March 10, 2008

Vol. 23 , No. 08   

View Entire Issue (Vol. 23 , No. 08)

Model Organisms and Small Science: The Serendipitous Nature of Discovery
LUNCH 11:30 a.m., LECTURE 12:00 p.m.

How can the yeast used for brewing African beers contribute to understanding human cancer? The scientific study of some relative simple organisms such as yeasts can indeed answer important questions. Dr. Nicholas Rhind of Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School will be at Athenaeum to relate his research achievements to the discovery pathways in science.

Everyday we are exposed to UV radiation and genotoxic chemicals in the environment that can cause damage in our DNA. Failure to repair these genetic damages leads to genomic instability and subsequently cancer development. Checkpoint is the mechanism cells use to deal with problems such as DNA damage. Dr. Rhind’s main research interest is the checkpoint regulation of the cell cycle using fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe as a model organism. Although much simpler than human, fission yeast has the checkpoint control similar to those in human cells. In fact, much of what is known about human checkpoints control was first discovered in this yeast. Dr. Rhind’s work has made impacts in the important research area.

“One molecule at a time” approach as a traditional path in molecular biology studies is under threat from two directions: the external funding environment may favor more ‘targeted research’; the internal growth in so-called 'big-science' biology claims the ability to compile massive data sets to solve more problems more efficiently. We may only find what we are looking for in the traditional approach while we may obtain more data than we care about in the ‘big-science' route. What will be good for discovery? Dr. Rhind will tell us his view.

Nicholas Rhind's lecture at the Athenaeum is co-sponsored by the David E. French Lectureship Fund.