On Wednesday, May 12, at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, Dianne K. Newman, Gordon M. Binder/Amgen Professor of Biology and Geobiology and Executive Officer for Biology and Biological Engineering in the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering (BBE), will conclude the 2020–2021 Watson Lecture season with "From the Soil to the Clinic: How Infection-Causing Microbes Thrive Without Oxygen."
Chronic infections cause major harm in humans. They can destroy the lungs of individuals living with cystic fibrosis or lead to limb amputations in diabetics whose wounds fail to heal. The common connection among these infections is the types of microbes that cause them. Such microbes often hail from the soil, where they typically grow slowly and cope with large fluctuations in oxygen concentrations. In the body, their ability to survive in the absence of oxygen renders them difficult to treat with conventional antibiotics. In this lecture, given during Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month, Newman will explain how her lab is characterizing the microenvironments and metabolic states of these pathogens, mindful of their soil origins, in order to understand not only how they survive in their oxygen-limited environments, but also how to develop new and more effective therapeutic approaches.
Newman received her BA from Stanford University in 1993 and her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1997. She joined Caltech as Clare Booth Luce Assistant Professor in 2000 before becoming associate professor in 2005, and professor in 2006. She has been the Binder/Amgen Professor since 2016. Newman served as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator from 2005 to 2016 and as Allen V. C. Davis and Lenabelle Davis Leadership Chair for the Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions from 2017 to 2020. She was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2016.
The Newman Lab focuses on the fundamental mechanisms that allow some populations of bacteria, including the opportunistic pathogens that cause chronic infections in the airways of individuals living with cystic fibrosis, to grow slowly in the absence of oxygen. For example, researchers study the (bio)chemical reactions that allow oxygen-starved bacteria to share electrons and conserve energy. Specifically, they're interested in certain redox-active metabolites called phenazines, natural antibiotics produced by many different types of bacteria including those found within human chronic infections or near the roots of plants. Such basic research is crucial to developing new therapeutic techniques.
This event is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required. The lecture will begin at 5 p.m. and run approximately 45 minutes, followed by a live audience Q&A with Newman. After the live webinar, the lecture (without Q&A) will be available for on-demand viewing on Caltech's YouTube channel.
Since 1922, The Earnest C. Watson Lectures have brought Caltech's most innovative scientific research to the public. The series is named for Earnest C. Watson, a professor of physics at Caltech from 1919 until 1959. Spotlighting a small selection of the pioneering research Caltech's professors are currently conducting, the Watson Lectures are geared toward a general audience as part of the Institute's ongoing commitment to benefiting the local community through education and outreach. Through a gift from the estate of Richard C. Biedebach, the lecture series has expanded to also highlight one assistant professor's research each season.
The Watson Lectures are part of the Caltech Signature Lecture Series, presented by Caltech Public Programming, which offers a deep dive into the groundbreaking research and scientific breakthroughs at Caltech and JPL. For information please visit caltech.edu/watson.
To register for the Zoom webinar, visit
Questions? Contact the Caltech Ticket Office via email at [email protected] or leave a message at (626) 395-4652. Please allow 48 hours for a response. Reservations cannot be made over the phone or in person for the Watson Lecture Series.