Invited Speakers - International
Genetics and Computational Modelling of Plant Development
Using genomic technologies to investigate C.elegans germline development
Valerie Reinke received her PhD from University of Texas Houston, where she worked on the tumor suppressor p53. She performed her postdoctoral work at Stanford University, developing microarray technology to study germline development in C. elegans. She established her own laboratory at Yale University in the fall of 2000, where she continues to utilize high throughput genomic technologies to investigate gene regulatory mechanisms in C. elegans germline development.
Anthony D. Long
The Genetics of Complex Traits
Dr. Long’s laboratory uses several model systems to identify the underlying nucleotides that give rise to standing variation in complex traits. Previous work has carried out near saturation genotyping in candidate gene regions of large wild-caught Drosophila cohorts in an attempt to associated molecular variants with bristle number variation. More recently his lab has been involved in two new approaches for dissecting complex traits. The development of 1500 highly recombined RILs derived from a synthetic population initiated from 15 highly inbred founders will allow QTL to be mapped to sub-centimorgan scales and estimate the frequency of QTL alleles among founder chromosomes. A complementary strategy employs many generations of experimental evolution from an outbred base population followed by genome-wide resequencing of DNA pools to identify highly evolved regions of the genome.
Evolutionary genetics of olfaction
Richard is interested in the evolutionary genetics of odour sensing in animals. Current projects include testing whether human genetic variation in odour sensory acuity impacts food preferences, the development of an olfactory biosensor using insect odorant receptors, and understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in pheromone evolution and speciation in moths. Richard conducted his PhD at CSIRO through the Australian National University. He is currently based at Plant & Food Research in New Zealand and is an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland. He is also PI at the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Evolution and Ecology and an AI at the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery.
Peter Dearden is Director of Genetics Otago and Associate Director of the National Research Centre for Growth and Development. His laboratory studies evolution and development and developmental plasticity, mainly in insects. His lab has shown that genes that act early in development in insects are often fast evolving, and that different molecular mechanisms in various species can underlie highly conserved gene expression patterns and functions.
Wired for Sex: Genetics and Neurobiology of Drosophila Courtship Behaviour
Barry Dickson, a native Australian, is currently Scientific Director of the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), in Vienna, Austria. His research group uses the mating behaviours of Drosophila melanogaster as a model to understand how information processing in neural circuits generates complex adaptive behaviour, and how genes shape both the innate and learned aspects of behaviour. A major focus is on the centres in the brain that mediate sensory integration, decision-making, and action selection during the male courtship ritual. They have recently identified the functionally relevant circuits, mapped them at cellular resolution, and demonstrated that the male-specific products of the fruitless gene are necessary and sufficient to configure these circuits for male rather than female behaviour. Current studies combine genetics and neurobiology in an effort to provide a mechanistic explanation for the development and function of these circuits, and thereby establish the causative links from gene to behaviour.
Molecular measures of inbreeding in the wild
Catherine Grueber received her PhD from the University of Otago in August 2010, where she worked with Assoc Prof Ian Jamieson investigating how molecular markers can be used to study the effects of inbreeding in wild, threatened populations. In addition to a number of high quality publications, Catherine’s research became the basis of informed management decisions for her study species. In particular, Catherine has worked closely with the NZ Department of Conservation’s Takahe Recovery Group, for which her genetics work has had significant impacts on the current management program. This collaboration has led to a major change in the program’s direction for managing inbreeding in offshore island populations. Catherine is currently a postdoctoral researcher in Assoc Prof Jamieson’s group investigating whether natural selection can overcome the effects of inbreeding and genetic drift on genetic diversity of an isolated NZ robin population.
Catherine is the winner of the D.G. Catcheside Prize for 2011. The D. G. Catcheside Prize has been established to honour the memory of the late Professor David Guthrie Catcheside (1907-1994) by recognizing the achievements of the top Australasian doctoral student in the field of Genetics. Web site: www.cegrueber.com
Invited Speakers - Australian
David de Kretser
David de Kretser is a reproductive biologist and endocrinologist who was Professor of Anatomy in the Faculty of Medicine of Monash University and the founding Director of the Monash Institute of Reproduction and Development from 1991-2005 and following a term as Governor of Victoria, will return to Monash. His research interests include the cytology and biology of spermatogenesis and the genetic causes of male infertility. A DNA repository from patients with male infertility and normal men has served as a tool to identify novel genetic causes of male infertility such as Y chromosome deletions. Studies in mice using random mutagenesis induced by ENU has the potential identify new genetic defects causing male infertility.
Andrew Sinclair is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, University of Melbourne, and Associate Director at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. His research focuses on understanding the molecular genetics of gonad development and how this impacts on human disorders of sex development (DSD). His contributions have been fundamental to the advancement of the field, including identification and characterization of the human testis determining gene (SRY) and other genes critical for gonad development. He leads an NHMRC Program on Human Disorders of Sex Development that combines whole genome analysis of large DSD patient cohorts with expertise in chick and mouse developmental genetics. His research team recently identified the long sought after gene controlling sex (testis) determination in all birds. He also showed that genomic rearrangements affecting the regulation of an X-linked gene caused abnormal expression and induced testis development in a 46,XX individual. In another study he recently identified a new testis gene and signal transduction pathway. Mutations in this gene provide an explanation for a large proportion o 46,XY patients with failure of testis development.
Epigenetic regulation in plants
Liz Dennis is an eminent plant molecular biologist and a CSIRO Fellow in the Division of Plant Industry CSIRO in Canberra. She holds a BSc (Hons) and a PhD from the University of Sydney, Australia, and is author and editor of many distinguished publications. Liz is a past president of the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She was elected to the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 1987 and to the Australian Academy of Science in 1995. Her research has led to significant advances in our understanding of the molecular basis of plant development, especially flowering and seed development, plant gene regulation including epigenetic regulation, and plant response to environmental stress such as water logging conditions. Most recently she has been involved in investigating the molecular basis of heterosis (hybrid vigour) and the role of epigenetics (changes in the appearance or gene function of an organism not due to changes in its DNA sequence). Her contribution to our understanding of gene expression, the molecular bases of plant development, plant gene regulation, and mapping plant genomes has been recognized by many invitations to speak at international meetings as well as awards including the Avon Spirit of Achievement Award, the Lemberg Medal of the Australian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the inaugural Prime Minister’s Science Prize with Jim Peacock for their work on flowering.
Molecular Genetics of Blood Cell Development
Benjamin Kile is a Sylvia and Charles Viertel Fellow, and NHMRC Senior Research Fellow in the Cancer and Hematology Division at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. His laboratory is focused on genes that control blood cell production and function, in particular the megakaryocytic lineage, which gives rise to platelets. Platelets are small anucleate cells that are essential for blood clotting. They are generated in the bone marrow by megakaryocytes, specialised cells that develop from hematopoietic stem cells. Ben's group is using both forward and reverse genetic technologies to identify genes that regulate this process. They have uncovered key roles for Ets family transcription factors in hematopoietic stem cell function, and recently established an essential requirement for the intrinsic apoptosis pathway in controlling platelet life span.
Molecular basis of phenotypic variation.
Suresh is a Senior Lecturer and ARC Future Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland. His lab is interested in deciphering the molecular basis of naturally occurring phenotypic variation, and exploits natural variation in Arabidopsis thaliana to identify genes that modulate adaptive phenotypes such as growth rate, flowering time and novel cryptic phenotypes. Suresh obtained his PhD from the University of Zurich for his work on pattern formation during ovule development in plants. He then joined the lab of Detlef Weigel at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tuebingen on an EMBO postdoctoral fellowship, where he began his work on natural variation in Arabidopsis. Suresh arrived in Australia in 2007 and established his lab at the University of Queensland.
Professor Simon Foote is the Director of the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania. His research interests revolve around the genetic analysis of disease. He uses mice to study the host response to infectious disease and his laboratory is working towards a new range of antimalarial compounds mimicking the natural genetic mutations mediating clinical resistance in endemic populations. He is also involved with teams mapping susceptibility genes in humans, notably Multiple Sclerosis, Haematological Malignancies and Renal Failure. He was involved in the early days of the human genome mapping project at the Whitehead Institute, MIT and was one of the founders of the Australian Genome Research Facility.
Jozef Gecz is NH&MRC Principal Research Fellow and Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Adelaide. He is the head of the Neurogenetics Research Program at the Department of Genetic Medicine, SA Pathology at the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide, Australia. The broad research aim of his group is to further understanding of brain function through the identification and characterisation of genes with naturally occurring mutations in patients with intellectual disability, autism and some, primarily monogenic, forms of epilepsy. His team discovered or contributed to the discovery of more than 40 different disease genes. Many of these genes pointed to new and unexpected biological pathways essential for normal brain function. Their current effort focuses on the application of next generation genomic technologies and massively parallel sequencing in particular to unbiased gene discovery in rare human disease.
Evolution of High-dimensional phenotypes
Mark Blows is Professor and Head of School at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland. He received his BSc.(Hons) and PhD in Genetics from La Trobe University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at York University and James Cook University, before becoming a Lecturer at the University of Queensland in 1998. His major interests are in quantitative genetics, with a particular focus on how genetic variance evolves, how genetic covariance structure biases evolutionary trajectories, and ultimately how genetic variation limits evolutionary change.
Evolutionary and developmental genetics of plants
John Bowman is ARC Federation Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University, and Adjunct Professor at the University of California Davis. He obtained his PhD from the California Institute of Technology and completed a postdoc at Monash University before starting his own group at UC Davis. His group moved to Monash University in 2006. His research interests are in the establishment of polarity in lateral organs and vasculature in land plants, and in comparative evolution of flower development in the Brassicaceae.
The role of micro RNAs in early limb patterning
Edwina’s research aims to dissect the genetic hierarchies which drive patterning of the vertebrate limb and axial skeleton. During her PhD with Carol Wicking (Institute for Molecular Bioscience UQ) and a post-doc with Clifford Tabin (Harvard Medical School, Boston) Edwina’s research has identified key downstream transcriptional events of the Sonic hedgehog and the Fibroblast Growth Factor pathways which shape vertebrate limb formation. More recently, Edwina’s attention has turned to the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in patterning events. Edwina has developed technologies to knockdown miRNA function in the developing chick and mouse embryo, and has combined this approach with knockout strategies in mouse to elucidate the function of a highly conserved family of miRNAs, miR-196.
Control of organ size by the Hippo pathway
Kieran performed his Doctoral studies on the Nedd4 ubiquitin protein ligase between 1996 and 2000 in the laboratory of Dr Sharad Kumar (Hanson Institute, Adelaide, SA). He investigated mechanisms that control cell growth and proliferation as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr Iswar Hariharan at Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, USA 2001-2004) and University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, USA, 2004-2005). In 2006 he established his independent laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. His laboratory studies mechanisms that control the size of organs during development, and how the signalling pathways that control organ size are deregulated in human cancer. The main focus of the laboratory is centred on the newly described Hippo tumour suppressor pathway.
Dawn’s research interests are in the development and implementation of curriculum materials in the Biological Sciences and specifically Genetics. Dawn has received several grants to enhance learning in Biology and specifically Genetics which have included two Carrick Institute grants. She coordinates an outreach program in Genetics which has enabled over 30,000 year 12 students to complete hands-on activities in Genetics. Dawn was a recipient of an AUTC National Teaching award for the Biological Sciences, Health and Related Studies and within the University of Melbourne has been a recipient of the David White award for excellence in teaching in Science and the Faculty of Science award for Excellence in Teaching.
Carla is an evolutionary biologist, interested in understanding the genetic basis of adaptation to environmental change. Carla is also interested in exploring how evolutionary processes can be explicitly incorporated into biodiversity conservation and management. Carla uses a combination of techniques including clinal (field) studies of phenotypic divergence, experimental evolution, quantitative genetics and genomics to examine how organisms adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Genetic analysis of morphogenesis in zebrafish
Heather worked on cell cycle control of fission yeast at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute and Genetics Department, Melbourne University for her PhD. She then decided to switch to the study of development in zebrafish, and took a postdoc in the laboratory of Prof. Didier Stainier at the University of California, San Francisco. It was here that she was involved in a genetic screen to identify mutants with defective formation of endodermally-derived organs. She returned to Melbourne to work in the laboratory of Assoc. Prof. Joan Heath at the Ludwig Institute, to continue working with these mutants. She now heads a lab in the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, continuing to study morphogenesis of the endoderm and other tissues in the zebrafish.
Genetics control of fungal growth and development
Alex Andrianopoulos is an Associate Professor and Reader in the Department of Genetics at the University of Melbourne and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar. His laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular genetic mechanisms which control fungal growth and development. In particular, the work is directed towards uncovering how the control of growth and development impacts on the ability of fungi to infect humans and cause life-threatening disease. In another area of research interest, the work is examining the molecular genetic basis of developmental competence, a fundamental process in many, if not all, developmental programs.
Marnie Blewitt completed her undergraduate studies at The University of Sydney, with a double major of Molecular Biology and Genetics. She continued at the University for her honours and PhD studies, working with Prof. Emma Whitelaw on mammalian epigenetics. During her PhD, she designed and developed a sensitised mutagenesis screen to find novel epigenetic modifiers in the mouse, a challenging project for which she was awarded the Genetics Society of Australia DG Catcheside prize for the best PhD in Genetics. Marnie moved to Melbourne at the end of 2005 to take up a Peter Doherty Post-doctoral fellowship with Prof. Douglas Hilton at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Here, she has worked on one of the mouse mutants identified in the mutagenesis screen, identifying a critical role for the novel protein Smchd1 in X inactivation, and has also studied the role of polycomb group proteins in hematopoietic stem cell function. The work above earned her the Australian Academy of Science Gani medal in 2009, and the L’Oreal Australia Women in Science fellowship 2009. In January 2010, Marnie established her own group at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute as an Australian Research Council Queen Elizabeth II fellow, working on the molecular mechanisms behind epigenetic control of gene expression.
Evolutionary dynamics of mitochondrial genomes
Damian is an ARC Australian Research Fellow at the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University. He obtained his PhD from the University of Melbourne, completing postdoctoral positions at Uppsala University in Sweden, and the University of Western Australia, before commencing at Monash in 2009. His research interests are in evolutionary biology, and represent a fusion of genetic and ecological approaches to the study of evolutionary dynamics and constraints to adaptation. Damian’s current focus is on mitochondrial genomes: their capacity to influence evolutionary dynamics, and the consequences for males of their maternal inheritance.
Dr Scott joined CSIRO in 2004, before which he was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Sheffield (UK) researching the physiological and metabolic adaptations of bacteria that allow them to grow in diverse environments. He is now a research scientist at CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences where his research includes the discovery, manipulation and exploitation of enzymes for industrial and environmental applications. This work has practical outcomes, but also provides insights regarding the molecular mechanisms that underpin the evolution of new enzyme function under both natural and laboratory directed conditions.
Web site: www.csiro.au/people/Colin.Scott.html
Colin Jackson received a Bsc (Hons) in biochemistry from the University of Otago, New Zealand, before completing his PhD at the Australian National University. From 2008 he worked with Dr John Oakeshott at the CSIRO as a research team leader investigating the molecular basis for the evolution of insecticide resistance in the sheep blowfly. He has recently finished a Marie Curie research fellowship at the Institut de Biologie Structurale in Grenoble, France where he has continued to use laboratory evolution and structural biology to understand the how new catalytic functions can evolve in enzymes. He now leads an independent research group at the Australian National University that uses a range of techniques to investigate molecular evolution. ‘Laboratory evolution’ is used to reconstruct evolutionary trajectories of enzymes, while a range of biochemical and biophysical techniques are used to investigate the properties of the various evolutionary intermediates that are obtained throughout the trajectory. He is particularly interested in the roles that catalytic promiscuity, stability and conformational change play in evolution.
MJD White Address
The MJD White Address will be presented by David Smyth from Monash University.