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Gordon Research Conference on Molecular Mechanisms in Evolution (June 11 – 16, 2017): Ivan Matic

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 the PLOS Genetics editors who are involved.

PLOS Genetics’ next sponsored conference is the Gordon Research Conference on Molecular Mechanisms in Evolution, which takes place at Stonehill College (Easton, MA, USA) from June 11th – 16th. We asked Ivan Matic, one of the organizers and PLOS Genetics Associate Editor, about the meeting.

I am Ivan Matic, a director of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research unit at the University Paris Descartes, Paris, France. I’m honored to chair this year’s Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Molecular Mechanisms in Evolution, which will be held at Stonehill College, Easton, MA, USA on June 11-16, 2017.

Competition between different Escherichia coli strains (red and yellow) in an aging colony, from a study of how structured environments provide favorable conditions for adaptive radiation. Image Credit: Ivan Matic, French National Institute of Health and Medical Research

The goal of this GRC is to provide the conditions for advancements in our understanding of fundamental questions in evolutionary biology. Most researchers in the fields of molecular biology and medicine are unacquainted with evolutionary theory, and hence overlook the critical role of evolutionary processes in the phenomena they are studying. Conversely, many of the assumptions and predictions of evolutionary biology have to be modified by taking into account new discoveries such as non-genetic, protein- and RNA-based inheritance. This meeting is aimed at the growing numbers of investigators attempting to unite these still mostly disparate fields. Molecular biology will bring the mechanistic understanding of biological phenomena while evolutionary biology supplies understanding of the natural and historical contexts of the evolution of biological systems. Physics and mathematics will advance our quantitative understanding of the evolution of living systems, as well as help us to derive universal principles.

A thoughtful and informed integration of these different disciplines will enable us to answer key conceptual questions of biology and evolution, but also ultimately to facilitate development of new therapeutic strategies to combat human diseases, taking into account not only the mechanistic aspects (as is the case already), but also the evolutionary processes responsible for their emergence. Furthermore, it will enable us to understand, predict, and hopefully control global impacts of human activities on the ecosystems.

Caenorhabditis elegans gut filled with red bacteria, from a study of how bacteria modulate host life history traits. Image Credit: Ivan Matic, French National Institute of Health and Medical Research

To reach this goal, we will bring together scientists from different disciplines in order to create an intellectual environment which catalyses original thought, and to initate collaborations that go beyond the means and competencies of individual groups. The GRC program includes invited and contributed oral and poster presentations by both young and established researchers, focusing on the very best emerging science in diverse fields.

The keynote speakers have been chosen because they are engaged in the most exciting research in their fields. Dr Nigel Goldenfeld is a physicist who explores emergent and collective phenomena that extend from condensed matter physics to biology, where his current work focuses on evolution and microbial ecology. Dr Tom Kirkwood, a biologist who made his major contribution to the biology of aging by proposing the concept of the disposable soma, will give a talk concerning the evolution of aging.

The session titles illustrate both the diversity and interconnectedness of the topics covered: origins of life and aging, evolution of mutation and recombination rates, stress-inducible genetic variation, non-genetic variation and inheritance, phenotypic noise, evolution of novelty, evolution of complexity, cancer, aging, experimental evolution and evolutionary contingency. The themes of the GRC have been selected based on their relevance, timeliness, and impact on future studies. We want to show the power of experimental studies to derive theory and the power of theory to guide experiments.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the meeting, please refer to the following website: http://www.grc.org/programs.aspx?id=15808

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