Wendy Smith

Wendy SmithAssociate Professor and Interim Chair

Department of Biology
Northeastern University
433 Richards Hall
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115 USA

Academic Education

  • Ph.D., Zoology, Duke University
  • B.S., Biology, New College of Florida


  • Graduate Coordinator, Dept. Biology, Northeastern University (2007 – Present)
  • Associate Professor, Dept. Biology, Northeastern University (1991 – Present)
  • Interim Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Northeastern University (1998 -1999)
  • Assistant Professor, Dept. Biology, Northeastern University (1985 – 1991)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. Biology, University of North Carolina (1983 – 1985)
  • (Advisor: Dr. Lawrence I. Gilbert)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. Pharmacology, Duke University Medical School (1981 – 1983)
  • (Advisor: Dr. P. Michael Conn)
  • Graduate Student (Teaching Assistant and Research Fellow), Dept. Zoology, Duke University (1975 – 1981) (Advisor: Dr. H. Frederik Nijhout)
  • Research Assistant, Dept. of Neurobiology and Behavior, Columbia Medical School (1974 – 1975)
  • (Employers: Dr. Eric Kandel, Dr. Elizabeth Barnes)

Other Professional Activities:

  • Associate Editor, Journal of Experimental Zoology (1994-1997; 2004-2007)
  • NIH and USDA Ad Hoc Study Sections
  • Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research Committee (1989-1995)

Research Interests

Research in my laboratory centers on cellular and biochemical changes that regulate insect growth and development. Within this broad interest, I have focused on the action of molt-stimulating and growth-regulating hormones produced by the insect brain. I use caterpillars of the sphinx moth, Manduca sexta, as my experimental animals as they are large and easy to maintain in the laboratory. Recent work in the lab has focused on interactions between insect insulin-like hormones and metamorphosis-stimulating insect steroids such as ecdysone. The functions and cellular actions of vertebrate and invertebrate hormones have been remarkably conserved, thus, what we learn about insect hormones will enhance our understanding of how animals coordinate growth with major developmental changes. In addition, by understanding the ways in which insect hormones work to regulate development, we may be able to devise safe and specific agents to disrupt the insect life cycle and thus to control agricultural pests and disease vectors.
insulin signalingprothoracic gland of M. Sexta

Teaching Activities

I have taught a variety of courses in Biology at Northeastern. In addition to teaching parts of the introductory Human Anatomy and Physiology class to first- and second-year health science majors, I have been involved in courses ranging from Endocrinology to Entomology at the upper-class undergraduate and graduate student levels. I’ve helped our first-year undergraduates adjust to the college life by teaching a weekly course entitled, Introduction to the Biology Major. At the other end, I’ve taught juniors and seniors in our Experiential Education Capstone in Biology, which focuses on grant proposal writing based on co-op and other activities outside of the classroom. I currently teach Regulatory Cell Biology, a mid- to upper-level course for majors, with a closely integrated lab component. I also teach a seminar-style graduate course on the Molecular Biology of Aging.