Media release: How squabbling genes affect our biology: public lecture

Individual human genes can behave differently depending on whether they are inherited from the mother or the father. At a free public lecture at the University of Adelaide next week, leading Harvard University evolutionary geneticist Professor David Haig will speak about this genetic conflict and how it influences the way we develop.

Professor Haig will present the 2015 Sir Ronald Fisher Lecture which this year celebrates the 125th birthday of the renowned geneticist and statistician RA Fisher ─ considered one of the founders of modern biological sciences.

Professor Haig is the George Putnam Professor of Biology, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Chair of the Australian Studies Committee at Harvard University. He is author of Genomic Imprinting and Kinship, and is an evolutionary geneticist/theorist interested in conflicts and conflict resolution within the genome.

“Medicine and biology usually have an implicit model of the body as a well-functioning machine and the mind as something like a fitness-maximising computer,” says Professor Haig. “But the fact that natural selection is sometimes acting at cross-purposes contributes to a lack of stability in these systems and occasional malfunctions. Understanding how these systems have evolved can aid medical intervention.”

The Sir Ronald Fisher Lecture was endowed in 1989 by Emeritus Professor PA Parsons, a former student of Fisher. Fisher spent his last years of life (from 1959-1962) in Adelaide, closely associated with the University’s Genetics department. His archives were deposited with the University’s Barr Smith Library in 1981.

The public lecture – Genomic imprinting and the divided self – will be a highlight in a week of celebrations of genetics at the University of Adelaide.

Two genetics conferences from 5-8 July and 8-10 July will see a line-up of international and national speakers discussing cutting-edge research on a wide range of topics from medical genetics, through forensics and behavioural genetics to conservation, and will also feature talks on RA Fisher’s work. The conferences are the annual Genetics Society of AustralAsia and the Australian Academy of Science Boden conference: Comparative Animal Genomics Down Under.

A session on learning and teaching genetics may also interest science teachers. Day registrations are available.

WHAT:    Sir Ronald Fisher Lecture: Genomic imprinting and the divided self with Professor David Haig
WHERE:   Scott Theatre, North Terrace campus, University of Adelaide
WHEN:     5:30pm, Tuesday 7 July 2015
COST:       Free, no booking required.

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