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2015 Celsius–Linnaeus Lectures on earthquake prediction and genetic scissors

24 February 2015

This year’s Celsius–Linnaeus lecturers are Professor Dan McKenzie from Cambridge University and Professor Jennifer A. Doudna from the University of California. On 26 February they will give lectures on earthquakes and how we can predict them, and on ‘genetic scissors’ developed only a few years ago based on the immune system of bacteria.

Every February, the Faculty for Science and Technology holds two lectures in honour of Anders Celsius and Carl Linnaeus. The selected scientists are world leaders in their fields whose research is currently ‘hot’ and of general interest.

Professor Dan McKenzie will explain the mechanisms behind some of the latest major earthquakes and talk about what we can expect going forward. Earthquakes are tsunamis that are caused by movements of the earth’s crust. The crust consists of a number of big plates that floats around, collide, emerge, and are destroyed. This has been known since the 1960s, but it is only recently that we have been able to measure the movements of the plates accurately. Thus we now better understand what has happened and can start making predictions of what will happen.

Professor Jennifer Doudna will present the ‘genetic scissors’ named CRISPR-Cas9 and how they can be used to cut and paste in genetic code. Eventually, this could be used as a way of treating illnesses that previously have been untreatable. She will talk about the history behind the system and give examples of uses in biotechnology in general and in treating humans in particular. Even bacteria can become ill. To defend themselves they have developed a mechanism for cutting the genetic code of the attackers, their DNA. This system has been developed into the aforementioned ‘genetic scissors’ that can make very precise cuts in the DNA of all living creatures fairly easily, with the help of a special protein. This can be used to destroy bad DNA, insert new DNA where needed or mark certain DNA sequences.

Common for both lectures is that they present basic, curiosity-driven research: How does the earth’s surface move and how do bacteria defend themselves against viruses? At the same time, this research can have very important consequences for society. The geologic research can lead to the use of geothermic energy, to location of oil and the consequences of its extraction, and understanding how the Artic will develop. The genetic research can lead to the understanding and cure of diseases, understanding and solutions for bacterial resistance. The difficulties of taking the step from research to application are also important to understand. The symposium will cover all these practical consequences of the basic research by the two lecturers.

Thursday 26 February the traditional Celsius-Linnaeus lectures will take place at Uppsala Biomedical Centre. On Friday 27 February there is a Celsius-Linnaeus Symposium on ‘the Importance of Basic Research to Society’.

The lectures of 26 February will be broadcast online and will also be available to watch after the event.


Programme 26 February
Location: The Svedberg Hall, Uppsala Biomedical Centre, Husargatan 3, Uppsala

14:00 Celsius Lecture
Plate Tectonics, Earthquakes and Seismic Risk
Dan McKenzie, Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, UK

15:30 Linnaeus Lecture
CRISPR-Cas Genome Surveillance: From Basic Biology to Transformative Technology
Jennifer A. Doudna, Professor of Chemistry and of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, USA


Programme 27 February
Importance of Basic Research to Society – some examples
Location: Siegbahn Hall, Ångström Laboratory
Time: 09:30–15:00
A multi-disciplinary Celsius-Linnaeus symposium featuring, in addition to the Celsius-Linnaeus lecturers, prominent scientists from Uppsala University presenting varying perspectives on the theme, ‘Importance of Basic Research for Society – some examples’.


For further information, please contact Professor Gunilla Borgefors, chairman of the Celsius-Linnaeus committee, the Department of Information Technology, Division of Visual Information and Interaction, Uppsala University.

More about the Celsius–Linnaeus Lectures.

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