What Makes Us Unique? Using evolutionary bioinformatics to understand the link between gene sequence and function
On Tuesday, January 22nd, Professor David Liberles (https://sites.temple.edu/liberles/) discussed us how even the slightest change in a gene sequence can lead to big changes in an organism's "phenotype"- an observable characteristic such as physical appearance or biochemical function. He shared with us the how and why scientists study genetic mutations and species divergence to better understand the worlds around us.
On October 24th, Dr. Richard Tolin, a practicing gastroenterologist from Main Line Health with over 40 years experience and an active member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, shared his insight on how the changing global environment is affecting our health, nutrition, and water quality and access as PA residents.
On March 22nd Dr. Elaine Terry talked about the early exploration of space by various cultures, the Race to Space, human computing, and the role that women played at NASA focusing on the stories of the three African American women from Hidden Figures. SJU's History Professor, Dr. Katie Sibley, gave a brief talk describing the era in which these events took place.
Dr. Daniel Himmelstein (http://dhimmel.com/), a data scientist currently working out of the University of Pennsylvania's Greene Lab, shared his story about breaking down the "toll access" publication model, which prevents the public from accessing academic articles. Using computer and data science, Dr. Himmelstein showed how websites like Sci-Hub are already making primary science articles easier to access than ever before!
Insects have been around for almost 400 million years, live in habitats from pole to pole, and make up over half of all known species on earth. With all that time for evolution to work, and with all those varied situations to which they have adapted, it is no surprise that we can tap them for answers to questions as varied as how to make small flying robots, how to make an energy efficient television, or how to protect ourselves from bacterial infections. Dr. Fingerut gave us an enlightening talk about this fascinating group of organisms and showed us how our understanding of them has benefited both science and industry.
Advances in medical science now hold out the possibility of permanently correcting certain illnesses that are caused by defective genes. These are diseases like sickle cell disease, hemophilia (a bleeding disorder), cystic fibrosis, Parkinson's Disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease).
Dr. Tortella showed us how Gene Therapy is not something from "Star Trek" but actually the subject of current clinical trials on patients, i.e. "Star Trek, the Next Generation."