This Pan-American Advanced Studies Institutes (PASI) award, jointly supported by the NSF and the Department of Energy (DOE), will take place during April 16-25, 2012 at the Universidad de la República and the Institut Pasteur in Montevideo, Uruguay. Organized by Dr. Michael S. Levine and Dr. Ida Chow from the Society for Developmental Biology (SDB) in Bethesda, Maryland, the institute will focus on a systems biology approach to understand the mechanisms of organismal evolution. This PASI is part of a collaborative program between the SDB and the Latin American Society for Developmental Biology (LASDB) to train junior scientists on integrating bioinformatics and systems biology approaches with traditional experimentation to further our understanding of evolutionary processes.

The increased sophistication of computational methods, whole-genome analysis, and high-resolution imaging technologies provide concrete opportunities for cross-disciplinary approaches to elucidate the mechanisms of Darwinian evolution. Using these cutting edge tools and innovative approaches on different model and indigenous organisms, this PASI will contribute to the training of future scientists in the Americas. Participants with different backgrounds?from computer and mathematical sciences to biology and chemistry?who are interested in evolutionary biology will be considered and the most qualified will be selected, with care to maintain diversity on training, research themes and background within the student population. Participants will stay on (April 26-29) to attend the 6th International Meeting of the LASDB, where they will be able to present their own work to a larger international audience.

Project Report

A Systems Biology Approach to Understanding Mechanisms of Organismal Evolution The Society for Developmental Biology (SDB) is the largest society devoted to this field, with over 2200 members worldwide, including graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and established investigators, many of whom hold NSF grants. SDB has been co-organizing short courses with the Latin American Society for Developmental Biology (LASDB) in South America since 2005, satellite to LASDB’s international meetings. Each of these short courses was held in a different country and institution, and it covered a specific theme with expert co-organizers. Due to the uniqueness of each short course theme and the location it was held, the number of applications varied from two to four times the number of accepted students (30). The 2012 PASI short course A Systems Biology Approach to Understanding Mechanisms of Organismal Evolution was held at the Universidad de la República and Institut Pasteur de Montevideo, Uruguay, April 16-25, 2012. From a pool of 82 applicants 15 students were selected from USA and 15 from Latin American countries, all receiving full financial support, largely from the Pan American Advanced Studies Institute (PASI) Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF). This support was essential to allow students with all levels of financial needs and from different types of institutions to apply to the program, as selection was based on academic qualifications, interests and potential for using what is learned in the course in the students’ future careers. We also succeeded in maintaining diversity on training, research themes and background within the student population. The instructors were selected for their research excellence, dynamic teaching approach and willingness to continue collaborative efforts after the course, with students and other instructors. Intellectual Merit The increased sophistication of computational methods, whole-genome analysis, and high-resolution imaging technologies provide concrete opportunities for cross-disciplinary approaches to elucidate the mechanisms of Darwinian evolution. Comparative genome analysis, along with an understanding of the impact of environmental influences and population dynamics, will spur new insights into the mechanisms underlying evolutionary novelty and diversity. However, there is an urgent need to train investigators in the synthesis of these technologies to fully benefit from their use. This innovative and very timely course, currently not available elsewhere, aimed in preparing future scientists in the Americas to use these cutting edge tools to investigate evolutionary processes. Broader Impact In addition to learning the subject matters delivered in a supportive environment of the highest scientific quality, the future independent scientists and educators in biology and related areas had the unique opportunity to acquire first-hand experience on different cultures from daily interaction with their classmates. Throughout the course the students (postdoctoral fellows and graduate students) and instructors had plenty opportunity for mentoring, discussion about role of science in today’s society. The lectures were open to the campus population and interested citizens in Montevideo, making this an excellent opportunity for outreach to the non-specialists on evolution and science. About 50-100 professors, students and staff from the local institutions attended the lectures as this was a unique opportunity for them to listen to prominent scientists in the special areas covered in the talks. From the post course survey this short course achieved its goals to: - Train enthusiastic young investigators in the Americas to use innovative approaches and different model and indigenous organisms to broaden their knowledge base of evolutionary processes. - Foster a culture of borderless collaboration among senior and junior investigators in mutually supportive alliances for the advancement of our understanding of evolutionary mechanisms. - Provide an open forum for discussion of evolutionary biology issues topical to science policy and education in the participating countries and the Western Hemisphere.

Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-10-01
Budget End
2012-12-31
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$100,000
Indirect Cost
Name
Society for Developmental Biol
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
Bethesda
State
MD
Country
United States
Zip Code
20814