Russell E. Marker Lectures in Evolutionary Biology set for Oct. 24 and 25

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Molly Przeworski, professor of biological sciences at Columbia University, will present the Russell E. Marker Lectures in Evolutionary Biology on Oct. 24 and 25 at Penn State's University Park campus. The free public lectures are sponsored by the Penn State Eberly College of Science.

The series includes a lecture intended for a general audience, titled “Searching for the genetic variants that underlie human adaptations,” which will be held at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 24, in the Berg Auditorium, 100 Huck Life Sciences Building. A reception will be held at the conclusion of the lecture in the Willaman Gateway to the Sciences (the bridge) on the third floor of the Huck Life Sciences Building. Przeworski will give a more specialized lecture, titled " Of men, mice and birds: the evolution of recombination hotspots," at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25, also in the Berg Auditorium, 100 Huck Life Sciences Building.

Przeworski uses the wealth of genomic data from humans and other species to investigate how evolutionary forces shape the heritable differences seen among individuals and species. Her goal is to understand the relative contributions of natural selection, genetic drift, and mutation. She is especially interested in recombination, which is the process that shuffles genetic information within chromosomes when reproductive cells divide. To this end, her laboratory develops models for the evolutionary processes, creates statistical tools, and analyzes large-scale data sets of genetic variation. Among the goals of the research are to understand how natural selection has shaped patterns of genetic variation, and to identify the causes and consequences of variation in recombination and mutation rates in humans and other organisms.

Przeworski earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics at Princeton University and a doctoral degree in evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago. She held a postdoctoral fellowship in statistical genetics at the University of Oxford. She was later a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and on the faculty of Brown University and the University of Chicago. She became a visiting professor at Columbia University in 2013 and joined the university as a professor in 2014. Her awards include the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist Award, the Rosalind Franklin Young Investigator Award from the Patricia Gruber Foundation, the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in Computational Molecular Biology.

The Marker lectures were established in 1984 through a gift from Russell Earl Marker, professor emeritus of chemistry at Penn State, whose pioneering synthetic methods revolutionized the steroid-hormone industry and opened the door to the current era of hormone therapies, including the birth-control pill. The Marker endowment allows the Penn State Eberly College of Science to present annual Marker lectures in astronomy and astrophysics, the chemical sciences, evolutionary biology, genetic engineering, the mathematical sciences, and physics.

Last Updated October 18, 2016