Extreme Biology

Stanford Genetics and Developmental Biology Student Symposium

January 10, 2020, 8:30 am – 3:45 pm 

 Berg Hall, Li Ka Shing Building, Stanford University


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Symposium Schedule

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8:30 - 9:00 am Breakfast
9:00 - 9:45 am Peter Sudmant (University of California, Berkeley)
Origins and evolution of extreme longevity in Pacific Rockfish species
9:45 - 10:30 am Anna-Louise Reysenbach (Portland State University)
Deep-sea vents and submarine volcanoes: Hotspots for thermophilic biodiversity
10:30 - 11:00 am Coffee Break
11:00 - 11:45 am Vincent Lynch (University at Buffalo, the State University of New York)
On the (im)possibility of elephants
11:45 am - 12:30 pm Denise Montell (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Anastasis, cannibalism, diapause and other extreme cellular behaviors
12:30 - 1:45 pm Lunch
1:45 - 2:30 pm Ethan Bier (University of California, San Diego
Active genetics comes alive
2:30 - 3:15 pm Anne Brunet (Stanford University)
The African killifish: A new model to study aging and suspended animation
3:15 - 3:45 pm Summary and discussion


More on Our Speakers

Ethan Bier

Ethan Bier is a distinguished professor in the section of Cell and Developmental Biology at UC San Diego. During the past 28 years at UCSD Dr. Bier has studied basic developmental patterning processes that have been highly conserved during evolution such as how secreted morphogen proteins function in a graded fashion to subdivide the dorsal-ventral axis of the fruit fly embryo into neural versus epidermal regions and how such processes result in the formation of sharp boundaries during development of the wing. The Bier lab has also used fruit flies to study mechanisms of human disease, focusing on understanding the mechanisms by which bacterial toxins contribute to breaching host barriers. Thus, two toxins produced by anthrax bacteria trigger potentially fatal vascular leakage while cholera toxin leads to breakdown of the intestinal barrier leading to acute life-threatening diarrhea. These findings suggest possible therapeutic approaches to combat anthrax and cholera as well as a variety of inflammatory diseases such as IBD and asthma, which also involve barrier dysfunction. Most recently, the Bier lab has developed a novel genetic method referred to as active genetics which allows parents to transmit a desired trait to nearly all their offspring rather than to only 50% of their progeny as occurs with traditional Mendelian inheritance. Active genetics promises to revolutionize control of vector borne diseases (e.g., malaria) and pests and to greatly accelerate genetic manipulation of organisms for medical and agricultural research. Dr. Bier graduated Phi Beta Kappa as a Regents Scholar from UCSD in 1978 with degrees in Biology and Mathematics. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School on regulation of immune genes in Dr. Allan Maxam’s laboratory from 1978-1985. He did his postdoctoral studies on development of the nervous system at UCSD with Drs. Lily and Yuh Nung Jan (1985-90) and then assumed a faculty position at UCSD in 1990. He is an Alfred P. Sloan and Basil O’Connor Scholar, an Allen Distinguished Investigator, the Science Director for the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society, UCSD (TIGS-UCSD), and holds a UCSD Tata Chancellor’s Endowed Professorship in Cell and Developmental Biology.

Vincent Lynch

Vincent Lynch: A major challenge in biology is to determine the genetic and molecular mechanisms responsible for phenotypic differences between species (DevoEvo), particularly mechanisms that underlie the origin of new anatomical structures (‘evolutionary novelties’) and biological functions (‘evolutionary innovations’) and that limit biological possibilities (‘developmental constraints’). To explore how evolutionary novelties, innovations, and developmental constraints evolve, we combine comparative genomics and experimental methods to deduce the molecular mechanisms that underlie the evolution of pregnancy and extremely long lifespan with large body size, as well as the role evolutionary history plays in our susceptibility to diseases such as preterm birth and cancer.

Denise Montell

Denise Montell earned her B. A. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from UCSD in 1983 and a Ph.D. in Neurosciences from Stanford in 1988. After a postdoc at the Carnegie, she rose to an independent position there. She joined the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1992, rising rose to Full Professor in 2002, and serving as Founding Director of the Center for Cell Dynamics. In 2013 she returned to her roots at the University of California, where she is now a Distinguished Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at UCSB. Professor Montell has garnered numerous awards including the Lucille P. Markey Scholar Award, the American Cancer Society Research Scholar Award, a W. M. Keck Foundation Award, and an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. The Montell lab focuses on identifying under-studied cellular behaviors and teasing apart the underlying molecular mechanisms and physiological significance. Collective, cooperative cell-on-cell migration, recovery from the brink of apoptotic cell death (anastasis), cellular cannibalism, and maintenance of stem cell longevity through adult reproductive diapause represent a few of the cellular phenomena currently under study.

Anna-Louise Reysenbach

Anna-Louise Reysenbach is Professor of Microbiology at Portland State University. She received her Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Cape Town, South Africa in 1988. She went on to pursue her passion of the ocean, outdoors, and anaerobic extremophiles as a postdoctoral scholar with Dr. Jody Deming at the University of Washington and later with Dr. Norman Pace at Indiana University in 1990.

Since then, her research has focused on the ecology of thermophiles from deep-sea vents and terrestrial hot springs. She uses the microbial ecological and genomic insights from hydrothermal ecosystems to study some of the most elusive Archaea and Bacteria in these systems. Her research has taken her to most of the deep-sea vents and hot springs around the world, and she has used the research submarines Alvin, Shinkai 6500, and Nautile as well as the remotely operated vehicle Jason. Dr. Reysenbach has participated in numerous outreach efforts including several documentaries. Her research is funded by NSF and NASA.