2019 Symposium on Climate Change


After all, Earth is in Space:
Genetic innovations to address climate change

2019 Symposium of the Consortium for Space Genetics

***Apply for $250 K research award***

Winner will announced at the symposium.
See below to learn more about the competition.


***Click here to register for the symposium***
Seating will be first come first serve


November 14, 2019
Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
NRB 350, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur


The 2019 Symposium of the Consortium for Space Genetics
will be dedicated to Earth because, after all, Earth is in Space.
Its focus will be climate change and the potential of genetic
technologies to halt or reverse it, ameliorate the consequences
of it, and prepare the living world for the extreme conditions that
will arise because of it. Indeed, many of the leaders who have
spearheaded humanity’s exploration of Space are now diverting
their attention to Earth. Please join us. It will be an important
melding of minds.

Speakers confirmed thus far:
Dava Newman: Former Deputy Administrator of NASA, Obama Administration; Professor, Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT
Joanna Haigh
: Atmospheric physicist; Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College, London
Rebecca Henderson: Expert on the intersection of climate change and business; Professor, Harvard Business School
Christopher Mason: Geneticist of the NASA Twin Study; Professor, Weill Cornell Medical College
AdamSteltzner: Lead engineer, Mars Science Laboratory EDL (Entry, Descent, Landing); Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA 
George Church
: Geneticist, biotechnologist, genetic engineer, synthetic biologist; Professor, Harvard Medical School
Mike Cahill: Award-winning film director, writer, and producer; Another Earth (2011), I Origins (2014), and the upcoming Bliss (2020)

Goal of the symposium: This year’s symposium has a specific
and urgent goal – to encourage members of our department to
apply their genetic expertise and innovativeness to the challenge
of climate change. In fact, the connection between our daily
research fare and issues of climate change is more direct than
you might at first imagine. After all, what biological process is
immune to its environment? What physiology has not been shaped by
natural selection? For example,

                1) Studies of gene regulation, epigenetics, cellular
organization, adaptation, and evolution
 contribute to our
understanding of how organisms respond to cues at the gene
regulatory, cellular, as well as organismal level. In this way,
they have the potential to elucidate how organisms respond to
environmental conditions and, thus, may ultimately inform
efforts to modify organisms (e.g., agricultural stocks) to better
withstand extreme conditions, such as drought and extreme
temperatures. All to say that, while you may not be studying
climate change, per se, what you discover could advance 
strategies for combatting climate change and/or its consequences.

                2) Development, differentiation, disease, meiosis,
neurobiology, cognition, and aging
 are vital biological processes,
all of which can be derailed by environmental stress. Thus, a better
understanding of these processes will ultimately contribute to our
capacity to protect ourselves, including our genomes, as well as
other organisms against pollutants, toxins, chemical imbalances
in our environment, and extreme weather. Thus, again, even
though your work may not be directly addressing climate change,
it may nevertheless provide key insights. 

                3) Studies addressing gene editing and other genetic
 contribute to strategies for engineering organisms
and producing biotools. Thus, work in these areas could lead to
the bioengineering of organisms that a) sequester carbon or other
toxins, b) function as biometric rulers for measuring air, soil, and
water quality, c) reflect light (and thus protect the permafrost,
glaciers), d) retard erosion by colonizing landscapes, e) degrade
materials for more efficient recycling, f) etc., etc., etc.

Funding opportunity: We have raised $250K to be awarded to
the investigator(s) submitting the most compelling 1-page
application (with a second page permitted for references and
figures) connecting an ongoing project to issues of climate
change or proposing an entirely new initiative (see suggestions,
above). Applicants can be anyone in the Department of Genetics
at Harvard Medical School, including faculty, graduate students,
postdoctoral fellows, and research assistant/associates. Non-
faculty applicants must obtain confirmation from their faculty
that, if awarded the grant, the proposed studies will be permitted
to be carried out in the laboratory. The winner will be announced
at the symposium, where the winner and perhaps also the runner-
ups may be asked to present short talks describing their proposal.
Please submit proposals on or before November 5th to Sarah Merry 


Questions about how your research might be relevant to
issues of climate change?
 Contact Ting Wu (twu@genetics.med.harvard.edu)