Nathan Tublitz

Nathan Tublitz

Professor of Biology | 541-346-4510 | 109 Huestis Hall

ACADEMIC AREAS: Neuroscience, Behavior, Physiology, Invertebrate Neurobiology, Cell and Development Biology

Teaching Philosophy

My views on teaching have been molded to a great extent by my educational background. I am quite fortunate to have been exposed to superb teachers throughout my academic career, from my undergraduate days at Reed College, my years as a grad student at the University of Washington, and at my post-doctoral stint in England. My experience at Reed was particularly instrumental. Reed has a long history of teaching excellence, and seemingly every faculty member lived up to that demanding standard. Attending classes at Reed was oftentimes inspirational, as many professors were not only knowledgeable but also overwhelmingly enthusiastic about their subject material. Even more important was their commitment to foster critical thinking skills, a heuristic ability of much greater value than any set of empirical facts.

Given this educational background, it is therefore not surprising that my teaching goals in both formal and informal settings have been to present state-of the-art subject material in a spirited and contagious manner while also encouraging students to sharpen their skills in logical reasoning. Because these goals are often best achieved in informal one-on-one settings, I have tried to work with students individually whenever possible. These goals can, however, also be accomplished in more formal courses by a variety of techniques including setting high levels of expectations, using teaching techniques that promote active learning, being accessible to students, and treating students as colleagues rather than as pupils. My teaching has utilized these techniques and other tools to increase both information transfer and excitement level in the classroom.

Past Courses

HC 441H: Mysteries of the Brain

Academic Background

PhD, Zoology & Neuroscience, University of Washington, 1984
BA, Biology & Psychology, Reed College, 1975

Research Interests & Current Projects

The research in my lab focuses on understanding the neural basis of behavior at the cellular and molecular levels. One of the most amazing behaviors in the animal kingdom is Body Patterning Behavior in cephalopod mollusks. Cephalopods, which include octopus, squid, and cuttlefish, have the unique ability to generate numerous, highly complex body patterns. They use these patterns for camouflage (Figure 1) and communication among themselves and with other species. These patterns are fascinating because of their rich detail, the speed by which they are formed (within 0.5 seconds), and the number of patterns produced. What makes these intelligent creatures particularly fascinating is that these body patterns are generated by the animal’s nervous system. Our work is to understand how the nervous system produces and modifies these incredible body patterns.

We have been studying Body Patterning Behavior in the European cuttlefish Sepia officinalis, a species which arguably generates the most detailed and varied body coloration patterns in the animal kingdom. The skin elements responsible for these patterns are called chromatophore organs, which consist of a pigment-containing cell attached to a set of radially-arrayed muscles (Figure 2). Contraction of the radial muscles leads to a very rapid expansion of the pigmented cell. One aspect of our work has centered on identifying the nervous system chemical signals - known as neurotransmitters - that are responsible for the production of these complex patterns. We have also sequenced the cuttlefish genome and current work focuses on identifying the genes involved in producing and modifying body patterning behavior.