Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Center for Genetic Medicine

Silverstein Lecture Video Archive

John Hawks, PhD

John Hawks, PhD
March 9, 2017

Almost Human: How New Discoveries from South Africa Change Our View of Human Origins

Human evolution was once thought to be a straight march of progress, but both ancient DNA and new fossil discoveries are showing how unexpected populations have contributed to our origins in surprising ways. The recent discovery of a huge trove of fossil bones in the Rising Star cave system of South Africa has identified a new ancestral form of human, Homo naledi, that surprised scientists around the world in many ways. The ongoing research on these ancient creatures has shown that they may have deliberately placed their dead inside a deep, remote chamber, casting new light on the origins of human sociality. John Hawks, PhD, Vilas-Borghesi Distinguished Achievement Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, discusses new discoveries made by the scientific team that help to place Homo naledi in an unexpected place in our origins.

Katherine A. High, MD
April 9, 2015

Genetic Therapies for Genetic Disease: Clinical Successes and New Technologies Spark a Renaissance

Gene therapy – changing the DNA of a patient to permanently cure a disease – has been dreamed of since DNA was discovered. However, realizing this possibility has been a long road punctuated with high profile setbacks. Nonetheless, with recent clinical successes and the advent of powerful new technologies, gene therapy is poised for explosive advancement. Katherine A. High, MD, President and Chief Scientific Officer, Spark Therapeutics; and Member, Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, discusses the evolution of gene therapy in both the academic and commercial spheres, innovative alternatives to the traditional models for bringing research out of not-for-profit labs and into commercial production, and how exciting new genome editing and stem cell technologies are impacting the future of gene therapy.



Susan Lynch, PhD
November 5, 2014

The Microbiome: A New Frontier In Human Health

Traditionally the medical community has viewed microbes as the cause of illness and sought to eliminate them. This notion, however, is shifting as emerging research in the field of human microbiome research has revealed the presence of diverse microorganisms living on and within the human body. These complex microbial communities develop during infancy and produce a range of essential functions necessary for maintenance of human health. Susan Lynch, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Director Colitis and Crohn's Disease Microbiome Research Core, Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, discusses the genesis, influences on and effects of the human microbiome, with a particular focus on childhood allergic disease and asthma.

Max S. Wicha, MD

Max S. Wicha, MD
May 21, 2014

Cancer Stem Cells: Are We Targeting the Right Cells?

Why do tumors reemerge in so many cancer patients? Current cancer treatments target the cells that make up the bulk of a tumor, but may miss the cells that cause metastasis and relapse. Recent evidence suggests that many cancers, including breast cancer, are driven by a small subpopulation of “cancer stem cells" that are relatively resistant to radiation and chemotherapy. Max S. Wicha, MD, Distinguished Professor of Oncology and Director, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, discusses the “cancer stem cell” model and its implications to the biology and treatment of tumors, including the early clinical trials of treatments that specifically target cancer stem cells.

Fred W. Turek, PhD

Fred W. Turek, PhD
November 20, 2013

Genetics of Circadian Rhythms and Sleep: Modern Life Battles Ancient Drives and Mother Nature

Circadian (24-hour) rhythms and the sleep-wake cycle have evolved over millions of years to allow animals to function optimally at different times of the day and night. However, with the emergence of a 24-hour lifestyle, modern humans ignore Mother Nature’s instructions and try to override our internal biological clock and sleep drive.  Fred W. Turek, PhD, Charles E. & Emma H. Morrison Professor of Biology, Departments of Neurobiology & Neurology and Director, Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology, Northwestern University, discusses consequences of "fighting the clock", as well as rapid recent advances in understanding the machinery that underlies circadian rhythms and the control of sleep.

Louis J. Guillette Jr. PhD
April 24, 2013

Endocrine Disrupting Contaminants and Reproductive Health: Alligators as Canaries in a Coal Mine

Louis J. Guillette Jr. PhD, Director, Marine Biomedicine & Environmental Sciences Center; Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical University of South Carolina; Centers of Economic Excellence (CoEE) Endowed Chair of Marine Genomics, Hollings Marine Laboratory; and Professor, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, reviews the work done in his laboratory and others examining the effects of various environmental contaminants on the development and functioning of the ovary and reproductive system at the gene to organ level.

Marc S. Williams, MD
January 16, 2013

Personal Genome Sequencing

Marc S. Williams, MD, Director, Geisinger Health System Genomic Medicine Institute, explores the emerging applications, benefits, and potential harms of personal genome sequencing. Dr. Williams also discusses the health information genome sequencing can and cannot uncover; incidental findings, or what happens when sequencing reveals unexpected health concerns; and the potentially dramatic impact of this transformative healthcare technology on the healthcare system.

Thomas R. Insel, MD
March 6, 2012

Rethinking Mental Illness

Dr. Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and former psychiatry professor at Emory University, explores the state of mental disorders in the United States and the role of genetics and other scientific advances in improving diagnosis and treatment methods, revolutionizing the field of psychiatry.

Glen R. Hanson, PhD, DDS
October 26, 2011

Drug Abuse: A Family Matter?

Researchers have determined that the prevalence of inheriting drug abuse ranges from 40 to 60 percent, suggesting that vulnerability to drug addiction is not merely environmental, but also genetic. Dr. Hanson, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah and former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, explores the genetic elements of drug abuse.

Cynthia Kenyon, PhD
May 11, 2011

Genes from the Fountain of Youth

Aging is actively controlled by genes. All animals, and possibly humans too, seem to have the potential to live much longer than they normally do. Cynthia Kenyon, PhD, explores the mechanisms by which the rate of aging can be slowed down. Dr. Kenyon is Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, American Cancer Society Research Professor and Director of the Hillblom Center for the Biology of Aging at the University of California, San Francisco.

Rick Kittles, PhD
December 15, 2010

TEDxNorthwesternU: Identity
The Biology of Race in the Absence of Biological Races

Defining "race" continues to be a nemesis. Knowledge from human genetic research is increasingly challenging the notion that race and biology are inextricably linked, engendering tremendous ramifications for human relations, identity and public health. Rick Kittles, PhD, discusses why using race in biomedical studies is problematic using examples from U.S. groups that transcend "racial" boundaries and bear the burden of health disparities. Dr. Kittles is Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), as well as the Associate Director of the UIC Cancer Center.

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Alice Dreger, PhD
December 15, 2010

TEDxNorthwesternU: Identity
Democracy After Anatomy

As our democracy has matured, it has still retained an ancient reliance on anatomy as deeply meaningful. Yet at the same time, science has been dissolving the bright lines between anatomical categories. So what's next? Alice Dreger, PhD, discusses what could - what will - democracy look like after anatomy? Dr. Dreger is Professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. 

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Jeffrey Friedman, MD, PhD
October 13, 2010

The Biologic Basis of Obesity

Jeffrey Friedman, MD, PhD, Marilyn M. Simpson Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at Rockefeller University, discusses what his team learned about the biological processes that regulate weight and appetite, and how further research could lead to a better understanding of obesity.

Juan Enriquez, PhD
November 4, 2009

From Reading to Writing Life Code

Juan Enriquez, PhD, Managing Director of Excel Venture Management and accomplished writer, businessman, and academic, explores what is possible using genome technology, and how it stands to revolutionize our lives.

George Church, PhD
May 12, 2009

Personal Genomes and Web 2.0 Volunteerism

Do genes help predict disease, help you decide on insurance, or help researchers discover your family traits? Can we work together to make a bio-weather map, tracking pathogens and allergens around the globe? Is a microscopic flake of skin from a crime scene enough to determine a name, a face, and a psychiatric profile? George Church, PhD, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, explores cutting-edge genomics research and technology.

Drew Endy, PhD
October 27, 2008

Building a New Biology

Drew Endy, PhD, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, Stanford University, discusses powerful new technologies that allow life to be built from scratch. New engineered organisms are being constructed to help cure cancer, produce renewable energy, and assemble living computers. But who will control these new biotechnologies?

Sean Morrison, PhD
October 17, 2007

The Science and Politics of Stem Cells, Aging, and Cancer

Sean Morrison, PhD, discusses the basics of stem cells, the roles that stem cells play in cancer and aging, and the ways in which state and federal politics have impacted stem cell research. Dr. Morrison is Associate Professor, University of Michigan Medical School; Director, University of Michigan Center for Stem Cell Biology; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Eugenie C. Scott
April 11, 2006

Robert T. Pennock
April 11, 200

Evolution: The Impact of Social and Political Concerns on Science

Evolution is a complex and controversial subject with profound scientific, educational, and legal implications. Two experts provide different perspectives:

Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, addresses the political and social issues challenging the science classroom.

Robert T. Pennock, Professor of History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science at Michigan State University, defines what science is and is not.

Rick Kittles, PhD 
November 16 & 17, 2004

Race, Genetic Ancestry and Disease

Rick Kittles, PhD, Associate Professor of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics at the Ohio State University Medical Center, explains how DNA is used to trace African American ancestry and how genetics can affect complex traits and diseases such as prostate cancer, personality traits, and skin color.