Faculty & Staff at TUC

Dr. Tamira Elul

Tamira Elul

College: COM

Department: Basic Sciences, Student Health Center

Title: Associate Professor

Phone: (707) 638-5453

Fax: (707) 638-5430

E-Mail: tamira.elul@tu.edu

Office: Administration & Faculty 1, Rm. 133

Institution Degree Field of Study Obtained
UC Berkeley, California B.A.



UC Berkeley, California

PhD Biophysics 1999

Cell Biology and Histology (COM, MSMHS programs)

Art of Observation

UC Berkeley (Biophysical Neurobiology, Vision and Art) 

Development of neuronal connectivity. 

We study molecular, cellular and biophysical mechanisms that regulate morphogenesis of neuronal circuits during development, using the Xenopus laevis tadpole as an in vivo vertebrate model system. One objective is to define novel mechanisms by which essential structural (cyto-mechanical) molecular factors that regulate cell adhesion and cytoskeletal organization, such as beta-catenin, Myosin II, and APC,  modulate individual and collective aspects of optic axon pathfinding and branching during formation of the developing visual projection, an accessible and experimentally amenable brain circuit.  We also examine how these structural molecular factors interact with physical cues such as mechanical tension to regulate neuronal morphogenesis in the developing visual circuit.  Another objective is quantitative measurement of growth cone motility that shapes the developing visual circuit.  This will provide precise quantitative data that can be used for molecular/cellular studies as above, and for developing computational models of visual circuit development in vivo.  Overall, these multi-faceted experiments will help determine how neuronal connectivity is first formed, is degraded in various neurological disorders, and potentially, can be regenerated. 


 Interdisciplinary Research (Art-Science)

A large component of our work on morphogenesis in the developing nervous system involves morphometric analyses of cell shape and motility.  We have also begun expanding our application of morphometrics of organic forms to answer questions in art history.  We performed a quantitative comparison of cell like forms in paintings of the Abstract Expressionist artist Sam Francis and cells in biological tissues that resemble his paintings.  The goal of this study was to specify the similarity of biology to Sam Francis' paintings, as speculated previously by art historians.  This project is a collaboration with Dr. Peter Selz, Art History Department, UC Berkeley.

Another art-science project involves the use of the software language Processing, originally developed at MIT Media Laboratory to promote compuational literacy among visual artists.  Using Processing we developed visualizations of the cell motility that drives convergent extension of the neural ectoderm, and branching of optic axons during establishment of visual syanptic connections.  These visualizations are based on mathematical parameterization of dynamic behaviors as observed and quantified in high resolution time lapse video recordings made of cells in tissues undergoing convergent extension, or axons projecting to the optic tectum.  

Touro University Intramural Grants- 2006-2007, 2009-2010  Roles of beta-catenin in optic axon pathfinding and arborization in vivo.


Mathematical analysis of Cell Like Forms in Sam Francis Paintings-2012 

(Collaborator: Dr. Peter Selz, Department of Art History, UC Berkeley) Sam Francis Foundation

Developmental Neurobiology

Elul T., Koehl M.A., Keller R. Cellular mechanism underlying neural convergent extension in Xenopus laevis embryos. Dev. Biol. 1997 Nov 15;191(2):243-58.

Elul T., Koehl M.A., Keller RE. Patterning of morphogenetic cell behaviors in neural ectoderm of Xenopus laevis. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Oct 23;857:248-51.

Keller R., Poznanski A., Elul T. Experimental embryological methods for analysis of neural induction in the amphibian. Methods Mol Biol. 1999;97:351-92.

Keller R., Davidson L., Edlund A, Elul T., Ezin M., Shook D., Skoglund P. Mechanisms of convergence and extension by cell intercalation. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2000 Jul 29;355(1399):897-922. Review.

Elul T., Keller R. Monopolar protrusive activity: a new morphogenic cell behavior in the neural plate dependent on vertical interactions with the mesoderm in Xenopus. Dev Biol. 2000 Aug 1;224(1):3-19.

Elul T.M., Kimes N.E., Kohwi M., Reichardt L.F. N- and C-terminal domains of β-catenin, respectively, are required to initiate and shape axon arbors of retinal ganglion cells in vivo. J Neurosci. 2003 Jul 23;23(16):6567-75. Erratum in: J Neurosci. 2003 Sep 17;23(24):0a.

Keller R, Poznanski A, Elul T. Experimental embryological methods for analysis of neural induction in the amphibian. Methods Mol Biol. 2008;461:405-46. Review.

Wiley A, Edalat K, Chiang P, Mora M, Mirro K, Lee M, Muhr H and Elul T: The GSK-3β and α-catenin binding sites of β-catenin exert opposing effects on the terminal ventral optic axonal projection. Developmental Dynamics. 2008 May 237(5): 1434-1441.

Patel A, Bains A, Millet R and Elul T:  Visualization of Morphogenesis using the Processing Programming Language.   Journal of Biocommunication,  2017 Vol. 41 (1).  

Sohal A, Ha J, Zhu M, Lakhani F, Thiagaragan K, Olzewski L, Monakrishnan R, Elul T: Morphometrics in Developmental Neurobiology:  Quantitative analysis of growth cone motility in vivo.  Chapter in Book titled "New Insights into Morphometry Studies",  Edited by P.M. Pares-Casanova, Intech open access publisher. 2017

Jin TG, Sohal A, Peng G, Wu E and Elul T:  N-terminal and central domains of APC function to regulate branch number, length and angle  in developing optic axon arbors in vivo. Brain Research, 2018, Vol. 1687: 34-44. 

Dao S, Jones K, Elul T:  Microinjection of DNA into eyebuds in Xenopus laevis embryos, and imaging of GFP expressing optic axonal arbors in intact, living Xenopus tadpoles.  Journal of Visualized Experiments (151). e60123.  2019.

Radhika R, Farrell A, Shah A, Vu K, Revels J, and Elul T: Shared and distinct functions for Cannabinoid Receptor CB1R and Myosin II in regulation of growth cone filopodial morphology and optic axonal projections in the optic tract,  In preparation, 2019.

Art-Science and Art in Medical/Science Education

Lakhani F, Dang H, Selz P and Elul T:  Morphometrics show Sam Francis' Painted Forms are Statistically Similar to Cells in Biological Tissues.  Leonardo Journal (MIT press).  Published online, Nov. 5, 2014; in print 2016, Vol. 49 (3).

Balmagas A, Schiffman L, Narendra-Babu K, Lustig E and Elul T:  Edward Burtynsky photographs of man-altered landscapes are similar in fractal dimension to microscopic biological tissues.  In revision for Journal of Mathematics and the Arts. 2019.

Torres A, Nguyen D, Chen D, Lakhani F, Elul T:  Art of Observation: Using visual arts to enhance cultural and gender competency in medical students.  In preparation.  Journal of American Osteopathic Association.  2020.

Elul T:  Teaching Morphometrics in Cell and Developmental Biology: Using Abstract Art and Best Practices.  In preparation.  CBE Life Sciences Education. 2020.

American Society for Cell Biology
Society for Neuroscience
Society for Developmental Biology

1990- Honors in Biophysics, UC Berkeley
1993-1994: Graduate Opportunity Fellowship, UC Berkeley
1994-1999: Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship, UC Berkeley
2000-2004: NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship, UC San Francisco

Employer Title From - To
University of California, San Francisco Post-doctoral researcher 1999-2004
Touro University-California Assistant Professor 2004-2009
Touro University-California Associate Professor 2009-
University of California, Berkeley Visiting Associate Professor/Scholar 2011-   
Last Updated: 11/13/19