March 08 Mar 08
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Friday Fri
Reception to follow

2024 Katharine D. McCormick Distinguished Lecture

Li Ka Shing Center-Berg Hall

On behalf of the McCormick Lectureship Committee, it is a pleasure to announce that Cassandra Extavour, PhD will present the 2024 Katharine D. McCormick Distinguished Lecture in honor of International Women’s Day 2024. 

Please join us for Dr. Extavour’s presentation “Be fruitful and multiply: how reproductive capacity evolves”, a discussion on the mechanisms of genetic and environmental control of ovariole number in closely and distantly related insect species, and their implications for the broader questions of the genetic and developmental basis of fitness-relevant evolutionary change.

Reproduction is a crucial fitness parameter, essential for species survival and evolution. Despite its importance, there is massive variation in reproductive capacity across animals, even between very closely related species. Moreover, reproductive capacity can be modified by environmental and ecological factors. Our aim is to understand how genetic variation interacts with ecological variation to regulate distinct and reproductive capacities between species, to determine whether and how ecological variation contributes to the evolution of adaptive variation in reproductive capacity. Our approach takes advantage of the fact that in sexually reproducing animals, the number of offspring that an individual can produce is often predicted by the anatomy of the ovary or testis, the sites of gamete production. In female insects, ovaries are subdivided into egg-producing units called ovarioles, which are generated in species-specific numbers during development. Ovariole number, and correspondingly reproductive capacity, can vary by more than four orders of magnitude across insects.

Please plan to join us for this Distinguished Lecture and stay for the reception immediately following. 

Hosted by: Dr. Lucy O'Brien

The McCormick Lectureship:
Katharine Dexter McCormick, an early feminist, devoted much of her long life to the welfare of women.  On her death at age 92, she left a large bequest to the Stanford University School of Medicine with the hope that it would be used “in aid of women students attending the School of Medicine and more generally for the encouragement and assistance of women in pursuing the study of medicine, in teaching medicine and engaging in medical research.”  The McCormick Lectureship is one of the ways of fulfilling the wishes of Dr. McCormick.


Stanford University School of Medicine
Li Ka Shing Center-Berg Hall
Palo Alto, CA 94305

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Stanford University School of Medicine

Li Ka Shing Center-Berg Hall
Palo Alto, CA 94305
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Dr. Cassandra Extavour

Dr. Cassandra Extavour is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and is Timken Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University. For her teaching and mentoring activities, she has been nominated for the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize and the Harvard Graduate Women in Science and Engineering Mentoring Award. In 2020 she was named a Harvard College Professor in recognition of her contributions to mentoring and teaching at Harvard.

Dr. Extavour began working on germ cell development in graduate school. In her Ph.D. thesis, she used classical Drosophila genetics to explore the genetic requirements of germ cells during development. Using clonal analysis, she showed that primordial germ cells engage in cell-cell competition prior to gametogenesis, revealing a level of natural selection that operates not only pre-zygotically, but in the very precursors of gametes themselves. Because of the critical role of germ cells not only in development but also in evolution, her subsequent work has focused on germ cell development in a comparative context.

The Extavour laboratory is interested in understanding early embryonic development, the genes that control this development, the evolutionary origins of these genes and how their functions have changed over evolutionary time. The lab is particularly interested in the development and evolution of reproductive systems, including both germ cells, which are cells that make eggs and sperm in sexually reproducing animals, and somatic gonad cells, which create the structures to house and protect the germ cells, and regulate eff and sperm production.