Tal Gordon grew up near the Red Sea, where she enjoyed observing the rich marine biodiversity while snorkeling and diving. She volunteered at the Eilat Underwater Observatory and conducted undergraduate research on the biology and ecology of ascidians, or sea squirts, sac-like marine invertebrate filter feeders who are the closest living relatives of vertebrates. The ascidians present a diversity of developmental pathways (colonial and solitary) and regenerative properties (whole body and partial regeneration) in closely related species, which make them a good model for studying regeneration.
An ordinary collection dive for her PhD in Life Sciences at Tel Aviv University led to the discovery of unique regeneration abilities in the ascidian Polycarpa mytiligera. This discovery made Dr. Gordon to shift her focus from ecology and biology of ascidians to regenerative and stem cell biology. To gain expertise in the experimental methods she would need, she studied in Padova, Italy, Woods Hole, Massachusetts and spent time in the Regeneration and Stem Cell Biology lab of Dr. Omri Wurtzel, a Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program Faculty Scholar. Learning about regeneration in many different species helped her understand gene regulation after injury.
Her postdoc at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine compares cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying regeneration by analyzing gene expression profiles at injured tissue sites. She focuses on the role of stem cells in three ascidian species with major differences in their regenerative capacities. Her studies, when combined with advanced tissue engineering applications, could potentially have implications for regenerative medicine and stem cell biology in vertebrates as well.