Department Chair:
Mary Garvin

Administrative Assistant:
Twila Colley

Department Email:

Phone: (440) 775-8315
Fax: (440) 775-8960

Science Center K123
119 Woodland St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Office Hours: Tues, Weds, Thurs., & Fri. 11-Noon, or by appt.

Yolanda Cruz

Yolanda Cruz
Contact Information


Science Center K218
(440) 775-8323

Personal Office Hours:
By appt. Reservation sheet by door.

Yolanda Cruz

Yolanda Cruz

Educational Background

  • Bachelor of Science, University Philippines, 1971
  • Master of Science, University Philippines, 1974
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University California Berkeley, 1982

My current research interest is marsupial reproduction and development. The research projects currently underway in my lab concern cell lineage analysis in marsupial embryos, sperm pairing in New World marsupials, and the role of early pregnancy factor in mammalian development.

I team-teach an introductory lab-lecture course, 'Organismal Biology,' in the Fall, with Michael Moore and Jane Bennett. In this course, we concentrate on the structural and physiological features of both plants and animals that permit them to carry out the basics of living such as gas exchange, water balance, nutrition, reproduction, and development. We also take up special functions such as immunity, motility and nervous function in animals and plant defenses in plants. Our large lecture class is divided into small (<24-student) lab sections. We hold question-and-answer sessions (which meet Tue, Wed and Thu evenings) in this course, which is open to majors and non-majors alike. In addition, former students who have been trained to lead workshop-style learning activities offer nightly sessions each week for the benefit of students currently enrolled in this course. Thus we offer students (who have different learning styles) different ways of accessing course material.

I teach a course, FYSP 199 (Designer Babies and Other Possibilities), to a small group of freshmen, many of who are shown below during our end-of-semester potluck dinner. A writing-intensive course, this freshman seminar featured discussions, oral reports (one of them was a video produced by the students!!) and much writing. I also teach a similar course, FYSP 156 (The Ethics of Biotech), with Joyce Babyak, a colleague in the Department of Religion.

FYSP 199 Class, Fall 2012

Back Row (L to R):  Y Cruz, R Tran, Z Bluffstone, J Rosenblum, B Shepherd, S Carlson-Donohoe, M Herzog, W Chen
Front Row (L to R) :  S Cox, C Diehl, A Ratigan, K Cabrera, S Loewus, L MacDonald, I Bamert, A Aronowitz (Writing Associate)
(Not in photo: M. Dunn)

I teach Developmental Biology in the spring. This course deals with the intricacies of embryonic development (cleavage, axis formation, gastrulation, organogenesis), limb regeneration, and evolution of development ('evo-devo') at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. Most of the students in this course are biology or neuroscience majors, although I have had physics, art history, neuroscience, and biochemistry majors as well!

Biology 301 (Developmental Biology), Spring 2012
Rear: Zac Land, Indira Laothamatas, Laura Grossi, Terrance Embry, Benjamin George-Hinnant, Eli Goshorn, Aaron Janik. 
Middle: Hayes Biche, Beth Randles, Annie Nigra, Amelia Wright, Piper Nash, Jane Capozzelli, Gail Schwieterman, Lindsay Boven, Matt Segal, Yolanda Cruz.
Danica Watson, Josh Kogan, Daniel Fineman, Monica Raible, Elizabeth Manning, Neva Fowler-Gerace, Troy Spindler.  (Not in photo: Xiao Jin.)




I also teach a course in Epigenetics (alternately with Developmental Biology).  Epigenetics is the study of non-DNA-mediated hereditary changes in cells, a rapidly growing field I find personally satisfying because it is finding answers to many of the riddles and mysteries in biology which entranced me as a college student many years ago: “cytoplasmic inheritance”, position-effect variegation, chromosomal inactivation, and so on. The Spring 2011 Epigenetics class is shown below.

Biology 311 (Epigenetics), Spring 2011
(L to R) Front row:  Daniel Fineman, Sage Aronson;
Middle row:  Yolanda Cruz, Matthew Miller, Justin Chen, Amanda Miller, Nicolas Gillingham, Aaron Kokotek, Jael McCants, Jonathan Mejia, Matthew Segal, Xiao Jin. 
Back row:
Naomi Osongo, Aaron Wolf, Nathan Harris, Joseph Dawson, Allison Richards, Anna Read, Jessica Bennett, Sophia Toraby, Marta Robertson , Robin Taxier.


I supervise a Health Careers Practicum every semester. Limited to ten participants, this informal undertaking allows students to arrange an individual externship at a local health-related facility (hospital, nursing home, retirement community, veterinary clinic, etc.). The goal is for each student to gain hands-on opportunities for interacting with professionals in careers he or she is contemplating. In addition to weekly discussions of student experiences, we also discuss relevant and timely issues in medicine (human and veterinary), and health-related professions (optometry, dentistry, public health).  Fall 2011’s class is shown below.

Biology 031

Health Careers Practicum, Fall 2011

L to R: Micah Ellowitz, Emma Rosen, Alex Larson, Matt Sehal, Devon Lycette, Tania Mukherjee, Jake Danko, Yolanda Cruz, Piper Nash, Nina Paroff, Jamie Elchert, Indira Laothamatas, Kiran Puri

Cruz Lab, Spring 2012. Rear, standing: D Lycette, C Chang, N Safa, D Starer-Stor, S Aronson. Middle row (seated on sofa): K Yoshida, C Pickens, T Spindler, A Wright, I Laothamatas.
Front row (seated on floor): Y Cruz, J Haddad. Not shown: M Ellowitz.

The number of students working the lab with me varies from semester to semester.  Our Spring 2012 lab dinner brought together graduating, continuing, and new members of the lab.  Nadia Safa, Jebran Haddad and Sage Aronson graduated in May.  Nadia is now in med school at McGill University; Jebran, at Baylor College of Medicine.  Sage will be working as a research assistant before pursuing his PhD.  Seniors in 2012-2013, Amelia Wright will examine Oct4 expression in epiblasts of the lab opossum, Troy Spindler will continue his work on the expression of the trascription activators Yap1 and Tead4 in the opossum cleavage-stage embryo, Indira Laothamatas and Devon Lycette will embark on new projects we're still discussion as of this writing, and Christine Chang is applying to medical school.  Juniors this year, Daniel Starer-Stor is looking at heterplasmy in Drosophilia melanogaster, while Chris Pickens will be studying in Australia until December.  In January, Chris will (we think) return to the lab and thus join Karin Yoshida who will be continuing the work she started this summer on uterine changes during pregnancy in the lab opossum.   

My 'extra-curricular' activities include membership in the Society for Developmental Biology, Society for Reproduction and Fertility, and American Association for the Advancement of Science. I serve or have served as grant reviewer for the National Research Council, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the United States Department of Agriculture. I serve as Oberlin's Convenor for the Natural Sciences. My community work in Oberlin includes volunteer work for the Tri-City Lupus Project, the Pilipino-American Association of Lorain County, and the David Love Memorial Fund.

I travel, hike and swim as much as I can. My last big trip was to Kenya in 2008, with my daughter Elsa Cruz Pearson. I try to read all the books I should have read as a wannabee English and Philosophy major, and cook all the stuff I learned to in home ec class. I went to a Beatles concert in 1966. I grow flowers in my garden at home when I'm taking a break from making jewelry in my basement. I adore Rachmaninoff, Kazuo Ishiguro, Isamu Noguchi, Frank Lloyd Wright, Kemal Ataturk, and Sean Connery. I still dream of training as an architect or an archeologist. My most recent accomplishments are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, dog-sledding in Iceland, paragliding in New Zealand, visiting Baalbeck, Byblos, Aanjar, Beiteddine, checking out petroglyphs in Arizona, the snow on Aconcagua, the ice on Matanuska; and hiking in Dartmoor, Cappadocia, Uluru, Thingvellir, the Routeburn Track, the Peak District, and the Rift Valley.

Current and Former Lab Members


Recent Publications and Presentations (*student):

Cruz YP (2008) Embryonic Stem Cells in the Laboratory Opossum. Invited seminar, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, March 27.

Wang VN*, McCammon JM*, Cruz YP (2008) Evaluating nutrient media for in vitro culture of Monodelphis domestica embryos. Poster, 67th Annual Meeting of the Society for Developmental Biology, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 26-30.

Morrison JT*, Bantilan NS*, Cruz YP (2008) Trophoblast- and pluriblast-specific gene expression in Monodelphis domestica cleavage-stage embryos. Poster, 67th Annual Meeting of the Society for Developmental Biology, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 26-30.

Vitazka ME*, Cardenas H, Cruz Y, Fadem BH, Norfolk JR*, Harder JD (2009) Progesterone receptor in the forebrain of female gray short-tailed opossums: Effects of exposure to male stimuli. Horm. Behav. 55(1): 190-196.

Hall J*, Cruz Y, Harder J (2009) Behavioral responses of male laboratory opossums (Monodelphis domestica) to odors of estrous and anestrous females. Poster, 13th Annual Meeting of the Society for Behavioral Neuroscience, East Lansing, Michigan, 25- 27 June.

Richardson RA*, Cruz YP (2009) Using pluripotency cell markers to identify primordial germ cells in embryos of the laboratory opossum, Monodelphis domestica. Poster, 68th Annual Meeting of the Society for Developmental Biology, San Francisco, California, 23- 27 July.

Cruz YP (2009) What To Do? Invited symposium presentation, Remembering C.P. Snow on the 50th Anniversary of his Cambridge Talk, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, May 28.

Cruz YP, Morrison J*, Bantilan N* (2009) Developmental Gene Expression in Monodelphis domestica Embryos. Symposium paper delivered at the Tenth Mammalogical Congress, Mendoza, Argentina, August 20.

Cruz YP (2010) Using the gray opossum, Monodelphis domestica, in developmental biology investigations. Society for Developmental Biology Education Resources Database.

Rousmaniere H*, Silverman R*, White RA*, Sasaki MS*, Wilson SD*, Morrison JT*, Cruz YP (2010). Monodelphis domestica: an alternative laboratory animal for the study of mammalian Embryogenesis. Lab.Anim. 39:219-226.

Cruz YP Teaching biology in a small liberal arts college: what to do? Part IV of C.P. Snow Symposium volume, Robert Pennock, editor, Michigan State University. (Submitted).

Johnson J*, Lydon J, Harder J, Cruz Y (2010) Pregnancy-related changes in progesterone receptor expression in the uterine glands of Monodelphis domestica.  Poster, 69th Annual Meeting of the Society for Developmental Biology, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 5-9 August.

Wang V*, Cruz Y (2010) Expression pattern of E-cad, Ocln and ZO-1 in cleavage-stage Monodelphis domestica embryos.  Poster, 69th Annual Meeting of the Society for Developmental Biology, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 5-9 August.

Cruz YP, Morrison JT, Bantilan NS* (2010) Trophoblast specification in embryos of the marsupial, Monodelphis domestica.  Invited Talk, Symposium on Cellular Contact in Growth and Differentiation, 69th Annual Meeting of the Soeciety for Developmental Biology, Albuquerque, New Mexico 7 August.

Chen J*, Cruz Y (2011)  Characterizing Blimp1 expression and PGC migration in Monodelphis domestica.  Poster, 70th Annual Meetnig of the Society for Developmental Biology, Chicago, Illinois, 21-25 July. 


Johnson J*, Cruz Y (2011)  Does progesterone have a role in embryo-maternal communication in Monodelphis domestica?  Poster, 70th Annual Meeting of the Society of Developmental Biology, Chicago, Illinois, 21-25 July.


Cruz YP, Morrison JT, Wang VN, Bantilan NS, Nellett KM (2012) Oct4, Cdx2 and Yap1 expression during blastocyst differentiation in the marsupial, Monodelphis domestica Wagner.  Evolution and Development (In revision.)

Cruz YP (2012) Using the Brazilian opossum to study mammalian evolution.  Invited talk and workshop presentation at “A Systems Biology Approach to Understanding Mechanisms of Organismal Evolution,” Pan American Advanced Studies Institute, Satellite Short Course of the Sixth International Meeting of the Latin American Society for Developmental Biology, Montevideo, Uruguay, April 24, 2012. 

Morrison, JT, Wang VN, Safa N, Bantilan, NS, Nellett, KM, Cruz YP (2012) Trophoblast differentiation in the laboratory opossum, Monodelphis domestica Wagner (Didelphidae, Marsupialia) relies on many of the same genes delineating the inner cell mass from the trophoblast lineage in the mouse.  Poster, Conference of the Society for Reproductive Biology, Edinburgh, Scotland, 9-11 July. 
Safa N, Cruz YP (2012)  The spatio-temporal expression of Yap1 and Lats2 suggests a role for the Hippo pathway in trophoblast differentiation in embryos of Monodelphis domestica. Poster, 71st Annual Meeting of the Society for Developmental Biology, Montreal, Quebec, 19-23 July.