United by a Worm, Researchers Meet at Florida Tech

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It’s a conference unlike others, one dedicated to the beloved nematode, C. elegans.

This is a meeting about a worm, yes, but not just any worm.

C. elegans
 is one of the most researched and best understood models for aging, development, genetics, neurobiology and parasite-related research. The work involved with C. elegans has led to many scientific discoveries and three Nobel Prizes.

Saturday, May 12, Florida Tech will host the fourth annual Florida Worm Meeting at Olin Life Science Auditorium. The meeting, which is free and open to the public, is organized by Eric Guisbert, an assistant professor at Florida Tech, Keith Choe, associate professor at the University of Florida, and Sandy Westerheide, associate professor at the University of South Florida. It is expected to draw more than 70 scientists and researchers from across Florida. Opening remarks begin at 10:55 a.m.

The work involved with these worms can been seen at Florida Tech and elsewhere. Using the worm as the primary model system, Guisbert uses molecular approaches to understand basic cellular processes with a focus on the heat shock response, a universal stress response that is also critical for normal growth associated with a number of human diseases.

This year’s keynote speaker, Oliver Hobert, professor at Columbia University, has done extensive work understanding how the worm “brain” operates. The C. elegans worm only has 959 cells, and of those, 302 are neurons. At the conference, Hobert will explore programming and reprograming cellular identify in C. elegans.

Another presentation will explore the role of SPIN proteins in regulating lifespan and restoring mental health of worms with antipsychotics. Lunch will be served at Panther Dining Hall at 12:45 p.m., with dinner being served at 6 p.m.

For more information on the Florida Worm Meeting, visit https://floridawormmeeting.weebly.com.

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I write about research at Florida Tech. For any inquiries, contact me at 321-674-8937 or rrandall@fit.edu.

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