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Pollard Lecture to be Held on 14 April 2008

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Robert E. Blankenship, the Lucille P. Markey Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, will present the 2007/2008 Ernest C. Pollard Lecture at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, 14 April 2008 in the Berg Auditorium (100 Life Sciences Building) on the Penn State University Park campus. This free public lecture is titled "The Evolutionary Transition from Anoxygenic to Oxygenic Photosynthesis and How It Changed the Earth."

Blankenship's research is focused primarily on understanding the mechanism behind the energy-storing reactions in photosynthetic organisms. In particular, he is interested in identifying the molecular parameters responsible for photosynthesis. In addition, Blankenship studies the origin and early evolution of photosynthesis. By analyzing whole bacterial genomes, he has shown that metabolic processes, which have had profound effects on the evolution of advanced life on Earth, have complex evolutionary histories. Furthermore, he has used a combination of genomics, molecular-evolution techniques, and biochemical analyses to identify and characterize previously unknown enzyme complexes that have novel activities.

A new research interest for Blankenship is scientific literacy with an emphasis on understanding the attitudes and preconceptions that students in non-science majors have about science and how their ideas change upon exposure to a course in chemistry for liberal-arts majors, as well as the special challenges involved in biochemistry education.

Blankenship has been a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Biology Section, and was a founding fellow of the Arizona Arts, Sciences, and Technology Academy. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1970 at Nebraska Wesleyan University and a doctorate in 1975 at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Ernest C. Pollard Lecture is named in honor of the professor of physics who taught at Penn State from 1961 to 1971 and founded the Department of Biophysics. In 1979 the Department of Biophysics merged with the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry to form the present Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. For more information or access assistance, contact Tamara Housel in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at (814) 865-3072.

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