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The College of Science’s distinguished J. Mark Sowers Lecture Series returns with an in-person live event

The distinguished lecture series J. Mark Sowers of Virginia Tech College of Science will host the first face-to-face talk since Fall 2019 on Thursday, September 29.

Co-presenting the lecture is Ron Fall, MD, Vice President of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Executive Director of Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia. Vale will discuss “The World’s Smallest Machines,” an inside look at how the cells in every living organism have incredibly complex moving parts that work similarly to robots. Vale is also Professor Emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology.

The lecture will be presented at 7:30 pm in the auditorium of the Holtzman Alumni Center on the Blacksburg Campus and via the Zoom webinar. Registration is required. It’s free and open to the public.

Describing his speech, Valley said, “Look around at the living things. What do you see? They are moving. The birds are flying, the lions are swooping, and the footballers are rushing across the field. Movement is an essential property of biological organisms. Now look under the microscope. The water of the pond is full of single-celled organisms that They swim and spin in all directions. Let’s zoom in and look inside the cell. Tiny bundles of building blocks called organelles move all over the place, and act like cargo trucks that ferry merchandise through a city. Even the yeast that makes beer must transfer its DNA when it divides” .

He added, “I will discuss molecular drivers [that] Biological movement leadership. These actuators lead to muscle contraction, beating of cilia in your lungs, flagella of sperm, and movement of substances within cells. I’ll tell you my discovery of one of these machines, called kinesin, explain how these machines work, and discuss why they’re important to medicine and biotechnology.”

Daniela Cimini, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, part of the Faculty of Science, invited Vale to visit as a Sowers lecturer. “We owe a lot of what we know about molecular motors and how they work to Ron’s work,” Cimini said. “One of Ron’s strengths as a scientist is his ability to use a wide range of methods, from biochemistry to cell biology to physics.

Val received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Stanford University in 1985, and was a Fellow of the US National Institutes of Health, based at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, from 1985 to 1986. His faculty appointment began in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at University of California, San Francisco, in 1987.

Semeny said he has worked collaboratively with many people and organizations to make science accessible to the broader scientific community as well as the public.

He founded Vale iBiology, a non-profit organization that produces videos of science talks by leading scientists and makes them freely available to the public. Vale also founded XBio (An Explorer’s Guide to Biology), a new type of learning resource for undergraduate biology. He also founded ASAPbio, a non-profit organization, to improve scientific publishing in the life sciences.

In addition, he co-founded the biotech companies Cytokinetics, Faze, and Myeloid Therapeutics.

Other projects initiated by IndiaBioscience, a networked life sciences organization in India, include the Annual Meeting of Young Investigators for Young Indian Scientists. Previously co-director of the Physiology Course for Marine Biology Laboratory for five years and founded/managed the Bangalore Microscopy Course.

His awards and honors include the Canada Gairdner International Prize, the Lasker Prize in Basic Medical Research, the Shaw Prize in the Life Sciences, the Massry Prize, the Wiley Prize, and the Pfizer Prize in Enzyme Chemistry. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the US National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Organization for Molecular Biology, and the Indian National Academy of Sciences.

The J. Mark Sowers Distinguished Lecture Series at Virginia Tech’s College of Science is a forum for exchanging new and innovative ideas in scientific fields. In all, there have been 15 lectures, both in person and virtually, since the series began in February 2017.

Generously supported by Mark and Debbie Sawers, this series provides opportunities for the university community and the general public to interact with and learn from outstanding scholars and industry experts.

Sawers is an entrepreneur and developer in Richmond, Virginia, and a longtime supporter of the College of Science. He sponsors the series to share with others his fascination with science, particularly the physical sciences.



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