UAlbany ‘Conversation’ to Discuss the Origins of Life

Four-Day Symposium Features Two Nobel Laureates, Global Scientific Community

Nobel Laureates Ada Yonath and Jack Szostak

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 3, 2013) –Two Nobel Laureates will discuss the chemistry that produced the origins of life when they serve as the keynote lecturers at Albany 2013: The 18th Conversation, presented by University at Albany’s departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences on June 11- 15. The event will draw more than 300 delegates from over 20 countries to the UAlbany Uptown Campus.

Jack Szostak from Harvard University and Ada Yonath from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, will speak on June 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Lecture Center 18. The lectures are open to the public.

Szostak, who holds joint positions at Harvard Medical School, the Department of Molecular Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, researches how cells formed on a hot-planet Earth more than four billion years ago. In attempting to delineate the earliest steps in evolution while working in contemporary times, he has constructed artificial cells that can grow and divide.

Yonath’s work advances her thesis that giant molecular machines, ribosomes, drove the rise and evolution of earliest life forms. The ribosome, currently present universally in all living cells, uses the genetic information in DNA to manufacture the myriad of proteins and enzymes and their networks that drive life as we know today. At the Weizmann Institute, Yonath is Martin S. & Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology as well as director of the Helen & Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly.

In addition to the keynotes by the Nobelists, a wide range of international scientists spanning Vladivostock to Vancouver will present their thoughts and views on the evolution of life. Conversation sessions will deal with such topics as intrinsically disordered proteins, virus structure, nanopores and genome weak links should provide thought provoking ideas about access to genetic information by cellular machines.

The Conversation also includes a Young Scientists Speaker Program, where talented young professional researchers at the rank of assistant professors, post-doctoral fellows and doctoral students from around the world will provide lectures that include both oral and poster presentations. This group was selected by the Conversation’s organizing committee from the scientists’ submitted abstracts.

The full list of The 18th Conversation’s topics and speakers can be viewed here.

This event is the latest installment of the celebrated series, which began in 1979 and has been repeated every other year since.

“In addition to origin of life and evolution, the 18th Albany gathering will provide a tour de force conversation on intellectually challenging topics of current interest in structural biology as well as breakthroughs in molecular dynamics simulations of proteins,” said Ramaswamy H. Sarma, UAlbany professor emeritus of chemistry, and the Conversation’s founder and lead organizer.

The 18th Conversation is sponsored by the University’s departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which has funded the Conversation since 1981.

“Since I started this series back in 1979, the world has changed radically, but the Albany Conversation remains rock solid,” said Dr. Sarma. “It is wedded to its core principle of responsibly covering the changing dynamics in structural biology in a purely academic setting, within the matrix of an urban University, at a cost that graduate students can afford. It derives its vitality and continuing energy from the large number of students who attend from around the world, and who all return excited.”

For more information, email Dr.Ramaswamy Sarma at [email protected].

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.