2nd Gordon Research Conference on Centromere Biology (24-29 July 2016): Beth Sullivan
As part of its mission to encourage engagement within the genetics community, PLOS Genetics is sponsoring a number of conferences and meetings this year. In order to raise awareness about these conferences and the researchers who attend them we are featuring a number of these conferences on Biologue, with posts written by the organizers or PLOS Genetics editors who are involved.
The next of these conferences is the Centromere Biology Gordon Research Conference, which takes place at Mount Snow Resort in West Dover, Vermont, between the 24th and 29th of July. We asked Beth Sullivan, an organizer of the conference and PLOS Genetics editor, about the meeting, and the aspect of centromeres that she finds most exciting.
I’m Beth Sullivan, an Associate Editor for PLOS Genetics, and an Associate Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, USA.
My lab’s research focuses on the centromere, a chromosomal locus that is essential for genome stability. During cellular division, the centromere is the region where kinetochore proteins congregate, and becomes the point of attachment for spindle microtubules to the chromosome. My group studies genomic and epigenetic mechanisms that are involved in centromere identity and inheritance, with a focus on chromatin organization at normal centromeres, and the process of centromere inactivation on aberrant chromosomes that possess two centromeres (“dicentric” chromosomes).
Conference Vice-Chair Aaron Straight (Stanford University) and I are co-organizing the 2nd Centromere Biology Gordon Research Conference (GRC) to be held at Mount Snow Resort in West Dover, from 24-29 July 2016.
For the past three decades, the centromere community has grown steadily, encompassing many areas of centromere biology including genomics, epigenetics, chromosome engineering, biophysics, and comparative genetics. Despite this increase in depth and breadth, few meetings are dedicated exclusively to topics in centromere structure and function.
Aaron and I have deliberately created a program that represents the diversity of research areas in the centromere field, both in topics and investigator status. With attendees and speakers coming from as far as India, Japan, and Hong Kong, our goal for this meeting is to bring together our global community of centromere researchers to present their recent, unpublished research, and to cultivate new and collaborative areas of study.
We have incorporated several trainee-oriented events into the program, including trainee-mentor lunches and networking activities during poster sessions. Our trainees, comprising graduate students and postdocs, are the next generation of clever and ambitious centromere biologists. Aaron and I feel strongly about ensuring that these young, vibrant scientists are integrated into the centromere community. Therefore, our GRC is associated with a trainee-organized and -oriented Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) that will precede the GRC from 23-24 July 2016.
The GRS is being co-organized by Steven Friedman, a graduate student in Michael Freitag’s lab at Oregon State University, and Shannon McNulty, a graduate student in my lab at Duke University. Steven and Shannon have put together a terrific scientific program that includes a keynote talk from Dr. Arshad Desai (University of California- San Diego), two sessions of trainee research talks, two poster presentation periods, and an interactive career/professional development session. The goal of the GRS (and GRC) is to create a collegial environment for networking and the opportunity to highlight research by our trainees, especially those from under-represented groups.
The GRC meeting begins on 24 July 2016 with a Keynote Session. Our two speakers are Sue Biggins (Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center) and Gary Karpen (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, University of California Berkeley). These two highly acclaimed scientists epitomize diverse areas of centromere biology, including the different model systems in which they work. We believe their talks will kick off the meeting perfectly and energize the group for subsequent talks, discussions, and poster session interactions. The GRC conference program itself includes four poster sessions and nine sessions covering topics such as biophysical properties of centromeres, meiotic specialization of centromeres, centromeres as drivers and shapers of genomes, centromere genomics, and non-coding elements involved in centromere function.
After the success of the inaugural GRC Centromere Biology meeting in 2014, Aaron and I were excited to work together on developing a scientific program that included some newer areas of centromere biology as well as having several speakers who had not attended the previous GRC. Our different areas of expertise will ensure that the program encompasses a breadth of research that we believe is substantially highlighted by the short talks that are interspersed with invited speaker talks.
Organizing a meeting like this is hard work, but it often brings unexpected benefits! During the lengthy planning phase, our conversations led to a new scientific collaboration between our labs, a testament to the exciting opportunities that can arise between colleagues while organizing a meeting over the course of two years!
PLOS Genetics, a premier journal publishing excellent and cutting-edge science, was one of the first sponsors for this year’s conference. Aaron and I are grateful to the editors and the journal staff for their enthusiasm in supporting our conference. We hope that all attendees of the Centromere Biology GRC will leave the meeting with new questions about centromeres, an expanded network of colleagues, and ultimately, exciting, new collaborations.