Scott Nichols

Scott Nichols

Associate Professor

What I do

Scott Nichols is an Associate Professor of Evolutionary Cell Biology, in the Department of Biological Sciences.


evolution, cell biology, invertebrates

Professional Biography

Dr. Nichols earned his BS in Biological Sciences in Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, his PhD in Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and was an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellow in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focus is on the molecular foundations of early animal evolution, with particular focus on the cell biology of sponges.


  • Ph.D., Integrative Biology, University of California, 2004
  • BS, Marine Biology, University of North Carolina, 1998


Our research focus is on the earliest events in animal evolution. How did cells first organize into tissues? How did cell and tissue types such as epithelia, muscles and neurons evolve? To address these questions, we study non-traditional animal models with key phylogenetic significance. We focus on sponges, but have keen interest in cnidarians, placozoans and ctenophores. Current projects in the lab include: 1) the evolution of epithelial organization and the origin of cell adhesion/polarity complexes, 2) the evolution of muscle from ancient contractile epithelia, and 3) the evolution of cellular mechanisms for microbial recognition and response. Our research centers around the belief that curiosity-driven, fundamental research is key to innovation and discovery.

Areas of Research

Evolutionary-Cell Biology
Evolutionary-Developmental Biology
Animal Origins
cell adhesion

Key Projects

  • Evolution of a Multi-Functional Adhesion Module Necessary for Complex Multicellularity

Featured Publications

Miller, P., Pokutta, S., Mitchell, J., Chodaparambil, J., Clarke, N., Nelson, J., et al. (2018). Analysis of a vinculin homolog in a sponge (phylum Porifera) reveals that vertebrate-like cell adhes. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 293(30), 11674-11686.
Nichols, S. A., Roberts, B. W., Richter, D. J., Fairclough, S. R., & King, N. (2012). Origin of metazoan cadherin diversity and the antiquity of the classical cadherin/β-catenin complex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 109(32), 13046-13051.
Nichols, S. A., Dirks, W., Pearse, J. S., & King, N. (2006). Early evolution of animal cell signaling and adhesion genes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A., 103(33), 12451-12456.