Genomics Now

From Gregor Mendel's discovery of the laws of heredity, to the recognition of DNA as life's critical molecular "key," scientists have probed the role of this remarkably complex material and the code it contains to expand our understanding of life. With the genetic code of hundreds of life forms now sequenced, and geometrically larger genomic datasets publicly available, scientists are able to advance research into the genetic roots of disease, how global viral pandemics occur, how transformative agricultural research can help feed our planet’s growing population, how environmental influences affect individual development, and how genetic mutation and variation impact survival at the species level.

Lectures are held at Centennial Hall on the campus of the University of Arizona. Parking is available on a pay per use basis in the Tyndall Avenue Garage. All lectures begin at 7:00 PM and are free to the public. Call 520-621-4090 for more information.

Jan 30 2013
Are Genes the Software of Life?

Fernando D. Martinez, MD, Director, BIO5 Institute; Director, Arizona Respiratory Center; Swift-McNear Professor of Pediatrics and Regents' Professor, The University of Arizona

The last 20 years have been marked by an astonishing growth in our knowledge about the molecules that make up living things. And among those molecules, none has attracted more attention than DNA. The DNA code of hundreds of life forms has been sequenced, and this code contains not only information needed to assemble all proteins; a myriad of bit and pieces of DNA are also involved in controlling when proteins are built and destroyed. It is thus not surprising that DNA has been called the software of life, but the metaphor breaks down when we look more closely. Contrary to any reputable software, small, random "errors" are introduced in the code each time DNA is copied in order to be transmitted to the next generation. Most often, these changes have no effect whatsoever. Almost all the remaining changes are deleterious and are most likely the cause of the many diseases that affect many human beings at some point in their lives. But a small portion of these random "errors" allow those who carry them to better adapt to the environment in which they live. And the fast and slow accumulation of those favorable "errors" is what ultimately gave rise to the immensely successful history of life in the planet. Two indispensable conclusions arise: first, disease is often caused by the same mechanism, random mutation, that allowed us to become conscious beings and, therefore, those of us who are healthy and can pursue happiness have a basic biological and ethical debt towards those who are not; second, the massive changes that we are introducing into the environment are making many of us sick simply because our ancestors never saw them and thus, never "adopted the right genes" for them. Contrary to all other species that ever existed, therefore, we are increasingly putting our future as a species in our own hands.

Feb 6 2013
The Genesis of the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic

Michael Worobey, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Arizona

The Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918 was the most intense outbreak of disease in human history. It killed upwards of 50 million people (most in a six-week period) casting a long shadow of fear and mystery: nearly a century later, scientists have been unable to explain why, unlike all other influenza outbreaks, it killed young adults in huge numbers. I will describe how analyses of large numbers of influenza virus genomes are revealing the pathway traveled by the genes of this virus before it exploded in 1918. What emerges is a surprising tale with many players and plot lines, in which echoes of prior pandemics, imprinted in the immune responses of those alive in 1918, set the stage for the catastrophe. I will also discuss how resolving the mysteries of 1918 could help to prevent future pandemics and to control seasonal influenza, which quietly kills millions more every decade.

The broadcast/podcast of this lecture will be delayed until the scientific results presented have been published.

 

Feb 13 2013
Genomics and the Complexity of Life

Michael W. Nachman, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Arizona

What determines the complexity of life? Darwin described how evolution produced “endless forms most beautiful”, yet he was unaware of genetics and the laws of inheritance. Our genomes provide the ultimate record of evolution, and evolution explains many fascinating aspects of our genomes. How do changes in the genome allow organisms to adapt to their environment? How do changes in the genome produce new species? Why do worms and humans have about the same number of genes? This lecture will explore how genomics has deepened our understanding of evolution in ways Darwin never could have imagined.

Feb 20 2013
The 9 Billion-People Question

Rod A. Wing, Bud Antle Endowed Chair, School of Plant Sciences and Director, Arizona Genomics Institute, The University of Arizona

The world’s population will grow to more than 9 billion in less than 40 years. How can farmers grow enough food to feed this population in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way? Research is now underway to create the next generation of green revolution crops - the so called “green super crops” where “super” means a doubling or tripling of yields, and “green” means a reduction in the use of water, fertilizer, and pesticides etc. The 9 billion-people question (9BPQ) is one of the world’s most pressing issues of our time. Our society must realistically solve this question within the next 25 years if we are to be able to supply farmers with the seeds required to feed the future. This lecture will explore the many facets of how to feed the world and will propose a bold solution to help solve the 9BPQ.

Feb 27 2013
Epigenetics: Why DNA Is Not Our Destiny

Donata Vercelli, MD, Professor, Cellular and Molecular Medicine; Director, Arizona Center for the Biology of Complex Diseases, The University of Arizona

Two twin sisters, one with and one without asthma. Two genetically identical mice, one black and lean, the other yellow and obese. Two human cells, one from the brain and the other from the skin: they look and act different, but they have the same DNA sequence. All of this is the work of epigenetics. Much emphasis has been placed on DNA and genes as repositories of the code designed to transmit information and dictate biological programs. However, developmental trajectories and responses to environmental cues are – and need to be – highly plastic. This plasticity is made possible by epigenetic mechanisms that enhance or silence gene expression at the right time in the right environmental context but do not change the DNA sequence. Thus the code inscribed in our DNA is necessary but not sufficient to recapitulate our biological identity and determine our biological destiny. This lecture will explore how understanding epigenetics will advance our understanding of human biology and disease.

Mar 6 2013
Genomics Tomorrow

This panel discussion will bring together this series' five esteemed presenters to address the complex and varied issues associated with genomics research and its potential impact on individuals and society. At the discussion's core will be the questions of mankind's role and responsibilities in choosing to "modify" nature. Topics will include: the risks and rewards associated the new norms of pre-natal genetic screening; the impact of readily available low-cost genetic profiling; global opportunities posed by genetically modified plants and organisms; and the potentials of a greatly expanded knowledge-base of infectious diseases and their treatments. The discussion will be moderated by College of Science Dean Joaquin Ruiz and audiences will be able to submit questions in advance for panel members' consideration.

Lectures will be held at Centennial Hall on the campus of the University of Arizona.
View map to Centennial Hall

Parking

Parking is available in the Tyndall Avenue Garage.
View map to Tyndall Avenue Garage

Time and Cost

All lectures begin at 7 PM and are free to the public.

For More Information
Please call 520.621.4090

Course Overview

ECOL 596s is structured as a 2-unit graduate course with discussion, lecture and activities on the teaching of science in a high school classroom. The course is focused around an evening speaker series offered through the College of Science.

Teacher-participants meet once a week for three hours in the evening. In the first hour the class participates in an activity for teaching science in a high school science classroom or a presentation on a K–12 outreach opportunity at the UA. In the second hour the class attends the College of Science Genomics Now lecture. The third hour consists of discussion of the lecture and its application to the high school classroom.

This course is structured for science teachers at the 6–12 grade level, but K–12 teachers at all levels are invited to participate. Pre-service teachers who are not yet certified may also take the course and earn undergraduate credit. Teachers earn two units of graduate credit.

For More Information
John Pollard
(520) 621-8843
jpollard@email.arizona.edu

To Register
Contact Continuing Education and Academic Outreach

520-621-7724
Enrollment is limited.

Tuition and Fees
100% tuition (two units) is paid by the College of Science through funding provided by Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

Location and Time
Class location will be announced. Classes run from 6:00-9:00 pm each Wednesday evening from January 23 to March 13. Parking is available in the Tyndall Avenue Garage.
View map to Tyndall Avenue Garage

Educator Forum

Wednesday, January 23
Introduction Class
Attendance is mandatory.

Wednesday, January 30
Are Genes the Software of Life?
Fernando D. Martinez, Director, BIO5 Institute; Director, Arizona Respiratory Center, College of Medicine; Director, Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute; University of Arizona

Wednesday, February 6
The Genesis of the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic
Michael Worobey, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona

Wednesday, February 13
Genomics and the Complexity of Life
Michael W. Nachman
Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona

Wednesday, February 20
The 9 Billion-People Question
Rod A. Wing, Bud Antle Endowed Chair Professor, The School of Plant Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Arizona Genomics Institute, University of Arizona

Wednesday, February 27
Epigenetics: Why DNA Is Not Our Destiny
Donata Vercelli, Professor, Cellular and Molecular Medicine; Director, Arizona Center for the Biology of Complex Diseases; Associate Director, Arizona Respiratory Center, The BIO5 Institute; University of Arizona

Wednesday, March 6
To be announced.

Wednesday, March 13
Final Class
Details to be announced.