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Pitt Presents ‘Science 2018 - From A to Z’

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PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh will celebrate its annual showcase of the region’s academic and research strengths in science, engineering, medicine and computation during “Science 2018—From A to Z,” which will be held Oct. 17 to 19 at Alumni Hall and the adjacent Wyndham Pittsburgh University Center in Oakland. The event is free and open to the public, with registration available on site.


A renowned microbiologist who discovered the universal use of chemical communication among bacteria and proposed that interfering with bacterial cell-to-cell communication could form the basis of new antibacterial therapies, Bonnie Bassler, Ph.D., will receive the 2018 Dickson Prize in Medicine. Her Dickson Prize Lecture, titled “Tiny Conspiracies: Cell-to-Cell Communication in Bacteria,” will be delivered at 11 a.m., Thursday, October 18. 


Bassler, the Squibb Professor and chair of molecular biology at Princeton University, has revolutionized the field of microbiology through her discoveries. After demonstrating that bacteria use multiple chemical signals to communicate—a process called quorum sensing—Bassler discovered and characterized previously unknown molecules involved, suggesting that bacteria harbor a multitude of chemicals with novel functions and potential uses in medicine. She discovered that bacteria communicate across species boundaries and that they use specific chemical “words” to detect self, related bacteria and others. 


Inspired by the discovery that bacteria actively interfere with chemical communication by other bacteria, Bassler developed synthetic strategies for manipulating quorum sensing to halt virulence in pathogens. She also showed that quorum sensing can be manipulated to prevent bacteria from adhering to medical devices and to stop bacteria from forming antibiotic-resistant communities called biofilms in medical settings. 


Other renowned scientists also will deliver plenary lectures at Science 2018: 


Arthur Lupia, Ph.D., Hal R. Varian Collegiate Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan, will give the Provost Lecture, “Communicating Science in Challenging Environments,” at 4 p.m., Thursday, October 18. A social scientist from the University of Michigan, Lupia studies learning, communication and decision making, and works with diverse groups to improve the communication of scientific facts.


Feng Zhang, Ph.D., Poitras Professor of Neuroscience, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will present the Mellon Lecture, “Development of CRISPR-Cas Systems for Genome Editing,” at 11 a.m., Friday, October 19. Zhang is world renowned for making some of the latest and most important advances in genome editing.


Paul E. Turner, Ph.D., Elihu Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, will present the Hofmann Lecture, “Using Viruses To Select for Reduced Virulence of Bacterial Pathogens in Human Patients,” at 4 p.m., Friday, October 19.


Spotlight sessions this year include presentations on “Bacteria and Their Environment,” “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning,” “Microbiomes and Microenvironments,” “Applications of Novel Molecular Tools,” and “Evolutionary Biology Meets Medicine.”


Science 2018 includes many more presentations by leading researchers, an innovation showcase of Pitt-developed technologies available for licensing, exhibits and poster sessions, all of which are intended to demonstrate that research can be a catalyst for regional economic development; foster collaboration among academic and industrial scientists; and promote the idea to the public that science is interesting, exciting and fun.