Lectures to focus on 'Your Genes: How They Contribute to Who You Are'

"Your Genes: How They Contribute to Who You Are" is the theme of the 2013 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, which will take place in January and February. This series of six public lectures on consecutive Saturday mornings is designed as a free minicourse for the general public. The lectures will take place from 11 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m., in 100 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park campus, beginning Jan. 19.

This event features lectures given by Penn State scientists whose labs are expanding the frontiers of scientific knowledge about human genes. The six lectures in the 2013 series are:

Lecture No. 1 on Jan. 19: "Races, Faces, and Human Genetic Diversity"
Speaker: Mark D. Shriver, a professor of anthropology and genetics at Penn State
Snapshot: In his lecture, Shriver will explain how the genes determining "race," skin color and facial features likely have been shaped by the forces of natural selection and sexual selection. He also will discuss his personal genetic-ancestry revelations -- how his research led to the discovery of recent West African and Native American ancestry within his own family. Finally, he will address how forensic science, and society in general, can benefit from increased knowledge about human genetic ancestry and how differences in skin color and face shape are both literally and figuratively superficial.

No. 2 on Jan. 26: "Life's Little Problem: Determinism vs. Chance in the Complex Ways of Genomes"
Speaker: Kenneth M. Weiss, Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology and Genetics at Penn State
Snapshot: In his lecture, Weiss, who has studied many human traits including tooth and skull shape, variation in disease susceptibility, and odor detection, will discuss the complexity of human traits and how the genetic basis of many of these traits often turns out to be perplexing. He will describe the latest research in how genes work, how they vary, and how the evolutionary processes that brought about their intricate interactions is revealing the role that genes play in disease, normal traits and even behavior.

No. 3 on Feb. 2: "Bringing Genomic Medicine into Focus"
Speaker: Eric Green, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health
Snapshot: In his lecture, Green will discuss how the human genome sequence -- generated by the Human Genome Project a decade ago -- now is being used by researchers and clinicians in powerful ways to advance human health. He also will explain his role in directing a genomics research program for more than two decades, and what the National Human Genome Research Institute is doing to exploit the potential of genomics as one of the most vital biomedical disciplines of the 21st century.

No. 4 on Feb. 9: "Personalized Medicine: Are We There Yet?"
Speaker: Marylyn Ritchie, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and the director of the Center for Systems Genomics at Penn State
Snapshot: In her lecture, Ritchie will discuss the central goal of identifying genetic variation for complex human traits -- using genetic data for treatment and prevention of common disease. She will explain how far the science has come in recent years in the complex task of using genetic information for personalizing health care.

No. 5 on Feb. 16: "Genetics of Obesity and Weight Loss"
Speaker: Glenn Gerhard, a member of the Penn State Hershey Institute for Personalized Medicine and a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Penn State College of Medicine
Snapshot: In his lecture, Gerhard will discuss the search for genes related to weight loss and obesity. He will explain that, although diet, exercise, and other aspects of modern living play important roles, there also is strong evidence indicating that genetics is a major factor behind the worldwide epidemic of obesity.

No. 6 on Feb. 23: "Genome Instability -- The Crucible of Behavioral Disorders in Children?"
Speaker: Scott B. Selleck, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and head of the Penn State Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Snapshot: Autism spectrum disorder is on the rise in the U.S. population, currently at an incidence of greater than 1 in 100 children. In his lecture, Selleck will discuss the origin of this increase and what genetics and genomics might be able to reveal about the cause and course of this epidemic.

The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science is a program of the Penn State Eberly College of Science that is designed for the enjoyment and education of residents of the central Pennsylvania area and beyond. For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Media Relations and Public Information at 814-863-8453 or krd111@psu.edu. More information about the Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, including archived recordings of previous lectures and a list of other lectures in the 2013 series, is available at science.psu.edu/frontiers.

Last Updated January 09, 2015