SMBE IDEA Task Force: Call for Nominations and Self-Nominations extended until August 31, 2021


Inclusion, Diversity Equity and Access (IDEA) Task Force

Charge: The IDEA Task Force was created to address the challenges faced by under-represented groups in SMBE, in particular, as well as science in general, including providing concrete recommendations for broadening representation and inclusion in all aspects of the society. This group will survey membership about priorities, solicit and be receptive to ideas and suggestions, investigate and discuss possibilities and logistics, and present recommendations to Council on a quarterly basis. Members of Council may also reach out to the IDEA Task Force with questions and suggestions for them to consider. By definition, then, the specific charges of this task force will evolve. Immediate tasks will be to identify priorities for initiatives and programming, recommend recipients of the IDEA awards (formerly Equal Opportunity Awards), and review the criteria and names of our existing awards to better reflect the values of our society.

Structure: The IDEA task force will be advisory to the SMBE Council, and will have 10 members. Two of these members shall be SMBE Councillors. The remaining 8 members-at-large will be selected from SMBE membership external to the Council. To encourage broad participation, former members of Council may not join the task force until a year has passed since their service on Council. There shall be two co-chairs, neither of whom may be Council members. We shall strive to maximize diversity on all axes among the membership.

Process: Members of the Task Force will be solicited from nominees (self-nominations are encouraged) from the SMBE membership. To be considered, nominees must submit a statement of interest that includes a brief description (no more than one page) of why that individual is interested in participating by email to Council will select the members of the task force from among the nominees, considering both their statements and representation. Membership will rotate, such that volunteers will serve for staggered terms of three years.

We call for nominations (including self-nominations) by 31 August 2021. Nominees will be contacted immediately thereafter and asked to provide statements by 15 September 2021. Initial appointment terms will include two 1-year positions, three 2-year positions, and three 3-year positions; if you have a preference for a shorter term, please indicate this when you submit your statement; otherwise terms will be decided arbitrarily by Council.

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  • Thursday, August 19, 2021
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Congratulations to the winners of the SMBE 2021 annual Faculty Awards

2021 SMBE Early-Career Excellence Award Winner: Kelley Harris

Kelley Harris is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, as well as an Affiliate Assistant Member of the Herbold Computational Biology Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Her group is trying to understand how mutational processes are shaped by genetic drift and natural selection and how this evolutionary process in turn modulates the accumulation of genetic variation. After earning a B.A. in Mathematics from Harvard and an M.Phil. in Biological Sciences from Cambridge, advised by Richard Durbin, she completed her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley working with Rasmus Nielsen and Yun Song. Her postdoctoral work at Stanford in the lab of Jonathan Pritchard was supported by an NIH NRSA postdoctoral fellowship. The Harris Lab is currently supported by an NIH NIGMS R35 grant as well as grants from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Sloan Foundation, the Kinship Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

2021 SMBE Mid-Career Excellence Award Winner: Tanja Stadler

Tanja Stadler is an Associate Professor at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich) in Basel. Further, Tanja is president of the Swiss National COVID-​19 Science Task Force. Tanja studied Applied Mathematics at the Technical University of Munich (Germany), the University of Cardiff (UK), and the University of Canterbury (New Zealand). She obtained a Master degree in 2006 and a PhD in 2008 from the Technical University of Munich (with Prof. Anusch Taraz and Prof. Mike Steel). Tanja then joined ETH Zürich as a postdoctoral researcher with Prof. Sebastian Bonhoeffer in the Department of Environmental Systems Sciences, and was promoted to Group Leader in 2011. In 2014, she moved to the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering as an Assistant Professor where she obtained tenure in 2017. Her work is at the interface of mathematics, computer science, evolution, ecology and infectious diseases. In particular, she develops phylogenetic tools to address epidemiological and medical questions, as well as questions in the fields of ecology, species evolution, cell differentiation and language evolution. Her honors include the TUM PhD award 2008, the John Maynard Smith prize 2012, the ETH Latsis prize 2013, the Zonta prize 2013, and the ETH Golden Owl for teaching in 2016. In 2013, Tanja received an ERC starting grant. In 2020, Tanja received an ERC consolidator grant.

2021 SMBE Lifetime Research Achievements Award Winner: Michael Lynch

Michael Lynch is currently the Director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution, Arizona State University, where he also heads an NSF-funded center grant focused on the cellular mechanisms of evolution. His research has long focused on the genetic mechanisms of evolution, particularly at the genomic and cellular levels, and on population-genomic analysis. His lab works with a number of model systems, most notably the microcrustacean Daphnia, the ciliate Paramecium, and numerous other unicellular prokaryotic and eukaryotic species. Current re

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  • Monday, August 16, 2021
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In Memoriam - SMBE mourns the passing of Dr. Richard Charles "Dick" Lewontin

Dear SMBE Members,

On the morning of July 4, 2021, population geneticist Richard “Dick” Lewontin passed away at the age of 92, just three days after his high-school sweetheart and wife of 73 years, Mary Jane. Both had been in poor health. Lewontin was an emeritus Professor in the Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology and Curator in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.

Lewontin has left an indelible imprint on the field of evolutionary biology through his research, writing, and mentorship.

After finishing his undergraduate degree at Harvard, Lewontin trained under the supervision of the famous Drosophila geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky at Columbia. Dobzhansky was often away collecting flies, which provided Lewontin freedom and independence. But, when Dobzhansky was back in the lab, they purportedly argued intensely about population genetics, an activity both parties enjoyed immensely.

Fresh after earning his PhD from Columbia, he moved to North Carolina State University, where he remained for just 4 years (1954-1958) before moving, first to the University of Rochester, and then to the University of Chicago. In his early work, Lewontin was known for bringing a mathematical modeling approach to the field of genetics. While most population genetics was focused on a single gene, his early work with Ken-Ichi Kojima essentially founded two-locus theory and introduced the term “linkage disequilibrium” to describe the statistical association between the variation at each of a pair of genes. This work laid the foundation for now commonly used, association-mapping approaches.

However, the primary reason Lewontin moved to Chicago was because he recognized the exciting work of biochemist Jack Hubby, a new faculty member, who was pioneering the method of gel electrophoresis. As Lewontin put it: Hubby had a method but no question, and he had a question but no method. Together, they published two ground-breaking papers in Genetics: Hubby & Lewontin (1966) and Lewontin & Hubby (1966). The first focused on the method by which one could assay genetic variation via gel electrophoresis, and the second applied this method to assess genetic variation in a population of Drosophila pseudoobscura. Lewontin complained – even decades later – how the latter paper was more highly cited, and Hubby wasn’t adequately recognized for his contributions. Nonetheless, together, these papers laid the foundation for the field of molecular evolution, by (1) demonstrating the surprisingly high amount of genetic variation (heterozygosity) in natural populations and (2) setting the stage for the still ongoing debate about how much of this variation was due to natural selection and how much was due to chance. See Charlesworth et al. (2016) for more detail. As a direct consequence of these studies, Motoo Kimura and his colleagues developed the neutral theory, which tries to explain in quantitative terms the observed pattern of genetic variation expected in the absence of any form of natural selection. Thus, effectively, these papers set the agenda, for both empirical and theoretical population genetics, for the ensuing decades and to the current era of population genomics.

In 1973, Lewontin was lured to Harvard University and the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) to serve as a “Curator of Population Genetics”, a new position designed for him. He was offered the entire third floor of the MCZ, which he had renovated to his specifications. Most notably, in the center was an expa

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  • Friday, July 09, 2021
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