tosneyKathryn Tosney

1301 Memorial Drive
Cox Science Center, 229D
The University of Miami
Coral Gables, FL 33146
Office (305) 284-2673
FAX (305) 284-3039

Professional Training

  • Ph.D. Stanford University, 1980 with N.K. Wessells
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University and The University of Connecticut, 1980-1984 with L.T. Landmesser


  • NSF Predoctoral Fellowship, 1975-1978
  • Muscular Dystrophy Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1980-1982
  • NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1982-1984
  • Francis Lou Kallman Award for Graduate Excellence, Stanford University, 1979
  • The University of Michigan Amoco Faculty Teaching Award, 1991 ($1000 prize)
  • Excellence in Education Awards, College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts, The University of Michigan, 1992, 1993, 1995 ($1000 prizes)
  • Faculty Recognition Award, College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts, The University of Michigan, 1994 ($1000 prize)
  • Gayle Morris Sweetland Fellow, The University of Michigan, 1999
  • Hamburger Outstanding Education Prize, Society for Developmental Biology, 2015 ($2,000 prize)

Recent Extramural  Support

  • NSF ADVANCE: SEEDS at the University of
    Miami, #0820128, PI, $1,101,951 2008-2013
  • NIH ARRA grant, “Construction of a
    Neuroscience Health Annex” Provost T. Leblanc,
    (application rules required the Provost to be PI),
    by K. Tosney, D. Wellens, P. McCabe, J. Dixon,
    L. Glaser, $18,000,000 with $5,000,000 cost share
    from UM, 2009- 2013
  • NIH, University of Miami IMSD program,
    #R25GM076419, M. Gaines, PI
    $2,828,194, 2012-2017

Talks and Workshops

Career survival in Academia

You’ve heard the term “publish or perish.” Alas, one can both publish AND perish. This lecture gives one survivor’s perspective on navigating the shoals of academia. It originated from angst generated when I was tenured early, and five of my equally-accomplished friends were denied tenure, despite their having grants and a similar number of publications in similar journals. Reflection on these cases has leant heuristic insights into planning a successful career. This talk has been presented at Bowling Green University, Florida International University, Georgetown University Medical School, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, Society for Developmental Biology National Meeting, the ARVO National Meeting, University of Chicago, University of Kansas Medical School, University of Miami, University of Michigan Biology Department, University of Michigan School of Dentistry, University of Minnesota, University of Oregon, University of Utah, Wayne State University and Wesleyan University.

Creating effective posters (talk, with or without a half-day or day-long workshop)

Is the space in front of your poster perennially devoid of people? Do only your competitors come (and take detailed notes)? Do those who do come fail to understand your research? My talk discusses design elements that hinder or enhance your message. These elements are also online at In a half-day workshop, participants apply what they learned from my talk by critiquing posters that others from their school have already presented. In doing so, they practice using a dispassionate critique method that focuses on the issue at hand, rather than on themselves (“I think that...”), on the authors (“They should have ...”) or on the poor defenseless poster (“The poster should...”). This strategy is useful in establishing oneself as a person who focuses on issues, rather than on personal aggrandizement, personal attack, or irrelevance. Mastering this strategy is hard, but putting it into practice in your professional interactions will help you become a respected and valued scientist. The full –day workshop adds an afternoon for participants who have posters in PowerPoint that can be projected for viewing. First, each poster is critiqued by other participants and by me. Then participants redesign their poster and project it for fine-tuning. This event has been presented at Society for Developmental Biology Meetings and The University of Delaware, and (at the University of Miami) a Genetics Department Retreat, a Genome Sciences Training Grant Retreat, a University Graduate School Workship, a Marine School Workshop on Career Success, a Preparing Futrure Faculty Workshop, and a Marine School Workshop on Communicating Science.

Writing for Your Life (Talk, With or Without a Workshop)

Writing is hard. Editing is easy—or at least easier, provided that you have effective strategies for editing. My talk is a compact synthesis of skills learned from over twenty years of teaching classes on professional writing and grantmanship. It focuses on two powerful editing strategies that will make your writing clearer and more convincing. The first strategy is the highly effective "reader-oriented" writing strategy, described in the seminal article, The Science of Science Writingby Gopen and Swan. This strategy identifies positions in a paragraph where readers expect to find the context and where to find the emphasis. If you put the words you want to Research

View my research profile on Research Gate at Photos from my research have appeared in 19 reviews, 54 textbooks, 3 CD-ROMS, and on 7 journal covers. I have given 65 invited research seminars at universities and 24 invited research talks at professional meetings.

Research Interests

Neural crest cell migration, axon guidance, the cell biology of growth cone motility.
My current focus is on marine iguana behavioral ecology and conservation.
I lead a successful conservation program for marine iguanas.

Summary of Grant Awards: 42 Years of Continuous Funding

  • NSF Pre-doctoral Fellowship; Muscular Dystrophy and NIH postdoctoral Fellowships Three equipment grants, $330,000
  • Two graduate and postdoctoral support grants ~$75,000
  • Undergraduate research support, two NSF REU grants, PI, $7,000
  • University of Michigan Internal Grants: PI, three for research ~$47,000; one for teaching ~$5,000
  • Two NSF ADVANCE for Women in Science Departmental Transformation grants $65,000
  • Two NIH R01 research grants, PI, one for 5 years, $630,500, one for 16 years, $1,400,000
  • NIH 5 year research grant, co-PI, $1,360,000
  • Two NSF graduate training grants, co-PI (10 year program), $2,383,000
  • NIH graduate training grant, co-PI, 5 years, $2,282,000
  • NSF ADVANCE for Women in Science grant, PI, 5 years, $1,102,000
  • ARRA grant to build a new Neuroscience Building, co-PI $18,000,000

Publications, H index 24

Thirty-seven peer reviewed papers in:
Developmental Biology (12), Journal of Neuroscience (9), BioEssays (2), American Journal of Embryology (2), American Journal of Anatomy (1), Anatomy and Embryology (1), Developmental. Dynamics (1), Development (1), Experimental Neurology (1), Fine Science Points (1), Journal of Cell Science (1), Journal of Comparative Neurology (1), Journal of Experimental Zoology (1), Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry (1), Microscopy Today (1), Molecular Biology of the Cell (1), Scanning Microscopy (1) Twelve peer reviewed book chapters, essays and reviews Two Books
Tosney, K. W. (2000). “aCross Development,” Sinauer Hess, G., K. Tosney, L. Liegel (2009) Creating Effective Poster Presentations Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) Education Series, Scotland, UK

Training Activities

I have trained five Ph.D. students, three master’s students and five postdoctoral researches and served as a member of twenty additional dissertation committees. I trained thirty-two undergraduates in research in my laboratory and served on twenty-nine additional undergraduate committees for undergraduate research honors and seventy committees for undergraduate research experiences.

Areas of Focus



  • NIH, ARRA Grant "Construction of a Neuroscience Health Annex:, 2011-2014, (Co-author)
  • NIH, IMSD Program, 2012-2017 (Dual-PI)
  • NSF ADVANCE: SEEDS at the University of Miami, 2008-2013 (PI)
  • Grant to purchase a Li-Cor DNA sequencer, University of Miami, 2006
  • NSF grant, Regulation of functionally-distinct adhesions and neuronal motility, 2005-2010
  • NIH grant, Mechanisms of Motor Axon Pathfinding, Co-PI; Catherine Krull, PI, 2005-2010
  • Postdoctoral grant, Organogenesis Center: Regulation of ephrin-A5 on motor axons, Simon Lunn, PI,
  • Mentors: Catherine Krull and Kathryn Tosney
  • NSF ADVANCE Departmental transformation grants, PI, 2000-2003 PI, 2003-2004
  • NSF grant #0212326, REU, 2002-2005
  • NSF grant #0212326, Focal Rings and Filopodial Emergence in Neuronal Growth Cones 2002-2005
  • UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) University of Michigan, 2002
  • OVPR/LSA research support grant, 2002
  • NIH grant NS21308, Development of Neuronal Specificity 1985-1988
  • NIH grant HD32456, Control of Axial Muscle Development 1994-2000
  • NIH grant NS27634, Guidance of Motoneuron Growth Cones1988-1992
  • NIH, NRSA, Co-PI, Kevin Hotary, 1993-1995
  • OVPR/LSA equipment grant for electron microscope for The Biology Department, 1995,
  • NSF Training Grant, Development of the Nervous System, PI: B. Oakley, Co-PIs R. Hume, P. Raymond, K. Tosney 1990-1995; 1995-2000
  • Rackham Research Partnerships Grant, The University of Michigan, Co-PI R.A. Oakley,1990-1991
  • NIH Equipment Grant, Philips CM 10/PC Electron Microscope with Cryostage. PI: Bruce Carlson. Co-Investigators, R. Altschuler, S. Ernst, J. Faulkner, K. O'Shea, P. Raymond, K. Tosney, M. Welsh., 1990.
  • NIH Equipment Grant, Lipchow-disc confocal microscope, 1990
  • Faculty Fund Teaching Grant, The University of Michigan, 1989
  • Rackham Grant to Augment International Academic Partnerships, The University of Michigan, 1986-1987
  • Rackham Faculty Fellowship and Grant, The University of Michigan, 1985
  • NIH National Research Award, 1983-1984
  • MDA Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1980-1982
  • NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1980-1982 (awarded, but declined to accept)
  • NIH grant for use of high voltage electron microscope at the University of Colorado,PI, 1979
  • NSF Predoctoral Fellowship, 1975-1978
Developmental Biology and Neuroscience
Evolutionary Biology

Research Interests

In my lab, research projects range widely, but are centered in the field of Developmental Biology. We often use the neuron as a tool to understand the embryo and its cellular and developmental mechanisms. Some of our projects use classical techniques such as embryonic surgery to discover basic phenomena, such how cell death controls development of entire muscle groups, or how chemical cues guide migrating cells. Some use unconventional systems such as old-world chameleons to understand how development is harnessed to generate different life forms in evolution. Some combine electron microscopy and cell biology to investigate how unconventional mechanisms such as mechanical force regulate axons. Some combine molecular interventions with time lapse digital recordings in cell culture to discover mechanisms crucial to growth and guidance of neural axons. Other interdisciplinary studies examine the regulation and actions of a new cell organelle we recently discovered.

Teaching Interests

My teaching interests currently focus on 1) increasing the availability and wise use of pedagogical tools to increase creative learning, and 2) career development. Some widely adopted pedagogical tools I have developed myself, such as " The Origami Embryo" , a hands-on tool that helps students understand complex shape changes in embryos, and a book using a cross-word puzzle approach to learn terms and concepts. The goal of increasing the availability of effective methods is supported by my role as the Director of the Education site for the Society of Developmental Biology. Here at UM, I teach "Pedagogy and Course Design," which has the immediately practical goal of revising our introductory Biology laboratories. For career development issues, I have long taught a graduate course in presentation and survival techniques, which at the University of Miami has transmuted into "Professional Writing and Grantsmanship," a course in which each student submits at least one grant for outside funding. Nationally, I give talks on "Career Survival in Academia," and run workshops on how to present effective posters (see tutorial and companion site). Two posters about creating good posters are displayed in the Cox Science Centernear the Biology office.

Selected Publications

Linda White, Jeffery Prince , Kathryn Tosney (2014) Strategies to Efficiently Locate Cultured Cells of Interest on Transmission Electron Microscopy Grids. Microscopy Today, in press

Tosney, K. W. , A. Wagnitz, D. Dehnbostel, and K. J. Balazovich (2010). Evidence that growth cones exert mechanical force as they exit the spinal cord. Dev. Dynamics, In press with revision.

Hess, G., K. Tosney, L. Liegel (2009) "Creating Effective Poster Presentations: AMEE Guide no. 40."Medical Teacher Apr 31 (4):319-2

Krull, C. and K. Tosney (2008). Embryo Slices and Strips: Guidance and Adhesion Assays in the Avian Embryo. In Methods in Cell Biology: New Methods in Avian Embryology. Vol 87. ed.: M. Bronner-Fraser, pp. 99-115

Tosney, K.W. (2005). Dr. Judith Swan: From Scientist to Writing Guru. Sweetland 8: 7-9

Chapman, S., B. Henken, D. Raible and K. Tosney (2004). The Neural Crest as a way of Knowing: New Perspectives on Lineage and Morphogenesis. Dev. Dynamics. 229: 140-142


Hess, G., K. Tosney, L. Liegel (2009) Creating Effective Poster Presentations Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) Education Series, Scotland, UK, book