Observations of galaxies outside our own Milky Way have provided a remarkable number of important insights into the fundamental physical processes governing the universe. In the first part of this talk, I will introduce our current model for the growth of structure and the hierarchical build up of galaxies over cosmic time. I will then discuss observational evidence supporting this model along with some outstanding challenges, including the puzzling abundance of disk galaxy populations in the local universe and the “missing mass” problems probed by galaxy surveys. I next discuss my research focused on identifying observational evidence for the theorized process of galaxy disk regrowth after destructive mergers and on measuring the balance of galaxy mass assembled through violent mergers versus quiescent growth. Finally, I discuss ongoing work aimed at constraining models for the build up of metals in galaxies through measurement of the galaxy metallicity distribution in a survey volume that reaches dwarf galaxy masses.