Research Areas

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, not-for-profit research institution. The Laboratory's work is dedicated to the betterment of human health through research in mammalian genetics. Below are descriptions of research areas pursued at Jackson and available to summer students. lease also review our research areas and faculty listings to see more about the lab where you may conduct your research.

Science Writing

The Science Writing Intern works in the Communications Department at the Lab. The internship provides ample opportunity to develop writing skills and an ability to convey scientific ideas to a general audience. The Intern’s responsibilities include writing news releases for the Summer Students, updating and maintaining the Summer Student Program website, and compiling a yearbook. Interns also have the opportunity to write for both internal and local publications, mingle with highly regarded science writers at the Lab’s annual Press Week, and even pursue their personal writing interests.

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Bioinformatics and computational biology are new fields that use computing resources to solve biological problems that are too large or complex for the human mind to solve. Bioinformatics involves the application of computers and databases to the storage and retrieval of biological information, and computational biology develops software applications that address specific biological questions.

Jackson has expanded its research base over the last ten years, particularly in these two fields. Former students have defined and searched for gene deserts, compiled databases for oncogenes, and mined databases for various disease-related phenotypes.


Cancer biology research deals with the initiation and progression of the disease. Studies involve both individual loci related to cancer onset and genome-wide phenomena. Cancer studies range from investigating basic immunological pathways and their connection with the disease to developing or characterizing specific mouse models of cancer. The Laboratory was founded in 1929 as one of the first cancer research institutes in the United States. Research contributes to our understanding of various types of the disease, including mammary, ovarian, and prostate cancers, as well as leukemia, and AIDS.

Previous Summer Student work in the field includes examination of the mechanisms of metastasis, exploring the effectiveness of a treatment drug, and comparing normal and cancer cells’ microRNA expression patterns.

Developmental Biology and Aging

Developmental biology is the study of organism growth, from conception until the end of embryogenesis. Organismal growth and development continue with time, and eventually these changes fall into the studies of aging and senescence.

Unraveling the blueprint for mammalian development from conception to death is the focus of several research groups at Jackson. Fertilization, embryology, and aging are the three broad categories that encompass this work. Investigations range from developing culture conditions associated with measuring egg development and in vitro fertilization, to piecing together gene pathways in embryogenesis. The study of senescence encompasses such subjects as the onset of disease associated with old age. The Lab also studies various aspects of reproductive biology.

Recently, summer students have studied female reproductive senescence, genetics of spermatogenesis, and the differences between germ cell and embryonic development.


Genomics studies focus on whole-genome phenomena in an organism. Research involves examination of multiple loci interactions as opposed to single gene activity.

Virtually all the research done at Jackson contains a prominent genomics component. In addition to the study of disease models, there are more academic ventures being pursued in the study of genomics. These range from developing new techniques in molecular biology to Human Genome-related projects to gene mapping and elucidating chromosome structure.


The immune system is one of the more dynamic and complex systems in mammals. Genetic pathways and environmental stimuli interact, triggering and maintaining a defense system to guard the health of an entire organism. In conjunction with the immune system, hematopoiesis, or the development of blood cells, is an essential component to maintaining health.

The genetic basis for both immune function and hematopoiesis can be studied using defined mouse models for disease.

Past students have undertaken such tasks as developing mouse models for immunological studies, observed mutations involved with platelet production, and examined the frequency of hematopoietic stem cell mutations.

Metabolic Diseases

Several million people worldwide are affected by obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, gallstone formation, hypertension, and glaucoma. Although these diseases are treatable, they still take a toll on society and individuals in terms of health care and emotional and physical costs.

Deciphering the genetic basis for these diseases is the focus for some members of Jackson staff. Using breeding schemes, transgenic (introducing a gene or part of a gene into an animal) and knock-out technology (effectively inactivating a gene through genetic manipulation), Jackson mouse models are providing a wealth of information to scientists in the field.

In past summers, interns have searched for genes regulating HDL production and developed a treadmill to test for various metabolic disorders.

Neurobiology and Sensory Deficits

It is estimated that thousands of genes are specifically expressed in the mammalian nervous system. Their interactions and pathways are phenomenally complex, ranging from brain development to daily central nervous system function to contributing to psychological states and behavior.

Research at Jackson involves discovering gene mutations that can cause debilitating central nervous system diseases. The genetic basis for epilepsy, glaucoma, and many other sensory disorders, as well as elucidating the function of specific cell types in the brain, are foci for Jackson investigators.

Previous summer students have studied such varied subjects as neurodevelopment and congenital stationary night blindness.