2013 AAA Young Investigator Symposium

Below you will find information on our Young Investigator Symposium. To view the details for each listing, please click on the plus (+) sign.

R.R. Bensley Award Lecture in Cell Biology

2013 Award Winner: Thomas Maresca (Univ. of Massachusetts at Amherst)

Stepping into a Tense Relationship: Mechano-molecular Regulation of Cell Division by Force

Sunday, April 21, 2013 - 4:30am - 5:00am



To ensure that replicated DNA is equally segregated during cell division, the chromosomes that comprise the genome must interact with and become aligned by the spindle apparatus.  An essential protein complex called the kinetochore connects chromosomes to the dynamic microtubule filaments that make up the spindle.  Despite the importance of getting it right, cell division is error prone and dividing cells must constantly detect and correct erroneous interactions between kinetochores and spindle microtubules in order to avoid chromosome segregation errors.  The goal of my research program is to define and characterize fundamental cell division mechanisms. Towards achieving this goal, we are examining a central yet poorly understood contributor to the process of cell division - force.  During cell division forces are generated by microtubule dynamics and molecular motors.  Remarkably, the forces produced by motors and microtubules stabilize proper interactions between chromosomes and the spindle through mechanisms that are unclear.  We combine high-resolution microscopy with molecular, cellular and biochemical approaches to characterize how mitotic forces are generated and how the application of force to kinetochores contributes to accurate cell division.


C.J. Herrick Award Lecture in Neuroanatomy

2013 Award Winner: Thomas Jhou (Medical Univ. of South Carolina)

Dopamine and Anti-dopamine Systems: Polar Opposite Roles in Behavior

Sunday, April 21, 2013 - 5:00am - 5:30am



For over 50 years, neuroscientists have studied the multifaceted roles of the neurotransmitter dopamine in behavior, emotion, and cognition.  Recent findings regarding the rostromedial tegmental nucleus (RMTg), habenula, and other closely related structures suggests that equally powerful “anti-dopamine” systems exist in the brain whose functions are still being elucidated.  Emerging evidence suggests that the RMTg and its efferents may strongly modulate dopamine systems during aversive learning, motor inhibition, and a wide range of other cognitive and behavioral processes.  Many of its functions appear opposite to those of dopamine, with possible implications for understanding disorders such as depression, addiction, mania, and bipolar disorder.


H.W. Mossman Award Lecture in Developmental Biology

2013 Award Winner: Joanna Wysocka (Stanford Univ. School of Medicine)

Enhancer-mediated Regulation of Developmental Gene Expression

Sunday, April 21, 2013 - 5:30am - 6:00am


Cell-fate transitions involve the integration of genomic information encoded by regulatory elements, such as enhancers, with cellular and signaling environments. Identification of genomic sequences that control human embryonic development represents a formidable challenge, as they are embedded within a vast non-coding genomic space. However, enhancers share certain chromatin features, including presence of specific histone modifications and general coactivators. We have recently shown that unique chromatin signatures can be used to annotate two functionally distinct classes of enhancer elements in human embryonic stem cells (hESC): active and poised. We have now extended enhancer profiling to other embryonic cell types of unusual developmental plasticity, such as the neural crest. I will discuss our new findings on the dynamics of enhancer regulation during development and on the interplay between transcription factors and chromatin modifiers involved in that process.


Morphological Sciences Award Lecture

2013 Award Winner: Tamara Franz-Odendaal (Mount Saint Vincent Univ.)

Unraveling the Complexity of the Skull: An Evo-Devo Approach

Sunday, April 21, 2013 - 6:00am - 6:30am


The complexity of the vertebrate skull has intrigued scientists for decades. This complexity largely exists because the bones and cartilages that make up the skull have different embryonic origins, develop at different times and ossify via different mechanisms.  Understanding both the evolutionary history of skeletal elements and their developmental pathways can provide novel insight into this complexity.  I will discuss our work on the skeletal elements associated with the eye, specifically the sclerotic ring.  The sclerotic ring is composed of neural crest derived intramembranous bones and is situated in the eyeball (sclera) of many vertebrates, including reptiles and bony fish.  Our comparative approach in different organisms and our phylogenetic analyses has enabled us to understand the diversity of this part of the skull.  Manipulating the embryo results in multiple effects and provides important clues to underlying the mechanisms governing craniofacial plasticity and constraint at the cellular and tissue level.  Since evolutionary and developmental trajectories operate at very different temporal scales, understanding both will provide a more comprehensive view of the vertebrate skull and its complexities.


American Association of Anatomists

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