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Past Lectures

 Can Genetic Technologies Advance Sustainable Agriculture? Perspectives From Research and the Farm

Pamela Ronald, PhD and Jennie Schmidt, MS, RDMay 2, 2018

Pamela Ronald, PhD, is distinguished professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center at the University of California, Davis and co-author of "Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food" and Jennie Schmidt, MS, RD, is a farmer at Schmidt Farms Inc. and a registered dietician.

Professor Ronald discusses one of the greatest challenges of our time: how to feed the world’s growing population without further destroying the environment. She describes the approaches that geneticists are using to help meet this challenge.

Jennie discusses the current landscape of U.S. agriculture and family farms, the farming systems they choose to use and how agricultural systems and technologies contribute to moving U.S. family farms along the sustainability continuum.

 Small Game Hunting: Microbial Diagnostics, Surveillance and Discovery in Acute and Chronic Diseases

W. Ian Lipkin, MDOct. 10, 2017

How do we track the emergence or re-emergence of an infectious disease? Recent advances in molecular and computational methods have greatly increased the global capacity for effective surveillance of infectious diseases in humans, wildlife and domestic animals. These technological breakthroughs have also accelerated the pace of discovery in studies of microbial communities that live in our bodies and their roles in chronic illness and health. W. Ian Lipkin, MD, John Snow Professor of Epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Mailman School of Public Health and professor of Pathology and Neurology at the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University, describes the promises and pitfalls facing a 21st-century microbe hunter, drawing from his experience performing basic research, responding to emerging infectious threats and communicating science to the public.

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 Almost Human: How New Discoveries from South Africa Change Our View of Human Origins

John Hawks, PhDMarch 9, 2017

Human evolution was once thought to be a straight march of progress, but both ancient DNA and new fossil discoveries are showing how unexpected populations have contributed to our origins in surprising ways. The recent discovery of a huge trove of fossil bones in the Rising Star cave system of South Africa has identified a new ancestral form of human, Homo naledi, that surprised scientists around the world in many ways. The ongoing research on these ancient creatures has shown that they may have deliberately placed their dead inside a deep, remote chamber, casting new light on the origins of human sociality. John Hawks, PhD, Vilas-Borghesi Distinguished Achievement Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, discusses new discoveries made by the scientific team that help to place Homo naledi in an unexpected place in our origins.

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 Genetic Therapies for Genetic Disease: Clinical Successes and New Technologies Spark a Renaissance

Katherine A. High, MDApril 9, 2015

Gene therapy (changing the DNA of a patient to permanently cure a disease) has been dreamed of since DNA was discovered. However, realizing this possibility has been a long road punctuated with high-profile setbacks. Nonetheless, with recent clinical successes and the advent of powerful new technologies, gene therapy is poised for explosive advancement. Katherine A. High, MD, president and chief scientific officer of Spark Therapeutics and member of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, discusses the evolution of gene therapy in both the academic and commercial spheres, innovative alternatives to the traditional models for bringing research out of not-for-profit labs and into commercial production and how exciting new genome editing and stem cell technologies are impacting the future of gene therapy.

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 The Microbiome: A New Frontier In Human Health

Susan Lynch, PhDNovember 5, 2014

Traditionally, the medical community has viewed microbes as the cause of illness and sought to eliminate them. This notion, however, is shifting as emerging research in the field of human microbiome research has revealed the presence of diverse microorganisms living on and within the human body. These complex microbial communities develop during infancy and produce a range of essential functions necessary for maintenance of human health. Susan Lynch, PhD, associate professor of Medicine and director of the Colitis and Crohn's Disease Microbiome Research Core Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, discusses the genesis, influences on and effects of the human microbiome, with a particular focus on childhood allergic disease and asthma.

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 Cancer Stem Cells: Are We Targeting the Right Cells?

Max S. Wicha, MDMay 21, 2014

Why do tumors reemerge in so many cancer patients? Current cancer treatments target the cells that make up the bulk of a tumor but may miss the cells that cause metastasis and relapse. Recent evidence suggests that many cancers, including breast cancer, are driven by a small subpopulation of "cancer stem cells" that are relatively resistant to radiation and chemotherapy. Max S. Wicha, MD, distinguished professor of Oncology and Director, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, discusses the "cancer stem cell" model and its implications to the biology and treatment of tumors, including the early clinical trials of treatments that specifically target cancer stem cells.

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 Genetics of Circadian Rhythms and Sleep: Modern Life Battles Ancient Drives and Mother Nature

Fred W. Turek, PhDNov. 20, 2013

Circadian (24-hour) rhythms and the sleep-wake cycle have evolved over millions of years to allow animals to function optimally at different times of the day and night. However, with the emergence of a 24-hour lifestyle, modern humans ignore Mother Nature’s instructions and try to override our internal biological clock and sleep drive. Fred W. Turek, PhD, Charles E. & Emma H. Morrison Professor of Biology, Departments of Neurobiology & Neurology and Director, Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology, Northwestern University, discusses consequences of "fighting the clock," as well as rapid recent advances in understanding the machinery that underlies circadian rhythms and the control of sleep.

 Endocrine Disrupting Contaminants and Reproductive Health: Alligators as Canaries in a Coal Mine

Louis J. Guillette Jr. PhDApril 24, 2013

Louis J. Guillette Jr. PhD, director of Marine Biomedicine & Environmental Sciences Center; professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical University of South Carolina; Centers of Economic Excellence Endowed Chair of Marine Genomics, Hollings Marine Laboratory; and professor at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, reviews the work done in his laboratory and others examining the effects of various environmental contaminants on the development and functioning of the ovary and reproductive system at the gene to organ level.

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 Personal Genome Sequencing

Marc S. Williams, MDJan. 16, 2013

Marc S. Williams, MD, director of Geisinger Health System Genomic Medicine Institute, explores the emerging applications, benefits and potential harms of personal genome sequencing. Williams also discusses the health information genome sequencing can and cannot uncover; incidental findings, or what happens when sequencing reveals unexpected health concerns; and the potentially dramatic impact of this transformative healthcare technology on the healthcare system.

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 Rethinking Mental Illness

Thomas R. Insel, MDMarch 6, 2012

Thomas R. Insel, MD, director of the National Institute of Mental Health and former psychiatry professor at Emory University, explores the state of mental disorders in the United States and the role of genetics and other scientific advances in improving diagnosis and treatment methods, revolutionizing the field of psychiatry.

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 Drug Abuse: A Family Matter?

Glen R. Hanson, PhD, DDSOctober 26, 2011

Scientists have determined that the prevalence of inheriting drug abuse ranges from 40 to 60 percent, suggesting that vulnerability to drug addiction is not merely environmental, but also genetic. Hanson, professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah and former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, explores the genetic elements of drug abuse.

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 Genes From the Fountain of Youth

Cynthia Kenyon, PhDMay 11, 2011

Aging is actively controlled by genes. All animals, and possibly humans, too, seem to have the potential to live much longer than they normally do. Cynthia Kenyon, PhD, explores the mechanisms by which the rate of aging can be slowed down. Kenyon is distinguished professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, American Cancer Society Research Professor and director of the Hillblom Center for the Biology of Aging at the University of California, San Francisco.

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 TEDxNorthwesternU: Identity, the Biology of Race in the Absence of Biological Races

Rick KittlesPhDDec. 15, 2010

Defining "race" continues to be a nemesis. Knowledge from human genetic research is increasingly challenging the notion that race and biology are inextricably linked, engendering tremendous ramifications for human relations, identity and public health. Rick Kittles, PhD, discusses why using race in biomedical studies is problematic using examples from U.S. groups that transcend "racial" boundaries and bear the burden of health disparities. Kittles is associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), as well as the associate director of the UIC Cancer Center.

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 TEDxNorthwesternU: Identity, Democracy After Anatomy

Alice Dreger, PhDDec. 15, 2010

As our democracy has matured, it has still retained an ancient reliance on anatomy as deeply meaningful. Yet at the same time, science has been dissolving the bright lines between anatomical categories. So, what's next? Alice Dreger, PhD, discusses what could and what will democracy look like after anatomy? Dreger is professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. 

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 The Biologic Basis of Obesity

Jeffrey Friedman, MD, PhDOct. 13, 2010

Jeffrey Friedman, MD, PhD, the Marilyn M. Simpson Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at The Rockefeller University, discusses what his team learned about the biological processes that regulate weight and appetite and how further research could lead to a better understanding of obesity.

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 From Reading to Writing Life Code

Juan Enriquez, PhDNov. 4, 2009

Juan Enriquez, PhD, managing director of Excel Venture Management and accomplished writer, businessman and academic, explores what is possible using genome technology and how it stands to revolutionize our lives.

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 Personal Genomes and Web 2.0 Volunteerism

George Church, PhDMay 12, 2009

Do genes help predict disease, help you decide on insurance or help scientists discover your family traits? Can we work together to make a bio-weather map, tracking pathogens and allergens around the globe? Is a microscopic flake of skin from a crime scene enough to determine a name, a face and a psychiatric profile? George Church, PhD, professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, explores cutting-edge genomics research and technology.

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 Building a New Biology

Drew Endy, PhDOct. 27, 2008

Drew Endy, PhD, assistant professor of Bioengineering, Stanford University, discusses powerful new technologies that allow life to be built from scratch. New engineered organisms are being constructed to help cure cancer, produce renewable energy and assemble living computers. But who will control these new biotechnologies?

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 The Science and Politics of Stem Cells, Aging and Cancer

Sean Morrison, PhDOct. 17, 2007

Sean Morrison, PhD, discusses the basics of stem cells, the roles that stem cells play in cancer and aging and the ways in which state and federal politics have impacted stem cell research. Morrison is associate professor at University of Michigan Medical School, director of University of Michigan's Center for Stem Cell Biology and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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 Evolution: The Impact of Social and Political Concerns on Science

Eugenie C. Scott and Robert T. PennockApril 11, 2006

Evolution is a complex and controversial subject with profound scientific, educational and legal implications. Two experts provide different perspectives:

Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, addresses the political and social issues challenging the science classroom.

Robert T. Pennock, professor of History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science at Michigan State University, defines what science is and is not.

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 Race, Genetic Ancestry and Disease

Rick Kittles, PhDNov. 16-17, 2004

Rick Kittles, PhD, associate professor of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics at the Ohio State University Medical Center, explains how DNA is used to trace African American ancestry and how genetics can affect complex traits and diseases such as prostate cancer, personality traits and skin color.

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