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Distinguished Lecturer – Erich Jarvis

October 19, 2020

Erich Jarvis
Professor, The Rockefeller University
Jarvis Lab

This series of talks is co-sponsored with the College of Natural Sciences Distinguished Scientist and Engineer Series and the Fine Arts Center.

MONDAY, Oct 19, 2020,

10:00 – 11:00 am
“Surviving and thriving as an under-represented minority scientist in a majority environment” 

Register here.

“I grew up as a person of color in the United States of America, faced with challenges that many had as members of an underrepresented minority group. Here, I will present some of the lessons I have learned that have allowed me to survive as an underrepresented minority ­scientist in a majority environment. I believe the science we conduct and discoveries we make are influenced by our cultural experience, whether they be positive, negative, or neutral. This has happened to me, and the people I have worked with. I will present examples from molecular biology, to neuroscience, to genomics. I believe that the negative aspects of these influences will be helped by genomics showing how related and integrated all humans are to each other.”
Associated reading: Jarvis, E.D. Surviving as an underrepresented minority scientist in a majority environment. Molecular Biology of Cell. (2015) Vol 26, 3679-3891.

4:00 – 5:00 pm
“Evolution of brain pathways for vocal learning and speech”

Register here.

Vocal learning is the most critical behavior for spoken language. It has evolved multiple independent times among mammals and birds. Remarkably, although all vocal learning species are distantly related and have closer relatives that are non-vocal learners, humans and the vocal learning birds have evolved convergent forebrain pathways that control vocal learning. We used comparative genomics and transcriptomics to discover convergent changes in multiple genes in song learning pathways in birds and speech pathways in humans. The vocal learning brain pathways have convergent specialized changes in genes that control connectivity, neuroprotection, and synaptic plasticity. We have found that specialized regulation is associated with convergent accelerated regions in the genomes of these species, which in turn have differential epigenetic availability in enhancer regions of some of the genes, inside the neurons of the vocal learning brain regions. To explain these findings, we propose a motor theory of vocal learning origin, in which brain pathways for vocal learning evolved by brain pathway duplication of an ancestral motor learning pathway, using mostly the same genes, but with some divergences in gene regulation via sequence and epigenetic changes, that control divergent connectivity and other functions.

7:00 pm
Bodies at Risk: Larissa FastHorse and Erich Jarvis

Bodies at Risk is a series of creative conversations between BIPOC performing artists, educators, activists, and other experts working to shift American society’s understanding of the racialized body and social justice. These events aim to engage, move, and surprise audiences through artistic demonstration and intellectual curiosity. Artist and audience chat included in each event.

For more information and to register for this special event go the FAC website

Erich Jarvis was a high school student at the School of the Performing Arts in New York City. Upon graduation, he had to choose between continuing as a dancer and becoming a scientist. He chose science. Jarvis’ current work involves the study of neural and genetic mechanisms of spoken language using song-learning birds and other animals. Larissa FastHorse is a Sicangu Lakota playwright, director, and choreographer whose work radically engages Indigenous collaborators to explore onstage representations of the joys and challenges that the Native community faces.



October 19, 2020
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Paul Katz