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Sabrina L. Spencer, PhD

4:00 PM — 6:00 PM

University of Colorado-Boulder

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Sabrina L. Spencer, PhD


Assistant Professor
Boettcher Investigator
Department of Biochemistry
University of Colorado-Boulder




Talk Title: “Single-Cell Analysis of Heterogeneity in Proliferation-Quiescence Decisions


Research in the Spencer lab is focused on understanding how signaling events control cell fate.  Studying these processes in single cells reveals remarkable cell-to-cell variability in response to stimuli, even among genetically identical cells in a uniform environment.  The Spencer lab seeks to understand the causes and consequences of this heterogeneity both in an unperturbed setting and after treatment with stimuli ranging from growth factors, to cell stress and DNA damage, to targeted cancer therapeutics.  The lab develops genetically encoded fluorescent sensors for signaling events of interest and uses long-term live-cell microscopy and automated cell tracking to quantify the dynamics of upstream signals and link them to cell fate (proliferation, quiescence, senescence, apoptosis).  Dr. Spencer’s long-term goal is to understand the normal mechanistic functioning of signaling pathways that control proliferation, to understand how these signals go awry in cancer, and eventually to tune the fate of individual cells.


Dr. Sabrina L. Spencer earned her PhD in Computational and Systems Biology from MIT.  During her PhD, she worked in Peter Sorger’s lab on non-genetic origins of cell-to-cell variability in apoptosis.  She then pursued postdoctoral studies in Tobias Meyer’s lab at Stanford University where she explored the molecular basis of the restriction point using live-cell microscopy.  In August 2014, Dr. Spencer became an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado – Boulder.  In 2016, she was named a Searle Scholar, a Kimmel Scholar, a Beckman Young Investigator, and a Boettcher Early Career Investigator, and in 2017, a Pew Biomedical Scholar.


Recent papers:

Miller I, Min M, Yang C, Tian C, Gookin S, Carter D, Spencer SL. Ki67 is a graded rather than a binary marker of proliferation vs. quiescence (2018). Cell Reports 24(5):1105-1112.


Gookin S, Min M, Phadke H, Chung M, Moser J, Miller I, Carter, D, Spencer SL.  A map of protein dynamics during cell-cycle progression and cell-cycle exit (2017).  PLoS Biology 15(9):e2003268.


Arora M, Moser J, Phadke H, Akbar-Basha A, Spencer SL. Endogenous replication stress in mother cells leads to quiescence of daughter cells (2017). Cell Reports 19(7):1351-1364.


Spencer SL, Cappell, SD, Tsai FC, Overton KW, Wang CL, Meyer T (2013).  The proliferation-quiescence decision is controlled by a bifurcation in CDK2 activity at mitotic exit.  Cell  155:369-83.


To learn more about Dr. Sabrina L. Spencer’s research, visit Google Scholar – Sabrina L. Spencer, PhD. 


Q&A Moderator:

Neville Sanjana, PhD


Core Faculty Member
New York Genome Center

Assistant Professor of Biology
New York University


Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Physiology
NYU School of Medicine