Watson Lecture on November 2: Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz Investigates "The Dance of Life: How Do We Become Ourselves?"
On Wednesday, November 2, at 7:30 p.m. PDT in Beckman Auditorium on the Caltech campus, Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, Bren Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering, continues the 100th anniversary season of the Earnest C. Watson Lecture Series by investigating "The Dance of Life: How Do We Become Ourselves?"
Human and animal embryos are built from three types of stem cell that are established by the sixth day after fertilization and before the embryo implants into the womb. These three stem cell types can also be grown indefinitely in cell culture. In her lecture, Zernicka-Goetz will describe how she and her research group have been able to assemble embryo models not from eggs and sperm but from these stem cell types, and what those models are teaching us about human development.
Zernicka-Goetz's research addresses fundamental questions about how life begins, such as: What drives a fertilized egg to divide and grow until it becomes 40 trillion cells, and how do these cells know how to make a person? To address these questions, she has developed methods for tracking living embryos to determine how stem cells are first created, establish their fates, and work together to shape the body. She has also pioneered methods to grow embryos beyond implantation, techniques dubbed the "People's Choice Scientific Breakthrough of the Year" in 2016 in Science magazine. Her team used these methods to recently create the first complete embryo models from stem cells that develop like natural embryos.
Zernicka-Goetz received her PhD from Warsaw University and joined the Caltech faculty in 2019. Prior to arriving at Caltech, she was professor of mammalian development and stem cell biology at the University of Cambridge, England. She is a fellow of the British Academy of Medical Science and a recipient of an NIH Director's Pioneer Award. Earlier this year, Zernicka-Goetz was awarded the 2022 Edwin G. Conklin Medal from the Society for Developmental Biology in recognition of her "extraordinary research contributions to the field" and her excellent mentorship of the next generation of scientists.
The 2022–2023 season marks the centennial of The Earnest C. Watson Lecture Series, which has brought Caltech's most innovative scientific research to the public since the Friday Evening Demonstrations premiered in October of 1922. The series is named for Earnest C. Watson, a professor of physics at Caltech from 1919 until 1959.
Spotlighting a selection of the pioneering research Caltech's faculty is currently conducting, the Watson Lectures are geared toward a general audience, as part of the Institute's ongoing commitment to benefiting the local community through education and outreach. All Watson lectures are free and open to the public.
Many past Watson Lectures are available on YouTube.
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