Yolanda Cruz

  • Robert S. Danforth Professor of Biology

Areas of Study


  • BS, University Philippines, 1971
  • MS, University Philippines, 1974
  • PhD, University California Berkeley, 1982


My current research interests are 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 embryo-maternal signaling in marsupial embryonic development.

Michael Moore and I tag-team-teach two of the Biol 100 lecture classes in the fall.  Jane Bennett (she more than I) and I teach the 24-member lab classes.   In this course, we look at those biological functions that all organisms have in common, with a view to understanding evolutionary relationships among organisms.  Thus, we examine the following processes (among others) at the molecular, cellular and organismal levels: gas exchange, water balance, nutrition, energy procurement, reproduction, immunity, motility and nervous function in animals and plant defenses in plants.

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 like hiking and traveling to new places. Seeing mountains, looking at some kind of art, and contemplating ancient ruins (possibly all at once) is my idea of a bucket-list trip. 

Every other fall, I teach a course, FYSP 199 (Designer Babies and Other Possibilities), to 14 or 15 freshmen. A writing-intensive course, this first-year seminar features discussions, oral reports and much writing on topics such as GM crops, reproductive technologies and genome editing.

Students of FYSP 199 Class, Fall 2019
Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College

FYSP 199 Class, Fall 2019

Back Row (L to R): I. C. Davis, Y. Lough, G Dagnese, W. Emman, P. Kamitsuka, Y. Cruz

Middle Row (L to R): K. Davis, E. Braunstein, G. Castillo, A. Alotbi, R. Kojiro, R. Taylor.

Front Row (L to R): A. Shaw, A. Adler (Writing Associate), S. Kulkarni, A. Nguyen, A. Roshni

I teach Developmental Biology (Biology 301 and 302) in the spring, every other year. This course deals with the intricacies of such aspects of embryonic development as 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!

Yolanda Cruz and Biology 301 class
Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College

 Biology 301 (Developmental Biology), Spring 2018

Back row (L to R):  K. Griffith (Teaching Assistant), S. Xiong, R. Poyle, R. Koburov, K. Christel, E. Rubin, Y. Cruz.
Middle row (L to R): S. Xu, S. Kao, M. Capos-Lopez, O. Shin, V. De Pascuale, C. Jimenez, L. McSherry, F. MacLaren, G. Richner.
Front Row (L to R): K. Jiang, A. Lazere, M. Rubin, D. Russo, C. Wallace, R. Khan, N. Fox.
Not in photo: L. Aamir, A. Eastman, Y. Pryor, X. Wei, J. Wu, Z. Zhang.


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 2019 Epigenetics class is shown below.

Yolanda Cruz and Biology 311 class
Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College

Biology 311 (Epigenetics), Spring 2019
Front row (L to R): L. Martin, S. Bassuk, S. McClennen, L Aamir, K. Nepomuceno, Y Cruz
Back row(L to R): C. Wallace, J. Cardozo, L. Fraser, D. Russo, J Rosenboom, Y. Fang, K. Tonra, K Feng, S Xiong, Q Ma  (Not in picture: S Wargo, F MacLaren, H Ren, S Xu)


Yolanda Cruz and Cruz Lab students
Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College

Cruz Lab, January 2020
Clockwise from left: H. Gao, Y. Cruz, A. Tolley, X. Zhong. Y. Yu

(* denotes a student)

Rousmaniere H*, Silverman R*, White RA*, Sasaki MS*, Wilson SD*, Morrison JT*, Cruz YP. (2010) Husbandry of Mono-delphis domestica in the study of mammalian embryogenesis. Lab. Anim. 39:219-226.

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 Society 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 Meeting 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 inMonodelphis domestica?  Poster, 70th Annual Meeting of the Society of Developmental Biology, Chicago, Illinois, 21-25 July.

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.

Morrison JT*, Wang VN*, Bantilan NS*, Nellett KM*, Cruz YP (2013) Expression patterns of Oct4, Cdx2 and Yap1 Proteins during blastocyst formation in embryos of the marsupial, Monodelphis domestica Wagner. Evo. Dev.15(3):183-197.

Familari M, Au PCK, de Iongh RU, Cruz YP, Selwood L (2015) Expression analysis of Cdx2 and Pouf51 in the marsupial,The stripe-faced dunnart, during early development to the bilaminar blastocyst stage. Mol. Reprod. Genet. doi: 10.1002/mrd.22597