Gordon Research Conferences

Conference Evaluation Committee

The GRC Conference Evaluation Committee (CEC) studies, reviews and makes recommendations to the Board of Trustees on the continuation and approval of Conferences each year. Nine members of the Committee are elected by the Council for terms of six years each upon nomination by the Board of Trustees, three members to be elected every other year. In addition, all members of the Board of Trustees are ex officio members of the Conference Evaluation Committee.

Member List:

Richard Amasino
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Term: November 2012-2018

Richard M. Amasino is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and holds a Hilldale Professorship. He received a Ph.D. in Biology from Indiana University and did postdoctoral work in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Washington. His research investigates how plants perceive seasonal cues such as changes in day-length and temperature, and how plants use such cues to determine when to initiate flowering. In particular, he and his group have advanced the understanding of the molecular basis of vernalization - the epigenetic process by which plants become competent to flower in the spring as a result of exposure to the prolonged cold of winter. In addition, he directs programs that have the goal of enhancing K-12 science education in genetics and in global energy issues. He has served on many Editorial Boards including Science, Plant Physiology and Plant, Cell and Environment, and has served as President of the American Society of Plant Biologists. He has attended many Gordon Research Conferences and has served as Chair of the Plant Molecular Biology GRC. Amasino states, "The Gordon Conferences provide a unique and intimate scientific meeting experience in which scientists at different career stages and from different disciplines effectively interact, and this often results in new research directions as well as challenges to existing research paradigms. For the Gordon Conferences to maintain their critical role in the advancement of science, there needs to be flexibility to respond to the changing scientific landscape".

Frances H. Arnold
California Institute of Technology

Term: November 2012-2018

Frances Arnold is the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology. After completing her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley in 1985, she carried out postdoctoral work in Biophysical Chemistry in the laboratory of Dr. Ignacio Tinoco. She joined the Caltech faculty in 1987. Her research is in protein design and engineering and she is best known for her pioneering work in directed enzyme evolution. Arnold’s laboratory has pursued a fundamental understanding of protein evolution as well as applications that include therapeutic proteins, sensors for brain imaging, biocatalysts for chemical synthesis, and catalysts for alternative energy. She has more than 200 refereed publications and more than 30 issued patents. Frances serves on the Advisory Board for the Packard Foundation’s Fellows Program and the President’s Advisory Council for the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Her many awards and honors include GRC Cruickshank Lecturer in 2005. Arnold is the only woman to have been elected to all three US National Academies: the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Science. She is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and received the 2011 Charles Stark Draper Prize of the National Academy of Engineering. Arnold states, "The GRC plays such an important role in introducing young people to their scientific communities, maintaining vibrant discussions in established fields, and in the scientific development of new fields. Future conferences should recognize these critical roles and support global participation".

Jeremy W. Thorner
University of California, Berkeley

Term: November 2012-2018

Jeremy W. Thorner is a Professor in the Division of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology, Molecular and Cell Biology Department, University of California, Berkeley, and was William V. Power Chair in Biology (1991-2011). Born, raised and educated in public schools in Quincy, MA, he received his A.B. magna cum laude in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard College (1967) and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry under Henry Paulus from Harvard University (1972). He was then a Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Fellow under I. Robert Lehman in the Biochemistry Department at Stanford University School of Medicine. Since 1974, his research focus at Berkeley has been to use budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) as a model eukaryote in which to elucidate fundamental molecular mechanisms in the organization, specificity, fidelity, and regulation of signal transduction, especially of GPCR-initiated signaling and MAPK cascades, and the biochemical basis of the evoked cellular responses, especially morphological change. Honors received for his research and teaching include a ten-year MERIT Award from NIGMS and a Dean's Award for Distinguished Research Mentoring of Undergraduates in the College of Letters and Science at Berkeley (2004), election as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1998), Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (1998), Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2007), and Member of the National Academy of Sciences (2015). He has attended many GRCs, from Biological Regulatory Mechanisms to Fungal Cytoskeleton to Signaling in the Nucleus, and was Chair of the 1999 GRC on Second Messengers and Protein Phosphorylation. Thorner states, "The GRC format has been so successful that it has bred many imitators; so, our challenge is to foster meetings on subjects at the cutting edge of their respective disciplines and to make them attractive, inclusive and comfortable enough to draw the participation of the best minds in those fields world-wide".

Debra Dunaway-Mariano
University of New Mexico

Term: November 2014-2020

Debra Dunaway-Mariano is Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at the University of New Mexico. Dunaway-Mariano received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University. After completing her postdoctoral training in Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Dunaway-Mariano joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Maryland (UM). Following eighteen years of researching and teaching at UM, Dunaway-Mariano moved her program to the University of New Mexico. Dunaway-Mariano’s research is aimed at understanding enzyme catalysis. At UM she concentrated on defining the mechanisms by which enzymes catalyze the chemical steps of their physiological reactions. The studies of how enzymes select for their physiological substrate, led Dunaway-Mariano to her current passion, which is the study of pathways of evolution followed by enzymes; including determining what roles enzyme structure, stability and cellular environment play in the ease of sculpting a new enzyme function in a progenitor. Dunaway-Mariano identifies the Gordon Conference on Enzymes, Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways as her "must-go-to conference". Dunaway-Mariano states, "Reflecting back on the three decades of regular attendance at this conference, there has been a steady decrease in real discussions of ongoing work between PIs (having overlapping or complementary research interests). What brought about this trend? More generally, can/should this trend be reversed, and can the unique atmosphere and experience that the GRC offered, and that attracted the PIs in a common field to the same conference year after year, be reinstated?"

Mark H. Ginsberg
University of California, San Diego

Term: November 2014-2020

Mark H. Ginsberg is Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Director of the Physician Scientist Training Pathway at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). He received his M.D. Summa Cum Laude from the State University of New York, after which he did post-doctoral training at the University of Chicago and the Scripps Research Institute. He joined the faculty of the Scripps Research Institute, rising to the level of Professor of Cell Biology before relocating to UCSD in 2004. His research interests focus on understanding the molecular basis of regulation of cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesion. He has published over 300 peer-reviewed papers and trained more than 80 postdoctoral fellows. Ginsberg is a member of the American Society of Cell Biology, American Society of Clinical Investigation, American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Association of American Physicians. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has participated in over 50 Gordon Research Conferences, and chaired the Vascular Biology and Fibronectin, Integrins, and Related Molecules GRCs. He has delivered keynote addresses at the Basement Membrane, Signaling by Adhesion Receptors, and Cell Biology of Megakaryocyte and Platelets GRCs. Ginsberg states, "GRC has robust mechanisms for conference topic and site selection and maintains its unique character by limiting conference size, maintaining informality, and prohibiting citation of presented work. The most valuable feature of the conferences is the enabling of early career scientists to interact with stars in the field, to hear informal discussions both in and out of the meeting, and to meet their peers; sometimes forming lifelong associations. The current fees are making it difficult for these people to attend; I would like to encourage attendance by graduate students and post-docs, perhaps through a differential fee structure".

Karen M. Lyons
University of California, Los Angeles

Term: November 2014-2020

Karen Lyons is Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her A.B. at U.C. Berkeley and her PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the laboratory of Nobel laureate Oliver Smithies. She completed postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Brigid Hogan at Vanderbilt University. Research in her laboratory has focused on the roles of transforming growth factor β (TGFβ), and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) pathways in cartilage and bone formation and maintenance. A second focus is on elucidating the functions of the CCN family of matricellular proteins in cartilage and bone formation and maintenance. The CCN family includes proteins such as connective tissue growth factor and Cyr61, which function through multiple mechanisms, including engagement of integrins and interactions with secreted growth factors. The overall goal is to use insights from developmental biology to identify therapeutic approaches for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other prevalent conditions for which treatment options are currently very limited. Lyons has served as a member of the NIH Skeletal Biology: Disease and Development (SBDD) and Skeletal Biology: Structure and Regeneration (SBSR) study sections. She is a former chair of the grant review panel of the Scleroderma Foundation. She has participated in more than 20 Gordon Research Conferences, and chaired the Cartilage Biology and Pathology GRC in 2011. Lyons states, "The GRCs are vital as avenues for the free exchange of new research directions and ideas. They provide a common ground for established scientists and young investigators to interact at a level that is not possible at larger meetings. These outstanding aspects of GRCs should continue to be highlighted. At the same time, it is important for the organization to recognize that securing funding to support and attend these meetings is an increasing challenge for many scientists worldwide. The organization should explore mechanisms that increase the ability of conference chairs to raise funds that would enable global participation by both established and young investigators in these meetings."

Gabriel Aeppli
Paul Scherrer Institute

Term: November 2016-2022

Gabriel Aeppli is professor of physics at ETH Zürich and EPF Lausanne, and head of the Photon Science division of the Paul Scherrer Institute. All of his degrees are from MIT and include a BSc in Mathematics and Electrical Engineering, and MSc and PhD in Electrical Engineering. He started his career as a work-study student at IBM and after his PhD moved to Bell Laboratories and then NEC, and worked on problems ranging from liquid crystals to magnetic data storage. He was subsequently co-founder and director of the London Centre for Nanotechnology and Quain Professor at University College London. Aeppli also cofounded the Bio-Nano Consulting Company, of which he remains a non-executive director. He is a frequent advisor to numerous entities worldwide (including China, Australia, Europe and the US) engaged in the funding, evaluation and management of science and technology. Honors include the Mott Prize of the Institute of Physics (London), the Oliver Buckley prize of the American Physical Society, the Néel Medal/International Magnetism Prize of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the US National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society (London). Aeppli’s scientific research is focused on the applications of nanotechnology and photon science to biomedicine and quantum information processing. Projects include the development of optical and microwave tools for medical diagnostics and pharmacology, where the topics are new drug-target and antibody-antigen binding assays. Photons are also at the heart of efforts to control and read out quantum states in solids, including especially silicon, for which coherent, tunable pulses of THz radiation are exploited. A related topic is adiabatic quantum computing, where calculations are performed by mapping problems onto networks of qubits, and then relaxing the networks via quantum mechanics. Aeppli states: "GRC conferences should focus on the interfaces between disciplines where growth is generally likely to occur, as well as informal interactions between scientists of different generations and world regions, which will enable the collaborations needed to take advantage of current research opportunities".

Paul M. Chaikin
New York University

Term: November 2016-2018

Paul Chaikin is Julius Silver Professor of Physics at NYU and Henry DeWolf Smyth Professor of Physics, Emeritus, Princeton. Chaikin graduated from Stuyvesant HS, Caltech, Univ. of Penna, is a member of the National Academy of Science, fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Physical Society and Institute of Physics (London), has held professorships at UCLA, Univ. of Penna., Princeton, and NYU and visiting Professorships at Univ. Paris-Sud, Orsay and Institute Curie. Chaikin has worked on problems in hard and soft condensed matter physics, theory and experiment. His present research involves self-assembly, photonics, active matter, non-equilibrium dynamics, order and correlations in non crystalline materials, and artificial self-replicating systems. Chaikin states, "Gordon Research Conferences have been formative in my career since graduate school days. They have been invaluable in acquiring and disseminating ideas, making new friends and collaborations, in changing fields and in nucleating new fields. The future holds the opportunity of fostering promising new research directions, promoting interactions between different communities and technologies, proactively seeking out rapidly developing areas and introducing young researchers to new fields via associated tutorial sessions. Including participants from related fields and diverse countries and ages should be encouraged by wise use of funds and wise advice as to their procurement".

Cynthia Czajkowski
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Term: November 2016-2022

Cynthia Czajkowski is Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Medicine and Public Health. Born and raised in New York City, she received her B.A. from New York University and her Ph.D. from the State University of New York - Downstate Medical Center. After completing postdoctoral training at Columbia University, she joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Neuroscience. Her laboratory uses an array of approaches including voltage and patch-clamping recording, voltage-clamp fluorimetry and site-directed spin labeling electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy to elucidate structural mechanisms underlying how neurotransmitters activate pentameric ligand-gated ion channels and how allosteric drugs modulate their activity. Her group has advanced our understanding of how a receptor binds its ligand: the first step in chemical signal transduction. She is on the editorial boards of the Journal of General Physiology and Biophysical Journal and has served as an associate editor for the Journal of Neuroscience. She has served on many grant review panels for NIH, MRC and the Wellcome Trust including reviews of NIH R13 conference grants. She has spoken at and attended numerous GRCs including Ion Channels, Inhibition in the Brain and Ligand Recognition and Molecular Gating. Czajkowski states: "GRC participation as an early career scientist provided me with lifelong research mentors and colleagues. As an established scientist, GRCs reinvigorate my science and inspire my mentees. GRC's small size, intimate locations, quality presentations on cutting-edge science and numerous opportunities for informal interactions/discussions between leading scientists, early career scientists and trainees are what make them the must-go-to conferences in many fields. Future conferences should maintain these critical qualities, be flexible to the changing scientific landscape and strive for more participation by women, minorities and third world scientists".

Sabeeha Merchant
University of California, Los Angeles

Term: November 2016-2022

Sabeeha Merchant is Director of the Institute for Genomics and Proteomics and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA. Merchant earned degrees in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and undertook post-doctoral studies at Harvard University prior to her professorial appointment. Merchant’s discoveries have influenced scholarly thought in diverse disciplines, from biogeochemistry and biological oceanography to photosynthesis, plant biochemistry and human nutrition. Merchant formulated the concepts of elemental sparing and recycling, which operate to sustain life in situations of deficiency by prioritized distribution of the limiting resource. Her concept of “reduce and re-use” has now been demonstrated across the kingdom of life. Merchant is recognized separately in plant biology for discoveries relating to chloroplast biogenesis and contributions to the genomics of algae. Merchant has served on advisory boards in government, academia and industry and is presently Editor of the Annual Reviews of Plant Biology and Editor-in-Chief of The Plant Cell. Her accomplishments are recognized by a Guggenheim fellowship, major awards from the American Society of Plant Biologists, the National Academy of Sciences and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and election to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Merchant has attended more than 30 GRCs, presented at 10 different ones, and has chaired conferences in Photosynthesis and the Cell Biology of Metals. Merchant states, "She enjoys the camaraderie and spirit at the GRCs, especially the egalitarian interactions with an international community, from student researchers to distinguished scientists, which is enabled and cemented by the structure of the program. Merchant wants to maintain this spirit through increased international participation - attendees, speakers/chairs, sites - to reflect today’s more global scientific community. She views the introduction and sunset of conference topics as key to the continued vitality, high visibility and professional stature of the GRCs".

Chad A. Mirkin
Northwestern University

Term: November 2016-2020

Chad A. Mirkin is the Director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology and the George B. Rathmann Prof. of Chemistry, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering, and Medicine at Northwestern University. He is a chemist and a world renowned nanoscience expert, who is known for his discovery and development of spherical nucleic acids (SNAs) and SNA-based biodetection and therapeutic schemes, Dip-Pen Nanolithography (DPN) and related cantilever-free nanopatterning methodologies, On-Wire Lithography (OWL), and Co-Axial Lithography (COAL), and contributions to supramolecular chemistry and nanoparticle synthesis. He is the author of over 650 manuscripts and over 1,000 patent applications worldwide (285 issued), and he is the founder of multiple companies, including Nanosphere, AuraSense, and Exicure, which are commercializing nanotechnology applications in the life sciences and biomedicine. Mirkin has been recognized with over 100 national and international awards, including the 2016 Dan David Prize and the inaugural Sackler Prize in Convergence Research. He is a Member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (Obama Administration), and one of very few scientists to be elected to all three US National Academies. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors, among others. Mirkin has served on the Editorial Advisory Boards of over 20 scholarly journals, including JACS, Angew. Chem. , and Adv. Mater. At present, he is an Associate Editor of JACS, and he is the founding editor of the journal Small. Mirkin holds a B.S. from Dickinson College (1986, elected into Phi Beta Kappa) and a Ph.D. from the Penn. State Univ. (1989). He was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the MIT prior to becoming a professor at Northwestern Univ. in 1991. Mirkin states, "GRC should continue to target the cutting edge advances in science, incorporate the excitement and support of the new generation of young scientists, and deeply explore the boundaries of disciplines".

Denise Montell
University of California, Santa Barbara

Term: November 2016-2022

Denise Montell is the Robert and Patricia Duggan Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She earned her B.A. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from UCSD and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Stanford. She pursued postdoctoral studies at the Carnegie Institution and was promoted to a junior faculty position after two years. In 1992 she joined the Johns Hopkins Medical School where she rose from Assistant to Associate to Full Professor. She directed the graduate program in Biological Chemistry for 13 years and served as the founding director of the Center for Cell Dynamics. After 25 years away, she returned to California in 2013. Her research interests focus on elucidating how cells build and maintain adult tissues. This includes studies of morphogenesis, especially collective cell migration, cell fate, pattern formation, stem cell/niche interactions and the daily decisions cells make to live or die. In addition to her extensive bibliography, Montell has served on the advisory councils of the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences and the American Cancer Society. She was elected President of the Drosophila Board in 2010. She currently serves on the board of the American Society for Cell Biology. She has participated in a dozen Gordon Research Conferences and chaired the Directed Cell Migration GRC in 2017. Montell states, "The GRCs and GRSs hold a unique place in modern science. The opportunities for both formal and informal interactions in a cloistered environment create truly formative experiences. I vividly recall sitting next to a renowned scientist at my first GRC, when I was a senior PhD student, and being awed that he was interested in a scientific exchange. Going forward, preserving the essence of the GRC/GRS experience while incorporating new ideas so as to maintain a sense of excitement are key goals".

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