Some biology students from 5th and 6th year attended talks at the Schrodinger at 75 Conference in September. This conference celebrated the 75th anniversary of Schrodinger’s “What is Life?” talk, given in Trinity in 1943. The theme of the conference was the future of biology. Scroll down to read reviews written by two of the Students.
The first talk we attended was given by Ada Yonath, an Israeli Nobel Prize winner. It was titled, “The Future of Structural Biology”. Yonath was the first person to discover the 3D structure of a ribosome. A ribosome is a tiny organelle found in every cell which creates protein. She explained how data and amino acids are brought into a ribosome, and how they come together to form protein. In her presentation, she showed 3D representations of this. She discussed how antibiotics work, by sticking to the ribosomes of a bacteria in places which prevent protein synthesis. At many points she discussed the “pink future” of science, because now that women are scientists, they are the future. Yonath has revolutionised the scientific world’s knowledge of protein synthesis.
Brigid Etchingham-Coll 5G
The second lecture we attended during the Schrodinger at 75, was Beth Shapiro, an American evolutionary biologist who integrates molecular phylogenetics with advanced computational biostatistics to reconstruct the influences on population dynamics in a wide variety of organisms. She started the talk by telling us about her book, How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction, the title itself if pretty self explanatory. She then spoke about the three ways to revive a species, from either endangerment or extinction.
First, there is traditional conservation efforts, such as protected habitats, poaching bans etc., then more genetic based conservation methods, such as bringing genetic diversity to an enclosed population through the introduction of members from a different, more diverse population. However, this can’t always work as some species are the last populations and therefore have no other surviving relatives to widen their gene pool. This is the problem with the black footed ferrets of North America, along with the plague. To prevent the complete loss of these species their genetic material is preserved in frozen zoos, for optimal preservation. This is where the last way of revival come into play, De-Extinction, reviving an extinct species by way of a surrogate or possibly in the future, on its own, meaning theoretically we could possibly revive mammoths and other great animals of the past. But there are problems with this too, as she explained. If we were to revive a species where would it live? How would our city landscape affect it? How would it affect current species? She left us with these questions to ponder as she finished her talk. Overall it was an incredibly interesting and engaging talk from a fascinating speaker.
Claire Gregg 5T