Eric Wieschaus, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, will deliver Wilkes University’s Kimball Lecture on April 24. He will speak about “The Control of Cell Shape: Where Genetics Meets Cell Mechanics” at 8 p.m. in Stark Learning Center, Room 101.
Wieschaus, the Squibb Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, won the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995 for identifying genes that transform a fertilized fruit fly egg into an embryo. His co-recipients were Edward B. Lewis and Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard.
Wieschaus, who has a bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame University and a doctorate from Yale University, focused on art as a youngster. Today his study of shape and form focuses on cells. Wieschaus uses the fruit fly Drosophila as a model to explore gene and cell movement, which he was first introduced to during his undergraduate career at Notre Dame, where he had a laboratory job preparing fly food. Looking at how certain cells’ role and function are programmed by shape, scientists now use his research to look at human genes and attempt to find flaws that are responsible for early miscarriages and congenital birth defects.
His current work focuses on defining the relationship between cell fate genes and the step-by-step changes in cell shape and form that occur when these genes are activated. Deciphering this process in fruit fly embryos may eventually suggest strategies to counter developmental abnormalities and birth defects in humans.
The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is named after Grace Kimball, a former microbiologist in the Wilkes biology department who funded the lecture series. She came to Wilkes in 1963 toward the end of her career as a bacteriologist in many hospitals, public health laboratories, and academic institutions. In choosing the lecturer, members of the Wilkes University Biology Department consider scientists who have distinguished themselves in some realm of evolutionary biology and who is able to engage and educate the public.