Science by the Pint

Our next SbtP event features…

Dr. Cassandra Extavour
Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Harvard University

From egg to insect: The evolution of development and reproduction

Monday, June 19, 6:30-8:30pm
at The Burren (247 Elm Street, Somerville) (directions)

All multicellular organisms, from trees to honeybees, start off as a single cell. That cell divides again and again, and the resulting cells gradually take on different fates, making all of the different shapes and parts of the organism. Biologists refer to this process as “development.” Eventually we end up with the final organism, which is a collection of millions of connected cells, all with the same DNA, yet all doing very different things. Why do leaves grow off the branches of the tree and not the trunk? Why are the honeybee’s wings on its back and not on its face? Are the tree and the bee so different because they have totally different genes, or because they are using the same genes in different ways?

Dr. Extavour and her lab seek to understand which genes control development, how similar these genes are across different organisms, and ultimately, how these genes evolved in the first place. The lab uses a number of closely related insect and crustacean species to investigate these fundamental questions, with a special focus on the processes that control the earliest cell divisions and cell decisions in embryos.

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