Series features Big Ten National Academy of Sciences members


Some of the Big Ten Conference’s most distinguished scientists are coming to Lincoln.

Starting Sept. 14, UNL’s Biotechnology/Life Sciences Seminar Series will feature presentations by Big Ten faculty who are all members of the National Academy of Sciences. Presenters include James Van Etten, professor of plant pathology and a National Academy member.

Van Etten organized the lecture series.

"I chose to try and get an NAS member from each of the Big Ten schools plus the University of Chicago as a way to honor our entry into the Big Ten Conference," Van Etten said. "Also, these visits will provide faculty members a chance to showcase UNL research."

The National Academy of Sciences is an honor society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research. The NAS was established by an act of Congress that was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1863. Membership includes approximately 2,100 members and 380 foreign associates, of whom nearly 200 have won Nobel Prizes.

Members are elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Election to the NAS is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer.

The lecture series opens Sept. 14 with Ohio State University’s David Denlinger discussing “Shutting Down for the Winter: The Molecular Regulation of Insect Diopause.” All lectures in the series this fall begin at 4 p.m. in the Beadle Center, room E103. Each talk is preceded by a 3:30 p.m. reception.

All lectures are free and open to the public.

Denlinger is a distinguished university professor in the Department of Entomology at Ohio State. Research in Denlinger’s lab focuses on molecular processes involved in insect overwintering. He is engaged in research in Antarctica, examining how a midge survives in the extreme cold. His lab also has a long-term interest in the reproductive physiology of the tsetse fly, a carrier of African sleeping sickness.

In his lecture, Denlinger will discuss how shortening days in late summer provide reliable cues for insects to enter into an overwintering dormancy, or diapause. In Denlinger’s model, clock genes within the brains of mosquitoes are essential for deciphering photoperiodic cues. This triggers the diapause phenotype (fat accumulation, stress resistance, arrested ovarian development) through insulin signaling pathways. Denlinger’s model is consistent with mechanisms of developmental arrest in fruit flies and round worms.

For more information about the series, go to

The lecture series will continue in the spring, featuring presentations by the University of Iowa’s Kevin Campbell and Northwestern University’s Olke Uhlenbeck. Dates for the spring lectures will be announced.

The fall lecture dates, topics and presenters are:

Sept. 21 — “Unusual Lifestyle of Giant Algal Viruses,” James Van Etten, UNL

Sept. 28 — “Epigenetic Factors in the Evolution of Gene Regulation,” Wen-Hsiung Li, University of Chicago

Oct. 5 — “Multi-tasking, Mind and Brain: Challenges to Healthy Productive Living in the Digital Information Age,” David Meyer, University of Michigan

Oct. 12 — “Mining Soil Metagenomes for Meaning,” James Tidje, Michigan State University

Oct. 19 — “Conformational Changes During the Lifecycle of Flavi and Alpha Viruses,” Michael Rossmann, Purdue University

Oct. 26 — “Phenotypic Evolution by Gene Duplication and Changes of Gene Regulatory Systems,” Masatoshi Nei, Pennsylvania State University

Nov. 2 — “Gut Reactions: Cytochrome P450 and Plant-Insect Interaction,” May Berenbaum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Nov. 9 — “Memories of Winter: Vernalization is an Environmentally Induced Epigenetic Switch,” Richard Amasino, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Nov. 16 - "Good science in maize genetics: Is serendipity involved?" Ronald Phillips, University of Minnesota

Nov. 23 — No seminar, Thanksgiving break

Nov. 30 — “Mutation and Evolution,” Michael Lynch, Indiana University

- Troy Fedderson, University Communications

More details at: