Midsummer Nights' Science is an annual lecture series that explores key advances in genomics and medicine. This lecture series is held each summer, and is free and open to the general public. Midsummer Nights' Science at the Broad Institute takes place at 415 Main Street (formerly 7 Cambridge Center), in Kendall Square in Cambridge.
2014 Lecture Schedule
Wednesday, July 9, 6-7pm
Explorations of human disease: The bacterial frontier [ video ]
How do you unravel the cause of a new human disease? For Ami Bhatt, the answer involved solving a DNA puzzle. Faced with a human disease of unknown bacterial origin, Ami used a combination of DNA fragments from diseased tissue and several computational methods to piece together an explanation. What she discovered was the genome of a new species of bacteria believed to have caused the disease. Ami Bhatt will talk about her discovery and its possible implications for the future of infectious disease.
Ami is a postdoctoral fellow in the Broad Institute's Cancer Program and a hematology/oncology fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Wednesday, July 16, 6-7pm
Progress in psychiatric genetics [ video ]
To find genes that underlie traits or diseases, scientists often conduct genome-wide association studies (GWAS). GWAS scan the entire genome for common variants to highlight areas likely to harbor influential genes. While researchers long debated whether this was a useful approach to studying psychiatric disease, recent GWAS have revealed vital information about genetic variations that may be associated with these disorders. Benjamin Neale will describe what he and his colleagues have learned from their genome-wide association and next generation sequencing efforts, with a particular focus on schizophrenia and autism.
Benjamin is an assistant professor in the Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, and an associate member of the Broad Institute.
Wednesday, July 23, 6-7pm
Genetics and Diabetes [ video ]
Designing new drugs would be easier if scientists understood the biology of the diseases they are trying to treat -- but for most common diseases, which are caused by many different genes and environmental factors acting in concert, gaining that understanding has been a challenge. In recent years, however, by studying the genomes of hundreds of thousands of people, scientists have uncovered hundreds of genetic factors that influence disease risk, including some 70 genomic regions containing variants that either make people more prone to type 2 diabetes or protect them from it. Many of the findings are upending what scientists thought they knew about the disease. David Altshuler will discuss how these discoveries can be translated into biological insights and inspiration for new treatments.
David is a founding core member of the Broad Institute and has directed the Broad's Program in Medical and Population Genetics since 2003.
Wednesday, July 30, 6-7pm
Finding your inner yeast: How do new traits evolve? [ video ]
To understand human biology we must tackle an important question: how do we look at an organism's DNA sequence – its genotype – and understand how it produces the organism's traits and behaviors, or phenotype? Humans share a lot of genes with other organisms like dogs, apes, and even yeast. We have the same genetic toolbox, yet remain very different. These differences can be attributed to gene expression – when genes get turned on or off – that gets rewired over the course of evolution to produce new phenotypes. Dawn Thompson will discuss recent work that investigates how changes in gene expression have given rise to interesting phenotypes such as altered metabolism in cancer cells, and the production of ethanol by yeast (a development which has been fortuitous for baking!). These same principles can be applied to help unlock the secrets of our own evolution.
Dawn is assistant director of the Broad's Cell Circuits Program, and group leader in the lab of core member Aviv Regev.