The School of Biological Sciences wants to extend a warm welcome, and a frozen treat, to our new and returning Biology Majors! The BioSci community is invited kick off the year with us at the Bio-Pop Social. Come to meet new people, enjoy King of Pops and collect a free “exclusive” Biology major t-shirt with your Buzzcard.*
In case of rain: ES&T 1st Floor Atrium
*Shirts are designed for undergraduate biology majors but are available to all members of the school. One t-shirt per person for those who don’t already have one.
Young Jang, Ph.D.
School of Biological Sciences
Georgia Institute of Technology
Age-related loss of muscle mass and function often referred to as sarcopenia dramatically affects the quality of life in the elderly population and predisposes them to an increased risk of morbidity, disability, and mortality. As the elderly population rapidly grows in the United States, the healthcare cost to treat sarcopenia and frailty-related is projected to grow exponentially in the next decades. The etiology of sarcopenia is a multifactorial process that involves both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. However, mounting evidence from both animal and human studies suggests a decline in muscle stem cell (MuSC) function and an inability to repair/regenerate muscle following injury directly contributes to age-acquired deficits in muscle function. Although stem cell interventions and cell-based therapeutic approaches seemed promising to treat age-dependent muscle wasting, only limited success has been achieved due to extremely low donor stem cell engraftment and survival in the aged host muscle. Consequently, there is a growing need for a clinically applicable therapeutic strategy to attenuate age-related muscle loss. To overcome this challenge, we engineered a biofunctional matrix that harnesses key characteristics of native muscle microenvironment and maximizes MuSCs myogenic potential. By capitalizing MuSC delivery in the biomimetic matrix, I will discuss some of the strategies we can use to understand the mechanisms of sarcopenia and describe advanced stem cell niche-based therapy that rejuvenates aging muscle. In the second part of the presentation, I will discuss how heterochronic parabiosis, in which young and aged animals are surgically attached to share circulation, and how exposure of aged muscle, to a “youthful” systemic environment, reverse many indicators of age-related pathology and restores robust muscle regeneration after injury. I will also describe how we can leverage the organ-on-a-chip and functional biomaterials to mimic parabiosis and understand the systemic regulations of muscle aging and other muscle-wasting conditions.
Yang Chai, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology
Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry
University of Southern California
Professor Chai holds the George and Mary Lou Boone Chair in Craniofacial Biology and is the associate dean of research and director of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the Ostrow School. Chai is internationally renowned for his research into the genetics, cellular signaling, and development of cranial and facial structures, including the causes of and potential preventive measures for facial deformities such as cleft palate. Among his many honors, he has received a National Institutes of Health MERIT Award, has been elected as an American Association for the Advancement of Sciences Fellow, has received an International Association for Dental Research Distinguished Scientist Award, and has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals. He is also an alumnus of the Ostrow School of Dentistry and is an award-winning educator and a practicing dentist at the school.
Host: Shuyi Nie, Ph.D.
The way a ladybug folds its wings can help aerospace engineers design more compact satellites. Studying how ants dig tunnels could help us create our own tunnels more efficiently.
The idea of using nature’s examples to develop products and designs that benefit society is the cornerstone of a new project at Georgia Tech that aims to get more high school students interested in engineering.
Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the $3 million effort will put high school engineering teachers in research labs at Georgia Tech for five weeks. The teachers will be embedded with engineers and scientists, working at the forefront of what’s called biologically inspired design, and creating a curriculum for the teachers to use in their classrooms.
“Lots of people think animals and what they do is insanely cool — and the internet agrees — which means we can engage interest in engineering by making a link to biology as a way to solve engineering challenges,” said Marc Weissburg, project leader and professor in the School of Biological Sciences. “The act of trying to see how an animal might help find a solution to a problem is a very creative process. It challenges the notion that engineering is boring. High school engineering experiences vary widely, but they generally do not include the most cutting-edge topics, like bio-inspired design, which gets people really excited,” he said.
For the next four years, Weissburg will collaborate with researchers Meltem Alemdar, Michael Helms, Roxanne Moore and Michael Ryan at Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing. They’ll create and assess units for 10th, 11th and 12th graders that explore bio-inspired design in the context of problems that are relatable to teenagers.
In particular, the researchers see their approach as a way to reach girls, who may not have considered engineering as a potential career. Weissburg pointed to data from the Center for Digital Education that showed 24% of male high school students expressed interest in engineering. For young women, the number was just 11%.
“Too often, engineering is depicted as applied math and science, which completely neglects how human-centered engineering is,” said Weissburg, who also co-directs the Center for Biologically Inspired Design at Georgia Tech and is a Brook Byers Professor.
The project will generate a curriculum with design and build exercises, background materials for teachers, examples to spark discussion, tests, and other resources that can be used by teachers across the country. Researchers will examine how well the curriculum engages students, particularly those from groups underrepresented in engineering.
“States have different standards, and teacher goals and classes have to be responsive to their unique student audience,” Weissburg said. “Our series of resources, all of which will be online, will allow teachers to easily slot in material that fits for them. It will allow them to talk to us and each other about best practices.”
The research team has partnered with Gwinnett County Public Schools to identify the first group of teachers they’ll invite to participate. Weissburg said that will happen in late Spring 2020.
“Bio-inspired engineering is a unique way of thinking, and so we have to help the teachers understand how to encourage this in their students.”
For More Information Contact
Antibiotics are wonder drugs. Not only are they safe and effective treatments for many infections, they also allow much of modern medicine and surgery to proceed safely by minimizing the risk of infection during routine procedures. Unfortunately, the widespread and indiscriminate use of these wonder drugs has led to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, making antibiotics useless in some cases.
Sam Brown will review the current state and trajectory of antibiotic resistance, before discussing how getting two simple things – drugs that work well AND drugs that continue to work into the future – is a hard challenge. Theory and epidemiological data say you have to choose one or the other. He will then offer a way out of this impasse, by using diagnostic information to treat each patient in a tailored manner. He will show that reversing the rise in antibiotic resistance is possible, but requires diagnostic information during both point-of-care (when you’re sick) and periodic microbiome surveillance (e.g. as part of an annual health check).
About the speaker
Sam Brown is an evolutionary biologist and associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Following a Ph.D. from Cambridge University (2001) and fellowships in France and Texas, Brown held faculty positions at Oxford and Edinburgh before joining Georgia Tech in 2015.
The Brown lab's goal is to to improve the treatment and control of infectious diseases, through a multiscale understanding of microbial interactions. Brown’s approach is interdisciplinary, combining theory and experiment, evolution, ecology and molecular microbiology.
This event is a production of the Atlanta Science Tavern.
Sam Brown, Ph.D.
School of Biological Sciences
Georgia Institute of Technology
Infection medicine currently faces two major and growing crises that impact the ability of MDs to treat bacterial infections with our current arsenal of antibiotics. The first is widely recognised – the evolution of antibiotic resistance. The second receives less attention – chronic polymicrobial infections where appropriate antibiotics often fail to resolve infections. I will discuss novel patient-specific control strategies that have the potential to effectively treat patients now and into the future. These diagnostic-conditional strategies are grounded in multi-scale modeling and experimentation, from within-host dynamics of multi-species infection microbiomes through to the epidemiological and evolutionary dynamics of competing pathogen strains.
Aleksandra Walczak, Ph.D.
Laboratoire de Physique Théorique
Ecole Normale Supérieure
The diversity of repertoires of B-cell and T-cell receptors is generated by a stochastic process of gene rearrangement called VDJ recombination, and is later sculpted by selection, clonal proliferation, and somatic hypermutations. I will show how these processes can be learned quantitatively from high-throughput repertoire sequencing data. The resulting models can then be used to estimate the diversity of repertoires and their overlap between individuals, to identify condition-specific immune receptors from patient cohort data, and to detect signatures of immune responses in single patients, opening the way for novel sequencing-based diagnostic
and prognostic tools.
Aleksandra Walczak received her PhD in physics at the University of California San Diego. After a graduate fellowship at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (UCSB), she worked on applying information theory to signal processing in small gene regulatory networks at the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science. Currently based at the École Normale Supérieure as a CNRS researcher, she studies the effects of selection on population genealogies, collective behaviour of bird flocks and statistical descriptions of the immune system. She was awarded the “Grand Prix Jacques Herbrand de l’Académie des sciences” in 2014 and the bronze medal of CNRS in 2016.
Host: Joshua Weitz, Ph.D.
Scott Carver, Ph.D.
University of Tasmania
Some of the most critical pathogens of wildlife involve environmental transmission. Emblematic of this is sarcoptic mange disease impacting bare-nosed wombats in Australia. The etiologic agent of mange disease, the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, occurs worldwide, has been documented to infect >100 species across 10 mammalian orders, and is among the 30 most prevalent diseases of humans (scabies). In Australia this mite was evidently introduced by European settlers and causes significant welfare issues to wombats, periodic epizootics and population declines. There remains much to be learned about this environmentally transmitted wildlife disease and how to manage it. I will summarise the efforts of my research group to uncover the impacts and epidemiology of mange disease in wombats, and our efforts to establish feasible in situ disease control. Our research spans within and between individual effects to population-scales, invasion history, modelling, and applied management.
Dr. Scott Carver is a Senior Lecturer in Wildlife Ecology at the University of Tasmania, (specialising in wildlife disease ecology) and Chair of Wildlife Disease Association for Australasia. Scott has a broad background spanning research in Australia, the United States and New Zealand. Since joining the University of Tasmania in 2012, he has devoted a significant portion of his research effort to the ecology, conservation and welfare of wombats with particular focus on sarcoptic mange disease. Scott’s other major research foci include: disease transmission in North American puma and bobcats; vector-borne disease transmission across Australia; and chlamydial disease in koala and agricultural animals. When not pursuing wombats Scott like to get out and enjoy the Tasmanian wilderness and indulge on the many fantastic Australian red wines.
Host: David Hu, Ph.D.