Kathryn W. Tosney, Professor

updated May, 2015

Biology Department
The University of Miami

Director of SEEDS
Director of UGalapagosBio

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

CV focused on promoting diversity and career skills

Full CV

Photo by Jenny Abreu
Tosney Photo


  • 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)

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

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, PI
    (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


To arrange an event, contact ktosney@miami.edu

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 http://tinyurl.com/nbym498   

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 emphasize in an emphasis position, it is more likely that your reader will emphasize the words that you want emphasized.  In contrast, if you put that word in the a place where the reader expects context, or in the third of six successive prepositional phrases, only you would know to emphasize it. Your reader will emphasize aword that is trivial. The second strategy is using an argumentative structure. You will learn how to examine your paragraphs, exhume the argument, and present it convincingly.  

When my talk is combined with a workshop, participants send me a short document beforehand (often the specific aims for a grant proposal) and during the workshop, they are guided in editing thier own document using these strategies.


View my research profile on Research Gate at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kathryn_Tosney
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.


UGalapagosBio: A Semester Abroad in the Galapagos Islands
Launched in January 2010, UGalapagos is an exciting semester study abroad program that takes students and University of Miami faculty to the famed Galapagos Islands for a field-oriented semester of study. Through an academic partnership with the University of San Francisco, Quito, UM offers a full 17-credit semester in Fall terms which takes place on the Ecuadorian mainland (and includes study in the Amazon, Ecuadorian Highlands and Cloud Forest) and on the Galapagos Island of San Cristobal. I direct the program and teach an intensive three-week course during the program, "Herpetology of the Galapagos." To join the program in the following Fall semester, apply at the University of Miami Study Abroad Office by March first.

Professional Writing and Grantsmanship, Bil 614
This graduate course, taught in every other Fall term, is open to graduate students whose research interests are in Biology. While the course is taught within the Biology Department, students from the Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and the Miller School of Medicine may also register, with prior permission. Students learn strategies for writing clear and compelling arguments and are required to submit at least one extramural grant. The grants may be of any type and from any source, and any level (e.g., graduate fellowship, dissertation improvement grant, postdoctoral fellowship, etc.). One 
aim of the course is to increase the fundability of submitted grants. The course will treat the realities of grantsmanship and aid students as they compose their grant submissions. It will convey the elements of argumentative writing: writing to convince. This style is distinct from descriptive prose, or from technical writing. The course will also help students master the highly effective "reader-oriented" writing strategy, described in the seminal article, The Science of Science Writing by Gopen and Swan.   These strategies, when put into practice, dramatically increase the clarity and impact of your writing. For permission to register, email Dr. Tosney

The Origami Embryo
This learning aid helps you understand the four-dimensional changes that characterize a developing embryo, as it transforms with complex three-dimensional changes over time (the fourth dimension). This site gives instructions on how to fold your own complex embryo from colored paper.

aCross Development
This book is a crossword puzzle guide to Scott Gilbert’s textbook, Developmental Biology, 6th edition by Sinauer. This link connects you to a set of (free) puzzles to the initial chapters in Gilbert's 5th edition. The book is also described on the Society for Developmental Biology Educational Website.


What is herpetoculture?