Rob Phillips – Drunken Sailors, Coin Flips and How to Read Genomes

rphillips-smPorter Lecture
“Drunken Sailors, Coin Flips and How to Read Genomes”

Rob Phillips, California Institute of Technology
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Friday, July 7, 2017, 8 – 9pm
Lillie Auditorium
Lectures are free and open to the public.
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INTRODUCER: Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, Group Leader, Howard Hughes Medical Institute – Janelia Research Campus; Director, MBL Physiology Course

Lecture Abstract:

The ability to read the DNA sequences of different organisms has transformed biology in much the same way that the telescope transformed astronomy. And yet, much of the sequence found in these genomes is as enigmatic as the Rosetta Stone was to early Egyptologists. This talk will describe unexpected ways of using the physics of information transfer first developed at Bell Labs for thinking about telephone communications to look into genomes and to try and understand their meaning.

Rob Phillips is the Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics and Biology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. Phillips received his PhD in condensed matter physics at Washington University in 1989. Prior to working in science, he spent seven years of travel, self-study and work as an electrician.

Work in his group centers on physical biology of the cell, the use of physical models to explore biological phenomena and the construction of experiments designed to test them. Some of the key areas of interest include the physics of genome management such as how viruses and cells physically manipulate DNA as part of their standard repertoire during their life cycles, how transcriptional networks lead to regulatory decisions and how the physical properties of lipid bilayers are tied to the behavior of ion channels.

For more than ten years, Phillips has advocated for biological numeracy. This has included working with Professor Jane’ Kondev (Brandeis University), Professor Julie Theriot (Stanford University) and Professor Hernan Garcia (UC Berkeley) on a book entitled “Physical Biology of the Cell” published by Garland Science and a book entitled “Cell Biology by the Numbers” with Prof. Ron Milo (Weizmann Institute). One of his greatest privileges is in serving as one of the co-directors of the Physiology Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.

About the Porter Lecture:

The annual Porter Lecture is held in honor of Dr. Keith Roberts Porter, a former Director of the MBL considered by many to be the “Father” of the field of cell biology. It is sponsored by the Keith R. Porter Endowment whose goal is to support communication and education in cell biology.