Evolution Matters:
Free Public Lectures Explain
Biological Links among All Living Creatures

November 14, 2007

By Paul K. Mueller

“Clockwork Genes” is the topic of the first lecture in the “Evolution Matters” series offered by UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences.

Embryo growth, circadian rhythms, biological complexity, the mysteries of flower formation and primate evolution are among the topics to be explored in a new series of free public lectures presented by UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences.

In each of the five lectures for “Evolution Matters: The Diversity of Development,” leading scientists will focus on common evolutionary themes that underlie different biological systems and illustrate how these themes affect the health and development of plants, animals, and human beings.

The first lecture, “Clockwork Genes: Biological Rhythms in Health and Agriculture,” will be delivered by Steve A. Kay, Dean and Richard C. Atkinson Professor of Biological Sciences at UC San Diego, at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27, in the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park. Free registration begins at 6 p.m. at the museum.

Plants, animals and humans have developed highly accurate daily clocks, called circadian rhythms, to control behavior and metabolism. In people, these clocks control such things as our sleep-wake cycles, blood pressure, fat metabolism, and cognitive functions. In some animals, these clocks affect a wide range of behaviors, from courtship to pollination.  Plants use their clocks to know when to flower. Kay will explore how these clocks are constructed, how they differ among organisms, and how they may eventually be manipulated to benefit health and agriculture.

Steve Kay, Dean of Biological Sciences at UC Diego, will deliver the inaugural “Evolution Matters” lecture at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27, in the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.

Photo Credit: TSRI

Why is it so important to understand evolution? Because, says Kay, “without a clear understanding of the principles and processes of evolution, our society would be unable to effectively produce food, treat infectious diseases, search for new ways to treat human genetic ailments, or find new drugs. By learning more about evolution, we’ve now learned more about how genes and biological systems interact, which ultimately improves our understanding of how to improve human health and food production, and provide sound environmental stewardship.”

Prior to being named Dean of the Division of Biological Sciences at UC San Diego, Kay served as chairman of the Department of Biochemistry, professor of cell biology and director of the Institute for Childhood and Neglected Diseases at the Scripps Research Institute. His research concerns the molecular genetic basis of circadian rhythms in plants, animals and humans.

Adds Julia Brown, advisor to the CEO of Amylin Pharmaceuticals, the major sponsor of the “Evolution Matters” lectures, “Science has enormous power to enhance our lives. It is our pleasure to be able to help showcase the work of some of San Diego’s world-renowned scientists.”

Succeeding lectures in the “Evolution Matters” series, all to be held in the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park, are:

  • “Embryos and Evolution,” by William J. McGinnis, at 6:30 p.m. on January 24, 2008.
  • “The Evolution of Complexity: From the Human Brain to the Rainforest,” by Christopher Wills, at 6:30 p.m. on February 28, 2008.
  • “Unraveling the Mysteries of Flower Formation,” by Martin Yanofsky, at 6:30 p.m. on March 6, 2008.
  • “The Genetics of Primate Evolution: A Rosetta Stone for Understanding Human Disease,” by Ajit Varki, at 6:30 p.m. on April 24, 2008.
For more information about “Evolution Matters: The Diversity of Development,” visit www.greymatters.ucsd.edu


Media Contact: Paul K. Mueller, 858-534-8564

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