Colloquium Schedule


All colloquia are in TBL 112 at 1:10pm on the dates below (except where noted).

September 18, 2015 – “Strategies for designing and delivering a scientific presentation” (by Matt Carter, Assistant Professor of Biology and Author of “Designing Science Presentations: A Visual Guide to Figures, Papers, Slides, Posters, and More”)
It takes time, effort and skill to design and deliver an engaging scientific talk that audiences understand and remember.  In this one-hour presentation, we will discuss three aspects of designing an outstanding scientific talk: (1) organizing complex scientific information into a clear narrative; (2) using PowerPoint or Keynote software to visually communicate scientific concepts; and (3) improving verbal and nonverbal delivery during a presentation. This seminar is open to anyone and is especially applicable to senior thesis students.

September 25, 2015 (BIOL 60s Scholar) Jack Bateman, Bowdoin College
“Interchromosomal interactions and nuclear organization in Drosophila melanogaster
Studies from diverse systems have shown that distinct interchromosomal interactions are a central component of nuclear organization in eukaryotes. In fact, in some cases, genetic regulatory elements encoded on separate chromosomes can interact and influence gene expression. This phenomenon greatly complicates a long-standing question in genetic research: in the crowded three-dimensional space of the interphase nucleus, how do regulatory elements choose their correct target genes, and avoid acting on the “wrong” genes? My lab explores this question using Drosophila melanogaster as a model system.

October 2, 9, 16, 2015 – Thesis talks (on two of these dates depending on Mt. Day)

October 23, 2015Yaowu Yuan, University of CT
“Developmental Genetics of Pollinator-associated Floral Traits”
Most flowering plants rely on animal pollination for reproductive success. However, the genes and developmental networks regulating many of the pollinator-associated floral traits remain poorly understood, largely because the conventional genetic model system, Arabidopsis, is not particularly suitable to study these traits. We have developed a wealth of genomic and genetic resources and functional tools in a classical ecological and evolutionary model system, monkeyflowers (Mimulus), to dissect the genetic bases and developmental mechanisms of floral trait evolution. The bulk of this talk will be composed of two stories: the first involves identification of a causal gene underlying natural flower color variation that contributes to pollinator preference between bumblebee-pollinated Mimulus lewisii and hummingbird-pollinated M. cardinalis; the second story concerns the utilization of chemically induced mutants of M. lewisii to discover the first transcription factor that regulates carotenoid pigmentation during flower development. I will finish the talk by briefly mentioning our ongoing efforts in studying the developmental genetics of other pollinator-associated floral traits (e.g., pigment patterning, corolla tube formation and elaboration, stamen and pistil length).

October 30, 2015 (co-sponsored with Neuroscience, Psychology and Cognitive Sciences) – Michael Goldstein, Cornell University
“Emergence of Complex Communication from Simple Interactions: Lessons from Songbirds and Human Infants”
Despite the immense variety of sounds we associate with the animal world, the ability to learn a vocal repertoire is a rare phenomenon, emerging in only a handful of groups. To gain a better understanding of the development and evolution of vocal learning, we will examine the processes by which birds learn to sing and human infants learn to talk. A key parallel in the vocal development of birds and babies is the social function of immature vocalizations. The responses of adults to the plastic song of birds and the babbling of babies create social feedback that guides the young towards mature vocalizations. The difficulty of measuring rapid social interchanges organized by immature vocalizing has led many to overlook their importance and assume that young songbirds and human infants learn by passive exposure followed by motor practice. My research indicates that vocal learning is an active, socially-embedded process. By creating feedback that is both inherently informative and socially relevant, structured social interaction boosts the salience of acoustic patterns in the input, activates reward circuitry, and facilitates learning of speech and song.

November 6, 2015Roman Yukilevich, Union College
“Zooming in on rapid speciation in Drosophila: What drives inter-fertile, sympatric taxa to speciate?”
A ubiquitous pattern of speciation is the observation that sympatry often accelerates the evolution of sexual isolation in nature.  While many have suggested that Reinforcement, natural selection to avoid maladaptive hybridization, is the main explanation for this pattern, it is not clear how it can explain rapid speciation between inter-fertile sister species.  These inter-fertile taxa typically show rapid divergence in mating preferences and sexual cues that cause them to be strongly or completely sexually isolated.  In this talk I will focus on such a case in the Drosophila athabasca species complex, which is composed of three behavioral races that have speciated only in the last 15,000-5,000 years.  My primary focus is to decipher the causal target traits of speciation and to determine how mating preferences for such traits have genetically diverged across these races.  I will also present data on the fitness consequences of hybridization between these races in order to test why mating preferences and sexual cue traits have diverged so rapidly.  In total this system highlights the advantages of studying recently, but yet strongly reproductively isolated taxa to reveal the true targets and mechanisms of speciation.

November 13, 2015David Weinshenker, Emory University
“Norepinephrine-Dopamine Interactions Underlying Addiction and Arousal”
Drug addiction and Parkinson’s disease are classically considered to be disorders of the dopamine system; all known drugs of abuse increase mesocorticolimbic dopamine transmission, and the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are caused by the death of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta. However, psychostimulant drugs also increase dopamine’s lesser known catecholamine cousin, norepinephrine in the brain, and degeneration of the noradrenergic locus coeruleus actually precedes the degeneration of substantia nigra dopamine neurons and motor impairment in Parkinson’s disease. Our work has focused on how modulation of dopamine systems by norepinephrine contributes to neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders.

November 20, 2015 (BIMO 60s Scholar) – Rachel O’Neill, University of CT
“The dark matter of genomes: understanding the forces and conflicts that drive genome change”
While genome sequencing has become more mainstream thanks to advances in modern sequencing technologies, most reference genome sequences (including human) are incomplete. For example, the centromeres of most multicellular eukarya consist of highly repetitive DNA composed of large arrays of simple satellites and transposable elements, rendering them intractable to traditional sequencing technologies and assembly algorithms. Paradoxically, the demonstrated lack of conservation of centromeric sequences, even among closely related species, suggests that the genomic component of eukaryotic centromeres is relatively rapidly evolving, while function is preserved by conserved epigenetic components. By using nontraditional models, genome sequencing and novel functional genomics approaches, my lab studies how selfish elements are an important component of chromosome function and may underlie the genetic conflict that drives genome evolution.

February 12, 2016 (BIMO 60s Scholar) – Russell Debose-Boyd, UT Southwestern Medical Center

February 26, 2016 – Biology Alumni Reunion

March 4, 2016Michael Krashes, NIH

March 11, 2016Sigma Xi Lecture Eliabeth Kolbert, Author and journalist, Writer-In-Residence

April 8, 2016Michael Levy, University of Pennsylvania

April 15, 2016Alison Brody, University of Vermont

April 22, 2016 Kai Zinn, California Institute of Technology

May 6, 2016 – Thesis Poster Presentations

Previous Years Schedule