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"Where Will the Food Come From in a Hotter, More Crowded World?" is a Free Public Lecture on 21 January 2012

21 January 2012 at 11:00 am 100 Thomas Building

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A free public lecture titled "Where Will the Food Come From in a Hotter, More Crowded World?" will take place on 21 January 2012 at 11:00 a.m. in 100 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park campus. The speaker will be Nina Fedoroff, who is the Evan Pugh Professor of Life Sciences at Penn State, a Distinguished Professor of Biosciences at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, and the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The event is the first of six lectures in the 2012 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, a free minicourse for the general public with the theme "Food: Strategies for Growing Enough for Everyone." No registration is required. The lectures take place on six consecutive Saturday mornings from 11:00 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m. in 100 Thomas Building.

One of the nation's most prominent researchers in molecular biology and genetics, Fedoroff will describe some of the challenges we face as the world becomes hotter and more crowded, including falling water tables, decreased biodiversity, and insufficient farm land. She will describe promising developments in science and technology that can increase the food supply while simultaneously shrinking the ecological footprint of agriculture. Throughout her career, Fedoroff has distinguished herself in the development and application of molecular and genetic techniques to important biological problems. Her current research is directed at domesticating plants that can grow on saline water; understanding certain inheritable aspects of gene expression, particularly epigenetic regulation in plants; and designing systems for integrated aquaculture and horticulture.

Fedoroff is a recipient of the National Medal of Science, the highest award given by the United States for lifetime achievement in scientific research. She recently completed a 3-year appointment as the Science and Technology Adviser to the U. S. Secretary of State, in which she was responsible for enhancing science and technology literacy and capacity at the State Department and for providing advice on current and emerging science and technology issues as they impact foreign policy. She also served as the science advisor to the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Fedoroff received a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry, graduating summa cum laude, from Syracuse University in 1966 and a Ph.D. degree in molecular biology from the Rockefeller University in 1972, then she joined the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she carried out research on nuclear RNA.

In 1974, Fedoroff received fellowships from the Damon Runyan-Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fund and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for postdoctoral work, first at UCLA and then in the Department of Embryology of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (now the Carnegie Institution for Science). Working in the laboratory of Donald Brown, Fedoroff pioneered in DNA sequencing, determining the nucleotide sequence of the first complete gene. In 1978, Fedoroff became a staff member at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and a faculty member in the Department of Biology at Johns Hopkins University. Her research focus then changed to the study of maize transposable elements. The isolation of the maize transposons, discovered genetically by Barbara McClintock in the 1940s, was achieved in the early 1980s. In subsequent years, Fedoroff's lab showed that the maize transposons were active in a variety of other plants, developed transposon tagging systems, and studied the epigenetic regulation of transposon activity.

In 1995, Fedoroff joined the Penn State faculty as Willaman Professor of Life Sciences. From 1995 to 2002, she served as the director of the Penn State Biotechnology Institute and she organized and served as the first Director of the Penn State Life Sciences Consortium (now the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences), a seven-college organization devoted to the promotion of multidisciplinary research and teaching in the life sciences. In 2002, Fedoroff was named an Evan Pugh Professor at Penn State and, in 2003, she became a member of the External Faculty of the Santa Fe Institute.

She has served on the editorial boards of the scientific journals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Gene, Plant Journal, and Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, and she chaired the Publications Committee of the Council of the National Academy of Sciences for 6 years. She has served on the board of the International Science Foundation and the International Scientific Advisory Board of the Englehardt Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow. She has been a member of the Council of the National Academy of Sciences. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Genetics Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Sigma-Aldrich Chemical Company, as well as on the Board of Trustees of BIOSIS. She has been a member of the National Science Board, which oversees the National Science Foundation. She is a member of the Science Steering Committee of the Santa Fe Institute. Fedoroff is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Microbiology. She has published two books and numerous papers in scientific journals.

Fedoroff has been honored with the University of Chicago's Howard Taylor Ricketts Award in 1990, the New York Academy of Sciences's Outstanding Contemporary Woman Scientist award in 1992, Sigma Xi's McGovern Science and Society Medal in 1997, and Syracuse University's Arents Pioneer Medal in 2003. She was awarded the National Medal of Science at a White House ceremony in 2007, during which she received the award from the president of the United States.

The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science is a program of the Penn State Eberly College of Science that is designed for the enjoyment and education of residents of the Central
Pennsylvania area and beyond. For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Media Relations and Public Information by telephone at (814) 863-0901 or by e-mail at CLM29@psu.edu. More information about the Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, including archived recordings of previous lectures and a list of other lectures in the 2012 series, is available here.

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