Patricia Wittkopp, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is the recipient of the 2007 Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Award Program from the March of Dimes. The goal of Wittkopp's research is to elucidate fundamental properties of DNA mutations that cause changes in gene expression. Altered gene expression can disrupt development, causing birth defects. In addition to its medical implications, this work will uncover basic principles of genetic changes that lead to differences within and between species. Wittkopp is receiving $150,000 over two years.