annual Drosophila Research Conference, Genetics Society of America.
  • Ewer J**, Lahr E and Dean DM. (2010). Genetic analysis of ecdysis behavior in Drosophila. Abstract 142 (presentation). 51st Annual Drosophila Research Conference, Genetics Society of America.
  • Pyi Son MK* and Dean DM. (2009). dFOXO function increases the bang-Sensitivity of slamdance mutants. Abstract 993C (poster). 50th Annual Drosophila Research Conference, Genetics Society of America.
  • Dean DM, Baccaro B*, Ramos S*, and Sluis K*. (2008). An interaction between diet and seizure recovery in a Drosophila genetic model for seizures. Abstract 982A (poster). 49th Annual Drosophila Research Conference, Genetics Society of America.

(¹ shared first authorship, *Williams College undergraduates, **presenter)

Research Interests

I use the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model system to study seizure disorders. The Drosophila “bang-sensitive” (BS) mutants respond to mechanical shock with a behavior that is physiologically similar to the seizures of mammals. The wealth of genetic tools available in flies and their sequenced genome makes Drosophila an excellent model system to dissect the genetics underlying seizure sensitivity.

Our lab focuses on the julius seizure (jus) gene, which encodes an novel transmembrane protein that is expressed on neuronal axons. Mutations in jus cause bang-sensitivity, yet the mechanism by which this occurs is unclear. Starting from this point, we are currently tackling two projects. First, we have found a link between jus and insulin signaling–an interesting finding, given that diabetes and hyperglycemia can induce seizures in humans. Mutations in dfoxo, a component of the insulin pathway, block the seizures of jusiso7.8 mutants. dfoxo encodes a Forkhead transcription factor that is upregulated under poor dietary conditions, and the genes that it targets have been uncovered in genomic studies by other labs. Using these findings as a point of information, we intend to identify the steps before and after dFOXO activity that act to modulate seizure sensitivity.

Second, we are conducting a broader based genetic screen for genes that suppress or enhance the jus phenotype. jusiso7.8 mutants are being crossed to a series of fly lines that carry defined deletions in their genomes. If a deletion suppresses or enhances the jus phenotype, we will investigate each of the individual genes that were deleted to see which one is responsible for modulating bang-sensitivity, what tissue it acts in, and at what point in the life cycle.

Curriculum Development

I also am very interested in developing the laboratory program at the Biology Department. Some of the more successful laboratory modules and teaching aides that we have developed will be made freely available to the academic community (see Educational Resources below). Requests and suggestions are most welcome.

Educational Resources

Drosophila genetics

Our recently-published lesson plan ( is a Drosophila genetic mapping experiment that has worked well for us in our BIOL202 class. The unit simulates primary research, allowing students to map a mutation to a single gene. As written, the lesson takes up 4 weeks of lab, but it can be adapted to fit the needs of many different types of Genetics courses, even those without an in-person lab component (the exercise could be completely online). We included a number of supporting files to get teachers and staff up-and-running: the lab manual, a complete sample dataset, lecture slides, demo video, answer keys, etc.. New to flies? We have a prep guide that includes background for those who have never worked with flies before. Happy to help you adapt the prep to your needs and get started–feel free to contact me at [email protected].

Frankenplasmid resources
  • Dean and Wilder, 2011
  • File S1 (laboratory manual)
  • File S2 (supply list)
  • I have other by-request resources that may be of use to instructors (answer keys, lecture slides, etc.).
Southern blotting

A slideshow describing the logistics behind Southern blotting, as discussed in Dean, DM (2012)