As part of the CSHL scientific seminars, WiSE hosts prominent female scientists who have contributed to the advancement of women in science to present their research.
Louise Foote Pfeiffer Professor of Cell Biology and the Director of the Ludwig Center at Harvard Medical School
POSTPONED (Date TBA)
March 26, 2020
Kathleen and Curtis Marble Professor of Cancer Research at MIT; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
December 5, 2019
Austrian-American cell biologist Angelika Amon received a 2019 Breakthrough Award in Life Sciences (the so-called “Oscars” of the science world with the added bonus of $3 million) for her work on chromosomal segregation.
DNA in our cells is coiled up into compact structures called chromosomes and before a cell splits into two new cells, it has to copy all its DNA and split up the chromosomes equally between the two cells so each gets one of copy of each unique chromosome. This is a carefully orchestrated, but complex, process and if something goes wrong you can end up with some cells having more or less chromosomes than they should have. We call this aneuploidy and its commonly found in cancer cells.
Amon studied how having an irregular number of chromosomes stresses the cells out and how some cancers are able to thrive despite that stress. She discovered that in these cancer cells, aneuploidy can disrupt the cells’ “quality-control” mechanisms so that additional genetic mutations can accumulate. She found a way by which the immune system normally removes aneuploid cells and hopes that this mechanism can also be directed at cancer cells as a treatment option.
Amon was born in Vienna, Austria and received a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna before coming to the United States, where she worked at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts before joining the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1999. She was promoted to full professor in 2007 and is currently the Kathleen and Curtis Marble Professor in Cancer Research and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. She is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator. And now a multimillionaire! Congratulations Angelika!
Dr. Ana C. Anderson
Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, Associate Scientist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Associate Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and core faculty member of the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases.
February 28, 2019
photo: Ana C. Anderson Lab
On February 28, 2019, we had the honor of hosting Dr. Ana Anderson as a McClintock lecturer. Dr. Anderson is a cancer immunologist and professor at Harvard working to figure out why immune systems don’t fight cancer and how we can get them to.
Anderson was born in Bogota, Colombia and raised in Florida, where she earned a B.S. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Miami. She then moved to Massachusetts, getting a Ph.D. in Immunology from Harvard, where she is now an Associate Professor of Neurology.
Earlier in her career, she focused on what happens when your immune system is too active, attacking your own healthy cells and leading to autoimmune diseases. Now, she studies what happens when your immune system isn’t active enough and fails to attack cancer cells. and how you can make it more active and get it to recognize cancer cells as foreign.
One of her lab’s most significant findings to date is that the T cells (a type of immune cell) in tumors often express more of a molecule called Tim-3 and this serves to prevent the immune system from attacking it. Now, she’s working to figure out how this process works and how we can intervene.
She also studies other ways cancer evades the immune system and she gave a seminar on “Using genomics to understand the CD8+ T cell landscape in cancer” in which she talked about her lab’s work on getting a genomic look inside the immune cells that should be fighting the cancer but aren’t.
In addition to getting to hear a great talk, WiSE-rs had the privilege of having dinner with Anderson and hearing how she managed to navigate academia as a single mother. Thank you so much Dr. Anderson!
Dr. Elaine Fuchs
Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development at the Rockefeller University
December 13, 2018
December 13, 2018, we had the honor of hosting cell biologist Elaine Fuchs as a McClintock lecturer. Fuchs was born and raised in Illinois and earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Illinois (where, in a physics class she was one of three women in a class of 200). She then earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Princeton University, researching how bacteria make their “skin,” before taking a postdoctoral position at MIT, where she switched to studying how we make ours! And she’s kept on this tract of skin development ever since.
Fuchs became the University of Chicago biochemistry department’s first female faculty member in 1980. She moved to the Rockefeller University in 2002, and remains there today as the Rebecca C. Lancefield professor.
In her McClintock lecture, titled “Skin Cells: Coping withStress,” she explained some of her exciting findings. Our skin contains stem cells (a type of cell that haven’t adopted a cell type fate yet) that stay quiet until called upon to become matured skin cells. This allows wounds to heal but also allows the opportunity for cancer to hijack it to grow tumors. Fuchs’ research explores the connections between normal skin growth, wound healing, and cancer and how our bodies maintain this fine balance. She’s discovered an intricate signaling network working within the niches stem cells live in, and she hopes her findings can help in the development of new cancer treatments.
In addition to this “serious” work, she shared photos from her recent trips to Tanzania, and encouraged people to have interests/hobbies outside of science, emphasizing that such “less serious” pursuits generate creativity, which is essential to the scientific endeavor – so these “non-science”activities can actually improve our science.
In addition to giving the talk, Fuchs had breakfast and dinner with WiSE-rs – one of the perks of being a McClintock lecturer, though it pales in comparison to other honors and awards she’s received including a National Medal of Science from President Obama in 2009 and a L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science in 2010. She is also a fellow of numerous scientific academies including the National Academy of Sciences and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. Thank you Dr. Fuchs for visiting, teaching, and inspiring us!
Kristi S. Anseth
Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at University of Colorado, Boulder
January 11, 2018
On January 11, we hosted biochemical engineer Dr. Kristi S. Anseth as our first McClintock lecturer of 2018. In her position as Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Associate Faculty Director of the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Anseth works at the intersection of biology, chemistry, and engineering to develop more realistic ways to study biological processes outside the body (in vitro instead of in vivo).
The ability to grow, observe, and manipulate cells in a dish has allowed scientists to perform experiments once only dreamed of and, in doing so, make fundamental discoveries and test disease treatments. However, there are serious limitations to studying plated cells, including the lack of a realistic environment outside of the cell (the extracellular matrix or ECM). Scientists have worked to mimic aspects of the ECM using gel-like substances called hydrogels, but these are usually static materials that, while allowing cells to grow and interact in three dimensions, can’t reflect the dynamic nature of a true ECM. This is a critical problem because it’s becoming increasingly clear that the ECM plays important roles in diverse processes, including the development and spread of cancer.
With her background in chemical engineering (a B.S. from Purdue followed by a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado) Anseth realized that she could develop chemical tools to manipulate these hydrogels to meet the unique needs of each experiment. For example, she has designed hydrogels whose “stiffness” can be fine-tuned (reversibly) using light, as well as customizable scaffolds with pore sizes to mimic various tissue types. In her lecture, “Dynamic Hydrogel Matrices: Cell Biology in the Fourth Dimension,” Anseth showed that she knows how to work a broad audience, including a little something for everyone; cancer researchers hung to her every word while she described how hydrogels could better mimic the tumor microenvironment. Developmental biologists were enthralled as she showed a hydrogel capable of restricting cell lineages. Biochemists’ hearts warmed at the sight of her clever chemical reaction schemes. It was a packed house, but sitting on the floor or standing was well worth it!
Every year, WiSE hosts two women scientists who are pioneers in their field as “McClintock lecturers,” an award given in honor of groundbreaking geneticist and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory alumnus Barbara McClintock. In addition to giving a labwide seminar, McClintock lecturers are wined and dined by WiSE, where we are honored to be able to get to know more about them in a less formal environment. In addition to being named a McClintock lecturer, Anseth’s numerous honors include induction into the National Academies of Engineering, Medicine, Sciences, and Inventors. After hearing her lecture, it’s no surprise that she has also received multiple awards for excellence in teaching. It was a great honor to host her!
Vist Photos Credit: Jue X. Wang
Professor and Project Leader at John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK
February 22, 2018
Cellular and developmental biologist Caroline Dean studies the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms by which external temperature regulates the timing of plant reproduction, increasingly relevant with global climate change affecting crop production. Her work has led to important insights into chromatin regulation and evolutionary adaptation in a variety of species.
Dr. Dean is a Professor and Project Leader at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. She has received numerous honors including election to national academies in the UK, US, and Germany. Last year, she was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Dean has been a great advocate for the advancement of women in science, with a strong history of providing inspiration and career guidance to girls and young women. For this work, she received the FEBS|EMBO Women in Science Award in 2014 and was recently named a 2018 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science laureate.
HHMI Investigator, Professor, Rockefeller University
January 26, 2017
The Vosshall lab studies how complex behaviors are controlled by cues from the environment and modulated by internal physiological state. Working with Drosophila Melanogaster flies, mosquitoes and human subjects, Dr. Vosshall’s research yielded new knowledge about how sensory stimuli are processed and perceived.
To learn more about her research: http://vosshall.rockefeller.edu/
Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
March 17, 2017
Dr. Greider’s lab is focused on understanding telomerase and cellular and organismal consequences of telomere dysfunction. To examine telomere function, her lab uses biochemistry assays, yeast, and mice. Carol discovered the enzyme telomerase in 1984, and was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine, along with Blackburn and Jack W. Szostak, for their discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase. To learn more about her research: http://www.greiderlab.org/
Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
February 2nd, 2016
On February 2, 2016 WiSE hosted Dr. Ann Graybiel as the first McClintock Lecturer! Ann Graybiel studies the basal ganglia, forebrain structures that are profoundly important for normal brain function but are also implicated in Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and addiction. Graybiel’s work is uncovering neural deficits related to these disorders, as well as the role the basal ganglia play in guiding normal behavior.
To learn more about her research: http://mcgovern.mit.edu/principal-investigators/ann-graybiel