Friday Evening Lecture Series – Joshua Lederberg Lecture – “Food and Sex: The Neurogenetics of Innate Behavior”

Date(s) - 08/10/2012
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Lillie Auditorium

Friday Evening Lecture Series – Joshua Lederberg Lecture – “Food and Sex: The Neurogenetics of Innate Behavior”
Leslie B. Vosshall, The Rockefeller University; Howard Hughes Medical Institute
8:00 PM, Lillie Auditorium

Introduction by Dr. Gerald Weissmann

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Leslie Vosshall

Leslie Vosshal. Photo by Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Lecture Abstract:
The biological drive to eat and have sex is important for all sexually reproducing species. These drives, however, must be carefully controlled for animals—including humans—to function normally. The sensations of hunger and satiety ensure that animals eat at appropriate times and avoid either undereating or overeating. The same concept of hunger and satiety can apply to sex drive. Work in my laboratory is aimed at understanding the drive mechanisms that control feeding and sex. We use Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to study feeding behavior. Because this insect is also a vector of dangerous infectious diseases such as yellow fever and Dengue virus, the work has important public health implications. Female mosquitoes require a blood meal to complete egg development and are attracted to human hosts via multiple sensory cues including emitted body odor, heat, and carbon dioxide in the breath. We are using genetics to understand how sensory cues are integrated to lead to host-seeking behavior. We use the fly Drosophila melanogaster to study sex drive and have identified a small number of neurons that both controls male fly sex drive and the precise duration of copulation. Recent advances from my group in both research areas will be discussed.

Leslie B. Vosshall is the Robin Chemers Neustein Professor at The Rockefeller University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. A renowned molecular neurobiologist, Dr. Vosshall is interested in how olfactory signals in the environment signal food, danger, or mating opportunities, and how those signals modulate animal behavior. She works with humans as well as with Drosophila melanogaster flies and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the vector for Dengue fever and yellow fever.  Dr. Vosshall received an A.B. in biochemistry from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from The Rockefeller University where she worked with Michael W. Young. Following postdoctoral training with Richard Axel at Columbia, she returned to Rockefeller in 2000 as an assistant professor. She was promoted to associate professor in 2006 and was named Robin Chemers Neustein Professor in 2010. She was appointed a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in 2008.   Dr. Vosshall has been a faculty member of the MBL Neurobiology and Neural Systems and Behavior courses.  Dr. Vosshall’s awards include a Gill Young Investigator Award in 2011, a Dart/NYU biotech award in 2010, a Lawrence C. Katz Prize from Duke University in 2009, and a Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists in 2007. In 2005 she received the New York City Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Science and Technology and the Irma T. Hirschl/Monique Weill-Caulier Trust Research Award.

Dr. Gerald Weissmann will introduce Dr. Vosshall.  Dr. Weissmann is currently Research Professor of Medicine (Emeritus), the Director of the Biotechnology Study Center at NYU School of Medicine, and editor-in chief of The FASEB Journal. A former president of the American College of Rheumatology and the Harvey Society, Dr. Weissmann is also a Fellow of the AAAS and the New York Academy of Sciences. He is a foreign member of Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and The Royal Society of Medicine. Dr. Weissmann is on the Advisory Board of The Ellison Medical Foundation. He was co-founder (with E.C. Whitehead) and a Director of The Liposome Company from 1982 to 2000 and founding chair of the Prix Galien USA (2007-2012). Dr. Weissmann has a longtime association with the Marine Biological Laboratory. He is a former investigator and instructor in the MBL’s Physiology Course and served for 18 years as an MBL Trustee. He is now a member of the MBL Board of Overseers. His ten books of essays range from The Woods Hole Cantata (1985) to Epigenetics in the Age of Twitter (2012).

About the Joshua Lederberg Lecture:
The Joshua Lederberg Lecture is sponsored by The Ellison Medical Foundation in honor of Joshua S. Lederberg, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate and founding Chair of the Ellison Medical Foundation Scientific Advisory Board. Dr. Lederberg’s insight, energy, and creativity were essential to the creation and successful development of The Ellison Medical Foundation over its first ten years.

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