Science for All Seasons 2016

Due to popular demand, the Broad Institute is expanding its public lecture series beyond the summer! Science for All Seasons gives you a chance to explore hot topics in genomics with leading experts from the Broad Institute. Find out what key advances, new technologies, and the latest findings mean for you in this free and open lecture series.

2016 Lectures

Past Talks

[ Video ]
Tuesday, September 27, 6-7:00pm
Harnessing Evolution to Solve Problems in Biotechnology and Therapeutics Science
David Liu

Biological evolution has solved many challenging molecular problems with breathtaking effectiveness. Researchers have begun to harness the remarkable power of evolution to address problems of their own choosing, rather than of nature’s choosing. In this lecture, Liu will describe the development and first applications of phage­assisted continuous evolution (PACE), a method that enables proteins to evolve continuously in the laboratory for the first time, accelerating the speed of laboratory evolution ~100­fold. The Liu group has used PACE to rapidly evolve a wide variety of proteins with the potential to serve as novel therapeutic agents, as well as to study the reproducibility and path dependence of evolution over thousands of generations in a practical time frame. Liu will also describe a recent effort to use PACE to address a major problem facing worldwide agricultural productivity: the rise of insects resistant to a widely used protein insecticide.


David R. Liu is professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator, and a core institute member and vice chair of the faculty at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Liu’s research integrates chemistry and evolution to illuminate and program biology. His major research interests include the evolution and intracellular delivery of proteins with next-generation therapeutic potential; the development and application of genome-editing proteins; and the discovery of therapeutically relevant synthetic molecules and synthetic polymers through DNA-templated organic synthesis, an approach developed in his laboratory.

Liu graduated first in his class at Harvard with a bachelor's degree in chemistry before entering the Ph.D. program at U.C. Berkeley. He performed research on sterol biosynthesis under Professor E. J. Corey's guidance throughout his undergraduate years. In the group of Professor Peter Schultz, Liu initiated the first general effort to expand the genetic code in living cells. He earned his Ph.D. in 1999 and became assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University in the same year. He was promoted to associate professor in 2003 and to full professor in 2005. Liu was also appointed as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in 2005 and joined the JASONs, academic advisors to the U.S. government on science and technology, in 2009.

Liu has earned several university-wide distinctions for undergraduate and graduate student teaching at Harvard, including the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize in 2007, the Roslyn Abramson Award in 2003, and a Harvard College Professorship in 2007. Liu has published more than 130 papers in chemical biology, molecular biology, and organic chemistry. His research accomplishments have earned distinctions including the American Chemical Society Pure Chemistry Award and the American Chemical Society Arthur C. Cope Young Scholar Award.


Photo credit: Martin Adolfsson

[ video ]


[ video ]
Wednesday, May 18, 6-7:00pm
Medical Interpretation of Human Genomes
Heidi Rehm

With the plummeting cost of sequencing, genetic data is becoming increasingly available for use in the diagnosis, treatment and prediction of disease. Ensuring the successful use of genomics in medicine will require the community to come together to share data and contribute to the collective curation of that data for clinical and research use. This talk will focus on national and international efforts to develop improved standards and resources to support genomic medicine.


Heidi Rehm, a human geneticist and clinical laboratory director, is an institute member of the Broad Institute working closely with the Program in Medical and Population Genetics and the Clinical Research Sequencing Platform. She is also associate professor of pathology and director of the Clinical Molecular Genetics training program at Harvard Medical School (HMS), and associate medical geneticist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and co-chair of the BWH Genomics Center.

In 2001, Rehm began building the Laboratory for Molecular Medicine (LMM) within the Harvard-Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics. Now a part of Partners Healthcare Personalized Medicine, the LMM focuses on the rapid translation of new genetic discoveries into clinical tests and brings novel technologies and software systems into clinical use to support the integration of genetics into medicine. The laboratory, which Rehm now directs, has been a leader in translational medicine, and offers exome and genome sequencing services for both clinical diagnostics and to support genomic medicine research projects.

Rehm is one of several principal investigators of a major NIH-funded effort called ClinGen (Clinical Genome Resource) to support broad sharing of genotype and phenotype data. She is also a co-investigator of the MedSeq Project, an NIH-funded Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research grant to explore the "Integration of Whole Genome Sequencing into Clinical Medicine,” and a co-investigator of the BabySeq Project that will implement and evaluate the clinical use of rapid genome sequencing as an adjunct to newborn screening. 

Rehm is involved in defining standards for the use of next generation sequencing in clinical diagnostics and the interpretation of sequence variants through her committee roles at the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics. She is also a member of the Clinical Work Group and leading flagship projects within the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, and serves as a council member of the Human Genome Organization, Human Genome Variation Society, and Human Variome Project. Among Rehm's honors are the BWH Physician Recognition Award for Clinical Innovation and the Boston Business Journal's 40 Under 40 Award for Civic Leadership. She was also a member of teams that won the 2012 CLARITY Challenge run by Boston Children’s Hospital and the 2013 Bio-IT World Editors’ Prize for the GeneInsight software system.

Rehm received her B.A. degree in molecular biology and biochemistry from Middlebury College before earning her M.S. in biomedical science from Harvard Medical School and Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard University. She completed her post-doctoral training with David Corey in neurobiology and a fellowship in clinical molecular genetics at Harvard Medical School. 

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[ Video ]


Wednesday, March 30, 6-7:00pm
Synthetic Biology: Redesigning Life
Jim Collins

Description: Synthetic biology is bringing together engineers, physicists, and biologists to construct biological circuits out of proteins, genes, and other bits of DNA, and to use these circuits to rewire and reprogram organisms. These re-engineered organisms are going to change our lives in the coming years, leading to cheaper drugs, rapid diagnostic tests, and synthetic probiotics to treat infections and a range of complex diseases. In this talk, we highlight recent efforts to create synthetic gene networks and programmable cells and discuss a variety of synthetic biology applications in biotechnology and biomedicine.

Jim Collins
Jim Collins is the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT, as well as a member of the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences & Technology faculty. He is also a core founding faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and an Institute member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

His research group works in synthetic biology and systems biology, with a particular focus on using network biology approaches to study antibiotic action, bacterial defense mechanisms, and the emergence of resistance. Collins's patented technologies have been licensed by over 25 biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies, and he has helped to launch a number of companies, including Sample6 Technologies, Synlogic, and EnBiotix.

He has received numerous awards and honors, including a Rhodes Scholarship, a MacArthur "Genius" Award, an NIH Director's Pioneer Award, and several teaching awards. Collins is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Medicine,as well as the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors.

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