Our next UNC WISE meeting will be held this coming Monday, May 6th at 7pm in the Student Union Room 3515. We’re looking forward to a very interesting discussion led by Ginnie Hench about the science and politics behind GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Then Courtney will share with us the life and science of Professor Bonnie Bassler, a pioneering researcher in the field of molecular biology. We look forward to seeing you all next week and please keep reading below for more information on next week’s topic along with supplemental reading material designed to aid our discussion!
I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to talk to people about the science and politics surrounding GMO’s. This is an exciting and timely topic because it allows one to talk about some truly innovative science and the politics of food. I’ve picked two pieces for everyone to read. The blog post is written by a food journalist, Josh Schonwald, that I’ve followed on-and-off for the last year: http://www.thetasteoftomorrow.com/ongmolabeling.
The post is very current in terms of what is going on with food politics (GMO labeling legislative initiatives) and the latest science (and pseudo-science) related to GMO foods. It’s important to keep in mind that when we ask questions about the best way to use science, we acknowledge what research and history has already told us, specifically that GE corn was commercially introduced in the US in 1994. If you drink Coke or Pepsi, you’ve likely had some GM high fructose corn syrup! The article that I selected is written by Mary-Dell Chilton, one of the scientists who pioneered research on Agrobacterium tumafaciens, the plant pathogen-turned-vector extraordinaire!
She’s writing about research that aims to circumvent patents on GM plant technologies by using bacterium other than Agrobacterium tumafaciens as vectors. Some other cool trivia you should know about Mary Dell-Chilton is that she lives here in North Carolina and her son, Mark Chilton is the mayor of Carrboro. [supplementary reading at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v23/n3/pdf/nbt0305-309.pdf ]
“It’s really interesting, the stereotype of a scientist versus the real life of a scientist…this is a game. This is you against nature. It doesn’t matter what other labs are doing. It doesn’t matter if you get funding or not. You know this is just this ride that you’re on and that it’s fun. This has nothing to do with the things that I dreamed of as a kid, but it’s better.” –Bonnie Bassler
Professor Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University is a remarkable woman who has transformed the field of molecular biology due to her pioneering work in determining the mechanism of how bacteria communicate with each other, known as quorum sensing. This research has led to interest in development of pharmaceuticals that can either hinder or promote this bacterial communication. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was named as one of USA Science and Engineering Festival’s fifty most influential scientists in the US. In addition, she was a recipient of one of the L’Oréal-UNESCO awards for women in science (first link). The clip briefly describes her work and also her perspective on how she perceives her job as a scientist. During her TED talk, she eloquently and enthusiastically explains her work on quorum sensing (second link).