Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


Robert L. Morris

Robert L. Morris

Professor of Biology
William & Elsie Prentice Professorship (2015-2020)

Ph.D., Harvard University
A.B., Lafayette College

Research Interests

Broadly, my lab is interested in the ways cells use movement during differentiation from egg to animal. In particular, my lab is currently focused on the process of ciliogenesis - the process of cilia formation. Cilia are long appendages of cells that beat like paddles to move fluid over a cell or stand straight like antennae to receive signals from the outside world. Healthy cilia help embryos grow and lungs clear, eyes see and ears hear. By revealing how cilia grow and change to perform different functions in different tissues, our research helps explain the birth defects and diseases that arise from problems with these universal and versatile organelles.

My students and I conduct our research collaboratively with other scientists at Wheaton, the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Salisbury Cove, Maine, and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Teaching Interests

I teach courses in introductory cell and molecular biology (Bio112/Cells and Genes), Cell Biology (Bio219), Developmental Biology (Bio254), Neurobiology (Bio324), and occasionally Advanced Marine Biology (Bio331), First Year Seminar, and Senior Seminar.

My courses are also Connected in the Wheaton Curriculum. Bio112/Cells and Genes is connected with Econ112/Microeconomics in the "Biopharma" Connection. Bio219/Cell Biology is connected with Arth353 Castles and Cathedrals in the "Living Architecture" Connection. Bio219/Cell Biology and Bio254/Developmental Biology are connected with *several* courses in the "Visualizing Information" Connection.

Other Interests

Family. Surfing. Birding. Carpentry. Sand castle building. Trumpet playing.  Yo-yo throwing.


* indicates undergraduate co-author

E.F. Dunn, V.N. Moy, L.M. Angerer, R.C. Angerer, R.L. Morris, and K.J. Peterson. (2007) Molecular paleoecology: Using gene regulatory analysis to address the origins of complex life cycles in the late Precambrian. Evolution and Development 9(1):10-24.

Sea Urchin Genome Sequencing Consortium: 228 co-authors including Sodergren E, Weinstock GM, Davidson EH, Cameron RA, ..., Burgess DR, ..., R.L. Morris, ..., Allgood EL*, Cool J*, Judkins KM*, McCafferty SS, Musante AM*, Obar RA, Rawson AP*, Rossetti BJ*, Gibbons IR, Hoffman MP, Leone A*, ... (2006). The genome of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Science. 314(5801):941-52.

R.L. Morris, Hoffman MP, Obar RA, McCafferty SS, Gibbons IR, Leone AD*, Cool J*, Allgood EL*, Musante AM*, Judkins KM*, Rossetti BJ*, Rawson AP*, Burgess DR. (2006). Analysis of cytoskeletal and motility proteins in the sea urchin genome assembly. Developmental Biology 300(1):219-37.

R.L. Morris, C.N. English*, J.E. Lou*, F.J. Dufort*, J.J. Nordberg*, M. Terasaki, and B. Hinkle. (2004) Redistribution of the kinesin-II subunit KAP from cilia to nuclei during the mitotic and ciliogenic cycles in sea urchin embryos. Developmental Biology 274:56-69.

R.L. Morris and J.M. Scholey. (1997) Heterotrimeric kinesin-II is required for the assembly of motile 9+2 ciliary axonemes on sea urchin embryos. J. Cell Biology 138:1009-1022.

R.L. Morris and P.J. Hollenbeck. (1995) Axonal transport of mitochondria along microtubules and F-actin in living vertebrate neurons.  J. Cell Biology 131:1315-1326.

R.L. Morris and P.J. Hollenbeck. (1993) The regulation of bidirectional mitochondrial transport is coordinated with axonal outgrowth. J. Cell Science 104:917-927.

B. Pouvelle, R. Spiegel, L. Hsiao, R.J. Howard, R.L. Morris, A.P. Thomas, and T.F. Taraschi.  (1991)  Direct access to serum macromolecules by intraerythrocytic malaria parasites.  Nature  353:73-75.


Selected Student Projects

* indicates undergraduate co-author

R.L. Morris, I.D. Greenstein*, T. Shintaku*, A. Hussain*, A.M. Carson*, K.M. Hewitt*.  (2010). Differentiation of Ciliary Subtypes During Echinoid Development.  Mol. Biol. Cell 21 (suppl), abstract #159. presented at the American Society for Cell Biology annual meeting, Philadelphia, Dec 12, 2010.

Gianakas*, A., R.L. Morris, and J.H. Henson. (2010). Arp2/3 Complex-Facilitated Actin Polymerization Drives the Rocketing Motility Exhibited by Cytoplasmic Ridges in Spreading Sea Urchin Coelomocytes.  Mol. Biol. Cell 21 (suppl), abstract #186. presented at the American Society for Cell Biology annual meeting, Philadelphia, Dec 12, 2010.

R.L. Morris, R.T. Manguso*, M.L. Keyes*, B.J. Rossetti*, A.P. Rawson*, T. Shintaku*, and Ian Greenstein*.  (2009)  Developmental Regulation Of The Ciliary Proteome in Sea Urchin.  (abstract for poster presented at the Developmental Biology of the Sea Urchin meeting, MBL, Woods Hole MA, October 2009).

J. Bhatia*, B.J. Chick*, S.C. Cummings*, J.M. Fess*, B.A. Jeffrey*, E.A. Kovacs*, L.E. Shorey*, A.L. Silverio*, S.A. Tower*, R.-H. Yen*, and R.L. Morris (2006) The effects of mercury on primary culture chick sympathetic neurons. (Poster presented with Bio324/Neurobiology students at the Northeast Undergraduate Research Organization for Neuroscience annual meeting. Hunter College, New York, NY. April 5, 2006.)

R.L. Morris, D. Erkoboni*, J. Nordberg*, C.N. English*, F.J. Dufort*, A.Manning*. (2005)  Stepwise ciliary growth on sea urchin embryos supported by kinesin-2.  Molecular Biology of the Cell  16 (supplement).  (abstract for poster presented at the American Society for Cell Biology Meeting, San Francisco, CA, December, 2005).

R.L. Morris, G.C Collins, C.N. English*, D.M. Kyes*, and G.G. Ahrendts.  (2003). ICUC: a digital imaging lab infusing active learning throughout an undergraduate  science curriculum.  Molecular Biology of the Cell  14(supplement):248a. 2003.  (abstract presented at the American Society for Cell Biology Meeting, San Francisco, in December, 2003).