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Jennifer Zenker


  • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2019-2021
  • Humans & the Microbiome




Jennifer Zenker uses innovative microscope technology to study how embryos grow and develop.

During embryonic development, cells are constantly in action. They divide, grow, migrate and eventually adopt more specialized functions and structures to form different organs. The cytoskeleton provides a structural and functional scaffold inside all cells and is intricately linked to cell type-specific behaviours in health and disease. In particular, the filaments of the microtubule network dynamically alter their organization in response to the needs of a cell. Zenker’s research applies cutting edge microscopy techniques to watch these structural changes as they occur within single cells of the developing organism.

Uncovering the dynamics of cellular architecture during early tissue formation using live imaging will allow Zenker to better gauge the potential uses of stem cells for various clinical applications and shed new light on their fundamental biological differences. Her research may open the door to new ways for regulating microtubule organization and cell behaviour non-invasively.

In her first year as a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar, Zenker was affiliated with the Molecular Architecture of Life program.


  • 2015 Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2013 Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2013 Amicitia Excellence Prize, PhD Thesis Award
  • 2012 Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), Postdoctoral Fellowship

Relevant Publications

  • Zenker, J. et al. “Expanding Actin Rings Zipper the Mouse Embryo for Blastocyst Formation.” Cell, 2018.
  • White, M.D., Zenker, J., Bissiere, S., Plachta, N. “Instructions for assembling the early mammalian embryo.” Developmental Cell, 2018.
  • Zenker, J. et al. “An interphase microtubule organizing center establishing intracellular transport in the early mouse embryo.” Science, 2017.
  • Zhao ZW*, White MD*, Zenker J*, Alvarez Y, Bissiere S, Plachta N. “Quantifying transcription factor-DNA binding in single cells in vivo with photoactivatable fluorescence correlation spectroscopy.” Nature Protocols, 2017.
  • Zenker, J et al. “Altered distribution of juxtaparanodal Kv1-channels mediates peripheral nerve hyperexcitability in type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Journal of Neuroscience, 2012.

Support Us

CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.

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