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New lecture series features transformative life scientists

By: Krishna Ramanujan ,  Cornell Chronicle
Wed, 09/12/2018

A new lecture series will feature eminent life scientists whose research transcends traditional boundaries.

With the inaugural lecture Sept. 21, Cornell’s Life Sciences Lecture Series will include four talks over the course of the academic year. The speakers are all interdisciplinary, internationally renowned and are excellent communicators.

“If you want to make the most of your science, you need to know about things beyond your individual discipline, and this [series] is a wonderful opportunity to get up to speed and discover cutting-edge research,” said Angela Douglas, the Daljit S. and Elaine Sarkaria Professor of Insect Physiology & Toxicology and lecture series committee chair.

2018-19 speakers:

  • Adrian Krainer, professor of molecular genetics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, “Antisense Therapy for Spinal Muscular Atrophy: Harnessing the Power of a Backup Gene,” Sept. 21, 4 p.m., G10 Biotech. Krainer, a molecular biologist applying fundamental research in the clinic, will explore genetic therapies for spinal muscular atrophy.
  • Kay Holekamp, professor of ecology, evolutionary biology and behavior at Michigan State University, “Selective Forces Shaping the Evolution of Intelligence,” Oct. 29, 4 p.m., G10 Biotech. With potential interest to psychologists, anthropologists, and biologists, Holekamp will discuss the evolution of intelligence from an evolutionary and behavior perspective.
  • Mina Bissell, distinguished scientist, Biological Systems and Engineering Division, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, “Why Don’t We Get More Cancer: The Critical Role of Extracellular Matrix and Microenvironment in Malignancy and Dormancy,” April 15, 2019, 4 p.m., Vet School Lecture Theater 1. Most cancer researchers focus on genes and mutations, but Bissel considers cancer in novel ways; she explores the roles of the habitat where cancer cells live, including the extracellular matrix and cell interactions, in determining whether tumors grow or fail.
  • Brendan Bohannan, professor of environmental studies and biology, University of Oregon, “The Ecology and Evolution of Host-Associated Microbiomes,” April 29, 2019, 4:30 p.m., G10 Biotech. Bohannan will dive into microbial communities in animals, including humans, and apply ecology and evolutionary principles to microbiomes.

This year’s cohort of speakers was selected by a cross-college life sciences faculty committee, but there will be opportunities for faculty, researchers and graduate students to nominate speakers for future years.

The series, funded by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR), expands on a previous series called Biology Without Borders, established in 2012. Andrew Bass, formerly in the OVPR and now a senior associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, commented: “The Life Sciences Lecture Series builds on the success of Biology Without Borders, which brought together members of the biology-centric departments, and aims to attract an even larger audience of life scientists on the Ithaca campus who are in the physical and veterinary sciences and in engineering.”

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle