Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Graduate School News and Events

“Biology at Yale” Conference Will Convene Alumni
across Nine Disciplines

Alumni, students, and faculty from several of the biological sciences will come together for a three-day conference beginning May 4 to celebrate their field, explore its development at Yale, and envision where it is heading.

Participating departments are Cell Biology; Cellular and Molecular Physiology; Computational Biology and Informatics; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Genetics; Immunobiology; Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry; Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; and Pharmacology.

Yale President Richard C. Levin (PhD 1974, Economics), Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard, and Medical School Dean Robert Alpern will welcome the participants on Friday afternoon in the McNeil Lecture Hall of the Yale University Art Gallery.

Peter Moore (BS 1961), the Sterling Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry; and Richard Lifton, the Sterling Professor of Genetics and professor of internal medicine and nephrology, will offer keynote lectures recounting the history of these departments within Yale's Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Medical School.

“At the time I was an undergraduate [1957-1961], there was a Botany Department and a Zoology Department in FAS,” Moore recalls. “By the time I returned here as a faculty member in the late 1960s, the two had merged to produce a Biology Department. About twenty years ago, Biology split in two and became MCDB and EEB,” and along the way, MB&B emerged from Physics and the Medical School. It is a convoluted and fascinating story that reflects “both the evolution of the discipline of biology and the politics of campus life at Yale,” he says.

Entertainment at the opening dinner in University Commons will be a performance by the Citations – the Graduate School's a capella singing group.

Saturday and Sunday will bring a series of panels comprised of distinguished alumni and faculty. “Evolution, Diversity and the Public,” moderated by EEB Professor Jeffrey Powell, will include Thomas Lovejoy (BS 1964; PhD 1971, EEB), who introduced the term “biological diversity” into the scientific community in 1980, long before the environmental movement existed. Other panelists are May Berenbaum (BS 1975, EEB), Nora Besansky (PhD 1990, EEB), and Patricia Hoben (PhD 1984, MB&B). Berenbaun and Besansky are faculty members at the University of Illinois and Notre Dame, respectively. Hoben is founder and head of school at the Carmen High School of Science & Technology in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“The participants in this panel work on the grandest experiment ever performed: evolution of living systems,” says Powell. “They work to conserve the outcome of this grand experiment [Lovejoy], use evolutionary principles to elucidate major health issues [Besansky], protect the freedom to teach this realistic view of the living world to the next generation [Hoben], and have shown the public with erudition and humor the joy of understanding living systems [Berenbaum].”

The second panel, “New Directions for Cellular and Molecular Biology,” will consider the future of biology as a discipline. Speakers will include Nobel-Prize-winning Yale Professor Thomas Steitz, along with alumni who currently sit on the faculties at Yale (Susan Baserga, MD/PhD 1988, Genetics; Sandra Wolin, MD/PhD 1985, MB&B), Princeton (Rebecca Burdine, PhD 1997, Cell Biology), and Johns Hopkins (Daniela Drummon-Barbosa, PhD 1995, Genetics).

“My session focuses broadly on important advances in molecular, cell, and developmental biology,” says moderator Scott Holley, associate professor of MCDB. “We will have presentations from researchers at different stages of their careers, from a Nobel Laureate to recently established faculty at top research universities. The topics will span the gamut of modern molecular biology, from the biogenesis of RNAs and proteins to the control of cell behavior in whole organisms.”

Saturday afternoon's session, “Biological Sciences in the Private Sector,” will focus on successful scientist-entrepreneurs.

“In recent decades, advances in biology and medicine have been made through many individual eureka-moments by researchers and through incredible risk-taking by biotech and pharma companies,” says moderator Ronald Breaker, the Henry Ford II Professor and Chair of MCDB. “This panel features scientist-entrepreneurs who have made fundamental discoveries in biology and who are truly transforming medicine through technology developments. As moderator, my goal is to give the audience a chance to see and learn from the inspiring personalities behind these exceptional breakthroughs.”

Panelists will be Larry Gold (BS 1963, MCDB), chairman and CEO of Somalogic in Boulder, Colorado; Jonathan Rothberg (PhD 1991, MCDB), founding CEO and chairman of Ion Torrent in Guilford, Connecticut, and founding CEO and chairman of 454 Life Sciences, RainDance Technologies, Clarifi Corporation, and CuraGen Corporation; and Jeffrey Settleman (PhD 1989, Genetics), senior director of research for the Discovery Oncology division of Genentech, San Francisco.

Sunday will bring a panel on “Scientific Publications: Past and Future,” with Emilie Marcus (PhD 1992, MCDB), executive editor of Cell Press based in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Annette Thomas (PhD 1993, MCDB), CEO of MacMillan Publishers in London; and Pietro De Camilli, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Cell Biology and professor of neurobiology at Yale and editorial board member of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The scientific publishing field is facing several challenges today that include the shift from print to online accessing of materials, the proliferation of new journals, and the changing economics of scientific publishing,” observes the panel's moderator, Craig Crews, the Lewis B. Cullman Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. “However, among these challenges lie new opportunities, such as the ability to redesign the research paper format to make it more interactive and the increased access to research archives by scientists around the world, whose access twenty years ago would have been limited due to geography or financial resources. This panel brings many different perspectives on these issues, and I look forward to a lively discussion about the future of scientific publications.”

Registration and additional information regarding the program of events are available at the conference website.