Welcome to the VAN OTTERLOO LAB

Cranial skeleton
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The Van Otterloo Lab uses a combination of sophisticated animal genetics,
coupled with cutting-edge molecular biology based approaches,
to uncover the interactions of tissue:tissue signaling during embryonic craniofacial development—
and ultimately, how their disruption results in human birth defects.
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General information relevant to the lab's research

Can you imagine trying to prevent, diagnose, and/or fix the breakdown of a complicated machine (e.g. car engine) without fully understanding how each part was assembled, placed, & functions? Likewise, our DNA encodes the information (e.g. through genes and their products) needed to assemble and properly place (e.g. non-coding regulatory elements) the building blocks needed for the intricate process of fetal development.

Our overall goal is to use animal models (which share an incredible similarity in their DNA code to humans) in deciphering how genes—and their encoded proteins—regulate human embryogenesis (focusing on cranio- and orofacial structures) & how these mechanisms are dysregulated in human developmental disorders.

Birth defects impact ~3% of all infants born.

Of these birth defects, ~75%, affect the head and oral cavity.

Despite this prevalence, our current understanding of these defects is incomplete.

Great question! Although positions are not always readily available, we are excited in your interest and would love to hear from you!

Link to opportunities and contact info 

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Relevant Links


Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research


Craniofacial Anomalies Research Center


College of Dentistry & Dental Clinics


Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology


Cell & Developmental Biology Graduate Program


Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Genetics