Evolution is on tap for Quack Chats on Nov. 16 in the EMU

November 8, 2016 - 1:24pm

Hear how a single-celled organism transitioned to complex, multicellular life forms from the researcher who helped make the discovery at this month’s UO pub talk and join a discussion on how the discovery could be important in the world of medicine.

Ken Prehoda, a UO biochemist, is the featured speaker for the 6 p.m. talk Nov. 16 at Falling Sky Pub and Pizzeria in the Erb Memorial Union.

The event — part of a new University Communications effort called Quack Chats that gets local residents and UO researchers together — is free and open to the public. Buy some refreshments and settle into a seat for a discussion about Prehoda's research and why scientists study evolution.

Prehoda, who is on the steering committee for the newly announced Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, will explain how he and his collaborators steered a protein back in time. He’ll also discuss how a random mutation in a mundane metabolic enzyme set off a molecular reaction that changed life on Earth.

"Humans and other animals are distinguished from other life on earth by our complex tissues and organs that are made of many different cell types, yet we all share a common ancestor from some 600 million years ago that was a single-cell life form," Prehoda said. "The transformation from a single-cell lifestyle to the organized multicellularity found in animals may be one of the most important events in history, but how did it happen? What does it tell us?"

Prehoda does basic research that delves into how life works. It's the type of science that could be transformed into real-world applications, which is a goal of the coming Knight Campus.

When cancer strikes, Prehoda said, cells affected by random mutations revert back to a unicellular state and no longer work with other cells in our bodies. Could such evolutionary studies contribute to futuristic medical treatments?

Prehoda also will discuss some of the myths about evolution. Questions and discussions initiated by the audience will be welcomed.

Quack Chats soon will have a web-based events calendar to let area residents know about opportunities to engage with UO faculty members both on and off campus.

Run with a Researcher, held on the first Saturday of each month, is part of Quack Chats. Meet up at 9 a.m., Dec. 3, at the Erb Memorial Union's "O" desk for the next run. A UO researcher also will be available to accompany people who prefer to walk and chat.

No sign-up is required. Participants will have options to either run or walk with a UO researcher.

Coming Wednesday, Dec., 7, the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History will hold its monthly Ideas on Tap at Marketplace@Sprout!, 418 A St., in Springfield. Beginning at 6 p.m., Oregon State University economist and Beervana podcaster Patrick Emerson will speak on "Boom or Bubble? The Future of Craft Beer."

The same evening and at the same time, UO geologist Becky Dorsey will talk and field questions about her lab's research along the scenic Colorado River. Join her on campus at 6 p.m. at Falling Sky Pub and Pizzeria in the Erb Memorial Union. Her group's newest findings redefine the thinking about the lay of the land in the region where the Colorado River met the Gulf of California long ago.

—By Jim Barlow, University Communications