Biomedical & Biological Sciences Signature Seminars

Tuesday, October 27, 2020,  Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire

Antibodies Against Emerging Infectious Disease: A Global Collaboration


Dr. Ollmann Saphire

Professor of Immunology
La Jolla Institute for Immunology

Hosted by:  John Parker of The Baker Animal Institute

Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D. is a Professor of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. Her research explains, at the molecular level, how and why viruses like Ebola and Lassa are pathogenic and provides the roadmap for medical defense. Her team has solved the structures of the Ebola, Sudan, Marburg, Bundibugyo and Lassa virus glycoproteins, explained how they remodel these structures as they drive themselves into cells, how their proteins suppress immune function and where human antibodies can defeat these viruses.

A recent discovery revealed why neutralizing antibodies had been so difficult to elicit against Lassa virus, and provided not only the templates for the needed vaccine, but the molecule itself: a Lassa surface glycoprotein engineered to remain in the right conformation to inspire the needed antibody response. This molecule is the basis for international vaccine efforts against Lassa.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020,  Dr. Akiko Iwasaki

Immune Response to SARS-CoV2


Dr. Akiko Iwasaki

Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology; Professor of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Yale School of Medicine

Hosted by:  Diverse Interdisciplinary Student Council (DISC)

Akiko Iwasaki received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (Canada) in 1998, and her postdoctoral training from the National Institutes of Health (USA) (1998-2000). She joined Yale University (USA) as a faculty in 2000, and currently is an Investigator of the HHMI and Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Department of Immunobiology, and of Department of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology. Akiko Iwasaki’s research focuses on the mechanisms of immune defense against viruses at the mucosal surfaces. Her laboratory is interested in how innate recognition of viral infections lead to the generation of adaptive immunity, and how adaptive immunity mediates protection against subsequent viral challenge.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020,   Dr. Cassandra Extavour

Eggs, Expression and Ecology: Regulation and Evolution of Reproductive Capacity


Dr. Cassandra Extavour

Principal Investigator
Harvard University

Hosted by:  Diverse Interdisciplinary Student Council (DISC)

Extavour Lab is a collaboration of developmental biologists, molecular biologists, geneticists, cell biologists, zoologists, and evolutionary biologists. Our shared interest is in the evolution of the genetic mechanisms employed during early animal embryogenesis to specify cell fate, development and differentiation. We focus primarily on the evolution and development of reproductive systems, including both the germ line and the somatic components of the gonad.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020,  Dr. Monte Winslow

Multiplexed in Vivo Functional Cancer Genetics

Dr. Monte Winslow

Associate Professor of genetics and Pathology
Stanford University

Hosted by:  Praveen Sethupathy of Biomedical Sciences

Metastasis is a major clinical challenge driven by poorly understood cell state alterations. The goal of our lab is to use unbiased genomic methods and in vivo models to better understanding the molecular and cellular changes that underlie tumor progression and each step of the metastatic cascade. We use genetically-engineered mouse models of metastatic cancer in which the resulting tumors recapitulate the genetic alterations and histological progression of the human disease.

In these models, tumors develop within their appropriate microenvironment and undergo changes in their gene expression programs that endow them with the ability to invade blood and lymphatic vessels, survive in circulation, enter various distant organs, and ultimately grow into new tumor lesions. Given the dearth of human tissue samples from metastatic disease, especially from primary tumors and metastases from the same patient prior to therapy, these models represent a unique opportunity to understand the molecular biography of the most prevalent tumor types.


Tuesday, April 14, Dr. William Newsome - Rescheduled Spring 2021

Detecting Covert Cognitive States from Neural Population Recordings in Prefrontal Cortex

Pic of Dr. William Newsome

Dr. William Newsome

Professor of Neurobiology
Neurosciences Institute at Stanford University

Hosted by:  Melissa Warden of the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior & Dave Lin of The Department of Biomedical Sciences

Bill Newsome is the Harman Family Professor of Neurobiology and Director of the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute at Stanford University.  He received a B.S. degree in physics from Stetson University and a Ph.D. in biology from the California Institute of Technology.  Dr. Newsome is a leading investigator in systems and cognitive neuroscience.  He has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying visual perception and simple forms of decision making. Among his honors are the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association, the Dan David Prize of Tel Aviv University, the Karl Spencer Lashley Award of the American Philosophical Society, and the Champalimaud Vision Award.  His distinguished lectureships include the 13th Annual Marr Lecture at the University of Cambridge the 9th Annual Brenda Milner Lecture at McGill University, and the Distinguished Visiting Scholar lectures at the Kavli Institute of Brain and Mind, UCSD.  He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 2000, and to the American Philosophical Society in 2011.  Newsome co-chaired the NIH BRAIN working group, charged with forming a national plan for the coming decade of neuroscience research in the United States

Tuesday, April 28, Dr. Scott Rodeo- Rescheduled Spring 2021

The Interaction of Mechanical Load and Inflammation in Tendon-Bone Healing: Evaluation of ACL Graft Incorporation

Pic of Dr. Scott Rodeo

Dr. Scott Rodeo

Professor of Orthopedics
Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Hosted by:  Lisa Fortier of The Department of Clinical Sciences

Dr. Scott Rodeo is Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and is an Attending Surgeon at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the Hospital for Special Surgery, where he is Co-Chief Emeritus of the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, Vice Chair of Orthopedic Research, and Co-Director of the Orthopedic Soft Tissue Research Program. He is Head Team Physician for the New York Giants Football Team. Rodeo served as a Team Physician for the United States Olympic Team in 2004, 2008, and 2012.  His clinical practice involves orthopedic sports medicine, with specialty interest in complex knee reconstruction (ligament, meniscus and cartilage surgery), tendon repair in the shoulder and other joints, and shoulder instability. He runs a translational research laboratory program investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of soft tissue repair. Rodeo graduated cum laude from Stanford University, where he completed his undergraduate work while competing on the Stanford Swimming Team. He completed medical school graduating with honors from Cornell University Medical College.

Spring 2020

Tuesday, February 4, 2020,  Dr. Valentina Greco

Principles of Tissue Function and Dynamics Captured by Live Imaging

Pic of Dr. Valentina Greco

Dr. Valentina Greco

Carolyn Walch Slayman Professor of Genetics
Yale School of Medicine

Hosted by:  Carrie Adler of The Department of Molecular Medicine

In the Greco Lab our goal is to define how tissues maintain themselves throughout the course of our lives in the face of continuous cellular turnover, frequent injuries and spontaneous mutations. To do so we have developed novel tools that integrate imaging of stem cells in their niche in live mice with both genetic and cell biological approaches, allowing us to understand the complex orchestration of tissue regeneration using the skin as model system.

The importance of support.

We discovered that stem cells can be replaced, but loss of the niche disables tissue regeneration. We identified extrinsic cues that spatially organize different stem cell behaviors, including survival and death. We found that fibroblasts do not move within the dermis, but extend their membranes to compensate for the loss of neighboring fibroblasts and sustain organ homeostasis.


Fall 2019

Tuesday, September 3, Dr. Joshua Mendell

Regulation and Function of Mammalian Noncoding RNAs

Pic of Dr. Josh Mendell

Dr. Josh Mendell

Professor, Department of Molecular Biology,
University of Texas Southwestern

Hosted by:  Bob Weiss & Praveen Sethupathy of The Department of Biomedical Sciences

The Mendell laboratory investigates fundamental aspects of post-transcriptional gene regulation, noncoding RNA regulation and function, and the roles of these pathways in normal physiology, cancer, and other diseases. In addition, we employ high-throughput screening approaches to interrogate diverse problems in RNA and cancer biology.

To briefly summarize some of our most important discoveries, we uncovered the first example of a vertebrate transcription factor that regulates miRNA expression (O’Donnell et al., Nature, 2005). This study, which demonstrated that the MYC oncogenic transcription factor directly transactivates the pro-tumorigenic miR-17-92 cluster, was important for establishing the principle that miRNAs have been functionally integrated into core cancer pathways. Subsequent work from my laboratory further defined the roles of miRNAs in several critical oncogenic and tumor suppressor pathways.

Tuesday,  September 24, Dr. Tracy Johnson

RNA Splicing, Chromatin Modification, and the Coordinated Control of Gene Expression

Pic of Dr. Tracy Johnson

Dr. Tracy Johnson

Professor, Department of Microbiology,
University of California, Los Angeles

Hosted by: The Diverse Interdisciplinary Student Council

Tracy Johnson is the Maria Rowena Ross Chair of Cell Biology and Biochemistry. Dr. Johnson moved from UC San Diego to UCLA in 2013 to join the faculty in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. She earned her B.A. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from UCSD, her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Berkeley, and was a Jane Coffin Childs postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) where she studied the mechanisms of RNA splicing with John Abelson. Dr. Johnson’s research is focused on the mechanisms of eukaryotic RNA processing, particularly pre-messenger RNA splicing. Her lab has most recently been interested in the coordination of these reactions with RNA synthesis and chromatin modification. 

Tuesday, October 1, Dr. Yijun Ruan

3D Genome Organization & Transcription Regulation

Pic of Dr. Yijun Ruan

Dr. Yijun Ruan

Professor, Department of Genome Sciences
The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine

Hosted by:  John Schimenti, Department of Biomedical Sciences

Dr. Yijun Ruan is a professor, Florine Roux Endowed Chair, and the Director of JAX genomic sciences at The Jackson Laboratory (JAX). Prior to joining JAX, he was one of the founding members of the Genome Institute of Singapore, and served as a senior group leader and the associate director for genome technology from 2002 to 2012. He played pivotal roles in establishing Singapore’s genomics capability and the award winning genomics programs. Since 2012, he moved his lab to the Jackson Laboratory and has been a key member in establishing the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine (a new institute with a focus on human genomics and medicine) located on the campus of UConn Health Center, Farmington Connecticut.  Dr. Ruan’s lab pioneered the paired-end-tag (PET) sequencing strategy for high-throughput genomic and epigenomic analyses. They developed ChIP-PET for genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation and protein-binding analysis, which led to the development of the widely used ChIP-Seq method. His lab also developed RNA-PET for full-length transcriptome analysis and DNA-PET using long paired-end tags for identifying genome structural variation.

Tuesday, November 5, Dr. Coleen Murphy

Microbiome Bacterial Small RNAs Dictate Behavioral Choices and Transgenerational Inheritance in C.Elegans

Pic of Dr. Coleen Murphy

Dr. Coleen Murphy

Professor, Department of Molecular Biology
Princeton University

Hosted by:  Carrie Adler, Department of Molecular Medicine

My lab is focused on the process of aging, which remains one of the fundamental mysteries of biology. While aging may appear to be simply an unfortunate consequence of living, recent genetic breakthroughs suggest that aging is a regulated process, rather than the result of cumulative cellular damage. Many chronic and degenerative disorders, such as diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases develop in an age-related manner. Because more than 20% of U.S. citizens will be over the age of 65 by the year 2050, there is a growing need to better understand the mechanisms involved in aging and age-associated diseases.

Tuesday, December 3,  Dr. Diana Bautista - ROOM CHANGE LH5

Itchy and Scratchy: Neuroimmune Mechanisms Underlying Acute and Chronic Itch

Pic of Dr. Diana Bautista

Dr. Diana Bautista

Associate Professor, Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, Berkeley University of California 

Hosted by:  Gunther Hollopeter, Department of Molecular Medicine

Humans rely on the sensations of itch, touch and pain for a broad range of essential behaviors. For example, acute pain acts as a warning signal that alerts us to noxious mechanical, chemical and thermal stimuli, which are potentially tissue damaging. Likewise, itch sensations trigger reflexes that may protect us from disease-carrying insects. In addition, during inflammation or injury, we experience a heightened sensitivity to touch that encourages us to protect the injured site. Despite these essential protective functions, itch and pain can outlast their usefulness and become chronic. In mammals, these sensations are mediated by specialized subsets of somatosensory neurons that innervate the skin and viscera. Non-excitable cells, such as keratinocytes and immune cells, also work in conjunction with somatosensory neurons to promote acute and chronic inflammatory pain and itch.

Spring 2019

Tuesday, March 5, Dr. John D. Scott

Exploring and Exploiting the Spatial Constraints of Cell Signaling

Pic of Dr. John D. Scott

Dr. John D. Scott

Professor and Chair, Department of Pharmacology,
University of Washington

Hosted by: Richard Cerione, Department of Molecular Medicine and Praveen Sethupathy, Department of Biomedical Sciences

Dr. John Scott directs a research lab that investigates intracellular communication networks that promote specificity in signal transduction events. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

He is interested in the specificity of signal transduction events that are controlled by anchoring proteins, which facilitate rapid signal transduction by optimally positioning protein kinases and phosphatases in the vicinity of their activating signals and close to their substrates.

We study A-kinase anchoring proteins (AKAPs) that tether the cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), other protein kinases, and protein phosphatases to control the phosphorylation status of substrates.

Tuesday, April 30, Dr. Julie Pfeiffer

How Gut Microbes Enhance Enteric Virus Infection

Pic of Dr. Julie Pfeiffer

Dr. Julie Pfeiffer

Professor, Department of Microbiology,
University of Texas Southwestern

Hosted by: Dr. Holger Sondermann

Dr. Julie Pfeiffer is a Professor of Microbiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas where she studies RNA virus evolution, dissemination, pathogenesis, and transmission.  Her recent interests include examining the impact of intestinal microbiota on enteric virus infections. Her lab has determined that intestinal bacteria promote replication of several enteric viruses and ongoing work is examining mechanisms and consequences of bacteria-virus interactions.

Tuesday, May 7, Dr. Blossom Damania

Modulation of Cellular Signaling Pathways by an Oncogenic Human Herpesvirus

Pic of Dr. Blossom Damania

Dr. Blossom Damania

Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Hosted by: Orchi Anannya, Student Sponsored Seminar

Dr. Blossom Damania's laboratory is focused on understanding the molecular pathogenesis of Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), an oncogenic human virus. KSHV is associated with several types of cancer in the human population. We study the effect of KSHV viral proteins on cell proliferation, transformation, apoptosis, angiogenesis and cell signal transduction pathways.

In summary, our lab is interested in the study of viral oncogenes, viral transcription factors, host-pathogen interactions, and innate immunity. The projects in our laboratory encompass the areas of signal transduction, apoptosis, angiogenesis, innate immunity, transcription and recombinant herpesvirus production. We employ the latest techniques in molecular biology, cell biology, immunology and biochemistry to investigate key issues in viral oncogenesis.