Project 1


Look at neural crest markers through evolution in sharks, snakes and lampreys.

Project 2


Increase knowledge about glial cell evolution among earliest metazoans.

Project 3

Understand neural crest migration as modulated by the Tumor-suppressor Slit.


Project 4

Identify molecules that determine the specific migratory pathways decisions by neural crest cells.

Understanding the molecular and cellular mechanism underlying the earliest events in 



My passion for science started early, my father was one of the last explorers of Venezuela and our home was more a freeloading zoo than a regular house for 6 children. I went on to do my undergraduate school at a small, Caltech-like University in Caracas (Universidad Simon Bolivar) then worked for 4 years in a lab studying the Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis (which by the way you do not want to get infected with as I was due to a lab accident! But that is another story). I then decided to risk it all and got on plane and came to New York to start a Ph.D. program in biology. I was lucky that because my father’s friendships with the Herpetologists at the American Museum of Natural History, I was able to volunteer for one year there helping a renowned herpetologist, Janis Roze classify snakes from the tropics. After this fun experience I entered a Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology at the City University of NY and worked under the leadership of an extraordinary Irish woman, Marie T. Filbin. Her mentorship solidified my interest in neural research and from there I moved to Caltech to do a Post-doctoral Fellowship with another extraordinary woman: Marianne Bronner. Finally I began as a Biology Faculty at the Biology department at CSUN on 2005.


My lab is interested in studying neural crest cell migration under many angles. With the help of highly driven undergraduates my lab has been able to develop new methods for studying neural crest cell migration in vitro and has set a reputation as a place to learn cell and neural crest biology/development among colleagues. We carry out classic cell biology experiments (cell migration, cancer analysis, molecular signals for migration), embryology studies (neural crest migration in live embryos, genetic manipulations) and the evo-devo of the neural crest across early vertebrates (snakes, turtles, geckos, sharks, rays).


During the time I had been at CSUN my lab has been a launching base for the undergraduates that worked hard in the lab.  Mentoring and training others so they become successful on their own is one of the reasons I came to CSUN: there are limitless opportunities to mentor students here for a career in science research. This work has paid off, and several of my past lab members currently attending Ph.D. programs (10 in Biology & Pharmacology), Medical (8) and Dental (2) graduate schools;  working in the Biotech industry and as K-12 science teachers.


Maria Elena de Bellard


California State University Northridge

Department of Biology

Phone: (818) 677-6470

Fax: (818) 677-2034

Office: Citrus Hall 3216B

© 2018 By Maria Elena de Bellard. Created with

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