October 2020: Mendelsohn Lab



What is the main focus of your lab?

We work on development, homeostasis and regeneration of the urothelium, as well as bladder cancer and urothelial abnormalities in the context of lower urinary tract disease.

How long have you had your lab? When did you join Columbia University?

My Apointment began in 1998. I joined Columbia University as a student in Microbiology department in 1983 (Vincent Racaniello’s lab).

How big is your lab currently?

We have 4 graduate students and a lab manager.

Where is your lab located?

ICRC Room 311

Current affairs:

What are the most exciting projects/directions in the lab at this moment?

We have developed one of the first mouse models of luminal subtype bladder cancer, results being written up now for publication.

I am excited to follow the process of tumor growth and evolution in these mice. They develop papillary carcinomas, which have a very particular structure with a big fibrovascular core. How do these initiate? Epithelial cells closest to the core are proliferative and express specific markers. What factors control this? Is stroma important for for formation and patterning of these lesions? Is vascular patterning/branching the basis for the particular structure of papillary lesions?

What are the biggest accomplishments that your lab recently had?

We identified Pparg as a critical regulator of urothelial differentiation and regeneration; and we found that Pparg is a major regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis and epithelial immune response to injury and infection.


What are the model systems that your lab is using? 

We use a lot of mouse lines in our bladder cancer studies, including gain of function and loss of function mutations aimed at assessing the roles of genes and pathways identified in TCGA as potentially important for the development of miuscle invasive bladder cancer.

We do a lot of bulk RNA-seq and sc RNA-seq, looking at particular epithelial populations in the mouse/human bladder.

Are you open to training scientists from other labs?

Yes, definitely open to training.

What facilities or equipment does your absolutely lab rely upon? 

We do a lot of histology and immunostaining, RNA-seq, organotypic culture of urothelium.

Who shall be contacted with questions about equipment, resources and training?

Cathy Mendelsohn


What's your best approach to mentoring trainees in the lab?

Find a good project, that will pay off whether things progress in the direction we expect or not.

Find a project that suits the person best in terms of the types of techniques they will be performing and intellectual interest.

Encourage people to work together (ie more experienced versus less experienced).

Who were your most influential mentors/role models in science and what did you learn from them?

Learned how to write a bunch of years ago from Tom Jessell’s papers.

Saul Silverstein (Microbiology dept.) helped me enormously as a graduate student. He taught me important techniques that I needed to successfully clone the poliovirus receptor, including high molecular weight transfection and he was supportive in general.

Learned how to think from lots of people. Qais Al-awqati was an important mentor as I started my lab. Henry Sun at NYU was a very important mentor as I began to study the biology of the urothelium. He practically invented the field.

What would be your career advice for students/postdocs?

From what I have learned, looking at things in a critical way is something that drives discovery and good science. Also, getting used to the idea that things almost never come out the way one thinks they will, so let the science drive research rather than ones ideas or expectations.

Are you accepting rotating students at the moment?


Lab management:

How do members of your lab celebrate accomplishments?

We have little parties.

Does your lab have any fun traditions?

We used to have members over to our house for parties. Lab dinners at Ping’s Seafood in Chinatown.

What was the most exciting part about starting your new lab

Getting to look at lots of data generated by lab members and working with them to understand the important issues.

Stem Cell Directions:

What are the most important recent developments in the stem cell field?

On my end, understanding the factors that drive progenitor cells in the bladder into an active state that primes them for tumor formation.

Which stem cell conferences does your lab attend?

Most recently, the Gordon Conferences on endoderm and stem cells


What was the main reason of you joining CSCI? What are the beneficial aspects of CSCI membership for your lab?

Lots of smart and fun people.

What do you plan to bring to the CSCI community?

I enjoy being part of the group and try to contribute as much as I can in terms of talking with post-docs/students after their presentations; as well as interacting with scientists who study stem cell biology in different cell types/systems.