University of Cambridge, UK
Ian studied at the University of Oxford as an undergraduate in the Department of Plant Sciences. In 2000 he was awarded a Gatsby Charitable Foundation Ph.D Studentship to work with Prof. Caroline Dean at the John Innes Centre, UK, where he studied the role of alternative polyadenylation in control of flowering-time. Prof. Dean’s research into epigenetic control of vernalization inspired Ian to take up postdoctoral research with Prof. Steve Jacobsen at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2004. At UCLA Ian investigated mechanisms of RNA-directed DNA methylation and its role in control of gene expression, supported by EMBO and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Fellowships.
In 2008 Ian returned to the UK as a Royal Society University Research Fellow and Gatsby Resident Fellow in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Since 2020 Ian is Professor of Genetics and Epigenetics in the Department of Plant Sciences, where he teaches plant genetics and its application to food security. He is the recipient of the 2013 Society for Experimental Biology President’s Medal.
Ian’s group is investigating the control of meiotic recombination frequency in plant genomes by genetic and epigenetic factors. He is seeking to translate this knowledge into farmed species, in order to accelerate breeding as we adapt our crops to the changing climate.
Speech Title: The genetic and epigenetic landscape of the Arabidopsis centromeres
ETH, Zurich, Switzerland
Kirsten was born in Germany, but grew up in Colorado, USA. She obtained a bachelors in Biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1996. After that she worked for three years as a lab manager for Detlef Weigel at the Salk institute in San Diego, California. She obtained her PhD in 2004, from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she studied maize domestication with John Doebley. She did a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology with Detlef Weigel in Tuebingen, Germany, from 2004 to 2009, before starting in 2009 an assistant and then associate professor position at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, USA. Kirsten is now a full Professor in plant evolutionary genetics at ETH Zürich, Switzerland, since early 2019, where she works on polyploid plants, and other questions in plant evolutionary genetics.
Speech Title: How to tango with four: Meiotic adaptation to whole genome duplication
MPI, Gottingen, Germany
The Schuh lab studies meiosis in mammalian oocytes. In her presentation, Melina will summarize her lab’s recent research on the spindle in mammalian oocytes. Her lab found that human oocyte spindles are surprisingly unstable, and identified functions for actin and a liquid-like meiotic spindle domain for spindle assembly in mammalian oocytes.
In the main part of her talk, she will present recent work from her lab that sheds light on the origin of high aneuploidy rates in mammalian embryos. The vast majority of human embryos are aneuploid. Aneuploidy frequently arises during the early mitotic divisions of the embryo, but the origin of this remains elusive. Using bovine embryos as a model for human embryos, we identify an error-prone mechanism of parental genome unification which often results in aneuploidy. Surprisingly, genome unification initiates hours before breakdown of the two pronuclei that encapsulate the parental genomes. While still within intact pronuclei, the parental genomes polarize towards each other, in a process driven by centrosomes, dynein, and microtubules. The maternal and paternal chromosomes eventually cluster at the pronuclear interface, in direct proximity to each other. Parental genome clustering often fails however, leading to severe chromosome segregation errors, incompatible with healthy embryo development. Nucleoli, which associate with chromatin, also cluster at the pronuclear interface in human zygotes. Defects in nucleolar clustering correlate with failure in human embryo development, suggesting a conserved mechanism.
Speech Title: New insights into aneuploidy in mammalian embryos