Rebecca J. Morris, PhD

Professor, Postdoc Development Program Director
Telephone Number


Rebecca J. Morris received her Ph.D. in 1981 in Biology from Syracuse University. After working as a Research Associate with Sue Fischer and Thomas Slaga’s at M.D. Anderson’s Science Park, she accepted a position at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research in Wynnewood, PA. 

In 2001, Dr. Morris moved her program to the Departments of Dermatology and Pathology at Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan, New York. She is currently the I.J. Holton Professor of Stem Cells and Cancer at the Hormel Institute/University of Minnesota. Dr. Morris has maintained an interest in keratinocyte stem cells and cancer from her graduate work, and has been funded by grants from the ACS, NIAMS, DOD, and NCI.


  • PhD: Biology, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, 1981 
  • BS: Biology, Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1976

Professional Memberships

  • American Association for Cancer Research
  • Women in Cancer Research
  • Society for Investigative Dermatology


NIH Study Section, ZRG1 SSS-N 20 Special Emphasis Panel for Oncology Fellowship Review, October 30-31, 2000, July 12-13, 2001, October 29-30, 2001, July 22-23, 2002, November 8-9, 2004.


Study Section on Carcinogenesis, Nutrition, and Environment, American Cancer Society.


International reviewer for Cancer Research UK.


Stem Cell Advisory Committee, State of Nebraska.


NIH Study Section ZDK1-GRB-8(01) Ad Hoc Committee, Special Emphasis Panel on intestinal stem cells.


NIH NIAMS Study Section AMS, permanent member.


Editorial Board, NPJ Precision Oncology


NIH NIAMS Study Section ACTS

Research Interests

Stem cells and cancer, especially keratinocyte stem cells, bone marrow stem cells, and epithelial cancers

Selected Awards

  • 7/1/13–6/30/18: The Hormel Institute, Paint the Town Pink (Austin, MN), “Bone marrow cells and Mammary Carcinogenesis”. This is a seed money grant to establish preliminary data on mammary stem cells and cancer that can be used towards a larger grant in the future.
  • 8/01/12–7/31/17: R01 AR060854, “Identification of a keratinocyte stem cell regulatory gene in the mouse Ksc2 locus”, P.I. Rebecca Morris, The goal of this project is to use classical and modern technology to identify a candidate stem cell regulatory gene in our previously mapped Ksc2 locus on mouse chromosome 4. This grant is currently in no-cost extension.
  • 1/1/15–12/31/15: Minnesota Chemoprevention Consortium Award, “Skin homing bone marrow derived cells: novel targets for chemoprevention”. P.I. Rebecca Morris, collaborators Alexander Meves, Department of Dermatology Mayo Clinic and Zigang Dong The Hormel Institute.
  • 1/1/15–12/31/15: UMN Grant in Aid for Research, Artistry, and Scholarship, “Bridging the gap between macro and micro: imaging, documentation, analysis, and dissection”. This grant provides partial funds towards purchase of a Zeiss Discovery 20 Stereomicroscope for The Hormel Institute. P.I. Rebecca Morris.
  • 9/1/12–8/31/15: DOD Discovery W81XWH-12-1-0395, “A novel mechanism for the pathogenesis of non-melanoma skin cancer resulting from early exposure to ultraviolet light”, P.I. Rebecca Morris, The goal of this project is to provide evidence whether or not keratinocyte stem cells are able to leave the skin and migrate to the bone marrow.

Primary Research Areas

  • The role of bone marrow cells in epithelial cancers

Research Specialties

  • Quantitative and analytic light microscopy and histopathology
  • Keratinocyte culture systems
  • Fluorescence activated cells sorting


Li, S., Park, H., Trempus, C.S., Gordon, D., Liu, Y., Cotsarelis, G., and Morris, R.J. A Keratin 15 containing stem cell from the hair follicle contributes to squamous papilloma development in the mouse. Mol. Carcinog. 2012, Epub ahead of print, Li, Park, and Trempus share equally as first author.

Morris, R.J., Readio, N., and Johnson, K.M., Singh, A., Park H., Singh A., and Schuster, T.F. “The Ex Vivo use of keratinocytes from adult mice to define stem cell activities in cancer research”, Chapter 10 in Springer Protocols Volume on Cancer Prevention, Eds. Dong, Z. and Bode, A.M., pp. 205-236, 2014.

Li, Y., Pi, X-P., Boland, K., Lad, S., Johnson, K., Verfaillie, C., Morris, R.J. Hmga2 translocation induced in skin tumorigenesis. Oncotarget2017 May;8)18):30019-30029.DOI: 10 18632/oncotarget.16272.

Morris, R.J. Circulating tumor cells: quintessential precision oncology presenting challenges for biology. NPJ Precision Oncology (2017)1:16; doi:10. 1038.