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Norman Davidson Lecture - Marc Kirschner – Tuesday, January 17, 2023 @ 4 pm

Tuesday, January 17, 2023
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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SAVE THE DATE: Norman Davidson Lecture - Marc Kirschner Tuesday, January 17, 2023 @ 4 pm

Title: "The control of cell size"

Abstract TBD

We are pleased to announce our Norman Davidson Lecturer this year. Professor Marc Kirschner's body of work is widely viewed as making major contributions to four areas of fundamental biology—sub-cellular organization, cell cycle regulation, embryonic development, and evo-devo—each of which shaped the direction of work in the area for decades.

In sub-cellular organization, Kirschner with his then graduate student Tim Mitchison identified the microtubule dynamic instability. Microtubules, the biological polymers that hold the shape of the cells, turn out to be inherently unstable and dynamically turn over. His group discovered many of the key proteins that modify this behavior, including Tau, later discovered to be central in many neurodegenerative diseases. Dynamic instability is now accepted as a central mechanism of cytoskeleton biology that facilitates new adaptive structures, and also impacts thinking about other self-organizing biological structures.

In cell cycle regulation, Kirschner and John Gerhart are largely responsible for the concept that the cell cycle is driven by an oscillator, rather than by a series of sequential processes, as was then viewed in the 1970 and 80s. Kirschner proceeded to make fundamental mechanistic contributions by showing that the synthesis of cyclin B drives the entry into mitosis and its subsequent degradation promotes mitotic exit. He also discovered the anaphase-promoting complex (APC) that mediates destruction of cyclin B and thus provided one of the earliest examples of how regulated protein degradation controls cellular processes.

In developmental biology, Kirschner and John Newport discovered the now textbook concept of mid-blastula transition. His lab identified FGF as the first secreted embryonic inducer, providing the first molecular concept for how the Spemann-Mangold organizer could function. Recently, with Allon Klein, he developed a droplet-based barcoding method to enable single-cell RNA sequencing to be performed for tens of thousands of cells. With Klein and Sean Megason, he applied this method to generate a complete cell-by-cell comparison between the development of a zebrafish embryo and a frog embryo. This work, together with related work by others, was recognized by Science as the 2018 Breakthrough of the Year.

In evo-devo, Kirschner and Gerhart pioneered research in hemichordates for gaining insights into the origin of the vertebrate body plan. Kirschner and Gerhart have written two insightful books on animal evolution: Cells, Embryos, and Evolution, and The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma.

Kirschner co-founded a Cell Biology program at UCSF in 1980s, and then moved to Harvard Medical School in the 1990s to serve as the inaugural chair of a newly formed Cell Biology Department. In the 2000s, he founded the first Department of Systems Biology, and has been one of the instrumental leaders in uniting molecular and quantitative approaches to biological research. Kirschner is the John Franklin Enders University Professor at Harvard Medical School.

Host: Lea Goentoro. Professor Kirschner will be on campus on January 17-18, 2023. If you would like to meet with Prof. Kirschner, please email Tish Cheek ([email protected]).

The NORMAN DAVIDSON LECTURE series was endowed by Norman Davidson, a scientist with wide-ranging interests. He made important contributions in three different areas. In his early career, he worked in physical and inorganic chemistry. Based on this work, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1960. In the 1960s until 1980, he was a leading figure in the study of nucleic acids. During this time, his work laid the foundation for understanding nucleic acid hybridization and denaturation, and advanced the use of electron microscopy to map DNA and RNA at the single molecule level. In his later career, he made numerous contributions to molecular neuroscience. His contributions to science have been recognized by numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science in 1996. Recent lecturers include Eric Lander (2018), Paul L. Modrich (2017), Erin Schuman (2016), Gilles Laurent (2016), Richard Scheller (2014), Xiaodong Wang (2012).