George Somero, director of Hopkins Marine Station, to give Sinsheimer Lecture at UC Santa Cruz on Friday, May 24

People usually think of genetic mutations as negative, causing birth defects or leading to diseases like cancer. But mutations can also be beneficial. In fact, they are at the core of evolution, helping organisms to adapt to changes in their surroundings by creating proteins that work slightly differently.

This process of molecular evolution will be the subject of a free public lecture on Friday, May 24, at UC Santa Cruz. George N. Somero, the David and Lucile Packard Professor of Marine Sciences at Stanford University, will give a talk titled "From the Sequence to the Cellular 'Soup': An Integrative View of Protein Adaptation."

The lecture will begin at 2 p.m. in room B206 of the Earth and Marine Sciences Building on the UCSC campus. The closest parking is in the Core West Parking Structure. Somero's talk is the second annual Sinsheimer Distinguished Lecture in Biology, hosted this year by UCSC's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Somero studies the effects of environmental factors--such as temperature, pressure, oxygen availability, and salinity--on marine animals. He has found that protein adaptations are critical to the ability of animals to live in temperatures ranging from freezing to boiling, and that temperature changes of only a few degrees Celsius can lead to adaptations on the molecular level.

Furthermore, Somero's work with marine animals suggests that some live near the upper limits of their heat tolerance and thus adapt poorly to increasing temperatures. With concerns about global warming on the rise, Somero's group is focusing on the effects of temperature change on marine life.

Somero earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and is currently director of Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

The Sinsheimer Distinguished Lectureship in Biology is supported by an endowment from UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Emeritus Robert L. Sinsheimer and his wife, Karen. Robert Sinsheimer, who was chancellor from 1977 to 1987, is a renowned molecular biologist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Hosting of the annual lecture alternates between the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology.

For more information about the lecture, contact the University Events Office at (831) 459-5075.