About the American Society of Microbiology and the AAM

American Society of Microbiology pic

American Society of Microbiology
Image: asm.org

The founder of the Institute for System Genetics, Jef Boeke is a professor and director at the NYU Langone Medical Center. An experienced microbiology professor and researcher, Jef Boeke is also a member of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM).

Founded in 1899, the American Society for Microbiology has almost 40,000 members across the globe. As the world’s largest single life science member organization, the ASM works to advocate for and further the microbial sciences through education, networking, and research. Open to students and both domestic and international professionals, the society’s programs include the American Academy of Microbiology, which recognizes excellence in the field.

Established in 1969 through the merger of the Academy’s Board of Governors and the Council of the ASM, the American Academy of Microbiology grants two dozen awards each year, including the ASM Lifetime Achievement Award and the Beckman-Coulter Young Investigator Award, among others. Sponsored by AbbVie, the ASM Lifetime Achievement Award is the society’s most prestigious honor. To be considered, experienced microbiology scientists must be nominated by two supporters and include a curriculum vitae with a list of the nominee’s publications.

On the other end of the experience spectrum, the Beckman-Coulter Young Investigator Award is open to developers and researchers engaged in the field but not necessarily dedicated to microbiology. In addition to two supporters and a thorough curriculum vitae, nominees must also be no more than five years out of their postdoctoral training.


Potential Benefits of Transposons

Transposons pic

Image: broadinstitute.org

Genetics researcher Jef Boeke is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. Jef Boeke’s research interests include mobile genetic elements in humans and yeast, often referred to as transposable elements, or “transposons.”

Commonly known as “jumping genes,” transposons are mobile pieces of DNA that can move from one segment of the genome to another. Because transposon insertion can interrupt the expression of important genes, many researchers think of transposons as harmful. However, recent research suggests that transposable elements may play a beneficial role in different types of organisms.

When two strains of bacteria, one with relatively few transposable elements and one with the normal amount, are grown in competitive conditions, the strain with more transposable elements tends to grow more vigorously. Although the exact reasons for this competitive advantage are not yet known, researchers have proposed that transposition facilitates the repair of chromosome breaks. More genetics research needs to be done on the role of transposons at a molecular level.

The Allied Genetics Conference to Take Place in July 2016

2016 Allied Genetics Conference pic

2016 Allied Genetics Conference
Image: genetics2016.org

A genetics and molecular biology researcher focusing on transposable elements and synthetic chromosomes, Jef Boeke is the founding director of the Institute for Systems Genetics at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. Among other professional associations, Dr. Jef Boeke belongs to the Genetics Society of America.

A professional organization dedicated to promoting the field of genetics, the Genetics Society of America organizes the Allied Genetics Conference on an annual basis. In 2016, the conference will take place July 13-17 in Orlando, Florida.

Held at the Orlando World Center Marriott, the 2016 Allied Genetics Conference will include meetings on topics ranging from gene expression and cell biology to yeast genetics and zebra fish development. The conference will also play host to the 57th Annual Drosophila Research Conference, as well as the Ciliate Molecular Biology Conference. Other events at the conference include trainee workshops for new faculty members, mentoring lunches, and plenary sessions for undergraduate researchers.

Dr. Jef Boeke will be a keynote speaker at the 2016 Allied Genetics Conference, as will Dr. Cori Bargmann, the Torsten N. Wiesel Professor in the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior at Rockefeller University. Other keynote speakers include Dr. Francis S. Collins from the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Harry Dietz from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Build-a-Genome Course Introduces Students to Synthetic Biology

Jef Boeke pic

Jef Boeke

Currently instructing students and directing curriculum at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, Johns Hopkins professor emeritus Jef Boeke served more than 27 years with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHUSOM). In 2007, Jef Boeke became a founding director of the JHUSOM Build-a-Genome course, simultaneously spearheading the Build-a-Genome Mentor program and also developing the Build-a-Genome Parts Library course.

Sponsored by the JHUSOM and three other Johns Hopkins departments, Build-a-Genome also draws upon support from other biotechnology research organizations and institutions of higher learning. The course introduces students to the nascent field of synthetic biology through intensive laboratory work, and also exposes them to larger societal issues associated with emerging technologies.

Offered each semester and during the summer, the Build-a-Genome course attracts undergraduates from a range of academic fields, including biology, biomedical engineering, chemical and bio-molecular engineering, computer science, and biophysics. Students begin in a “boot camp phase, where they learn the workflows of the course. Eventually granting students 24-hour access to the lab, instructors assign each of them a specific segment of the synthetic yeast genome. Working an average of 15 to 20 hours a week, students must completely synthesize their genome segments and deliver accurate DNA results by the end of the semester.

The Institute for Systems Genetics at NYU’s Langone Medical Center

Institute for Systems Genetics pic

Institute for Systems Genetics
Image: med.nyu.edu

Jef Boeke is an accomplished molecular and genomic biologist, geneticist, and university professor, who founded the Institute for Systems Genetics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center in 2014. Jef Boeke’s goal as the director is to make the Institute one of the world’s leading centers of modern genetic research.

The Institute for Systems Genetics (ISG) takes an integrated approach to bringing diverse research talents, ranging from computational biologists to human organism geneticists, under one organizational umbrella. The Institute also welcomes technology developers and scientists with an engineering approach to the discipline.

A number of papers have been published about research conducted at the ISG over the past two years, including Dr. Boeke’s “Much Ado about Zero,” which examines a newly revealed open reading frame related to an emerging retrotransposon gene that may be able to be fused to adjacent host sequences, and to adopt various fates.

In addition, the ISG sponsors events on such leading-edge topics as “Genetic Architecture of Human Disease in Light of Evolution and Function.” The Institute for Systems Genetics is currently engaged in a faculty search for assistant professors.

An Introduction to Transposons

Transposons pic

Image: broadinstitute.org

A longtime molecular biology and genetics researcher, Dr. Jef Boeke currently works as a professor and director at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. Throughout his career, Dr. Jef Boeke has conducted a large quantity of research on mobile genetic elements, commonly referred to as transposons.

At the most basic level, a transposon is a sequence of DNA that can “jump” from one section of the genome to another. Jef Boeke’s research focuses on the study of a specific type of transposon called a retrotransposon which “jumps” by producing an RNA molecule as a template for new DNA synthesis, and then copying that RNA with an enzyme called reverse transcriptase to make a new DNA copy, which is then inserted back into the genome. Thus its life cycle can be summarized as DNA > RNA > DNA, similar to the life cycle of retroviruses like human immunodeficiency virus or HIV-1. Retrotransposons make up approximately half of the human genome and up to 90 percent of other genomes in the living world. Many transposon and retrotransposon copies are silent, in that they produce no phenotypic effect as a product of their translocation.

If a transposon lands in the middle of a gene, it can produce a mutation and have a destructive effect. However, transposons may also play a useful role. In addition to producing new combinations of nucleic acid sequences and driving genome evolution, transposons can facilitate the shuffling of exons and help repair damage to the DNA double helix.

The Forum on Synthetic Biology

Dr. Jef Boeke currently serves as director of New York University’s Langone Medical Center, where he established the Institute of Systems Genetics. For the last two years, Dr. Jef Boeke also has been a sitting member of the Forum on Synthetic Biology at the National Academy of Sciences.

Founded by the Committee on Science, Technology, and Law, the Forum on Synthetic Biology serves as a grounds for discussion on the ethical, practical, and public policy-based topics surrounding the field of synthetic biology. Forum members gather three times a year at locations across the globe, including California, the District of Columbia, and London. Held across two days, the forum features guest speakers and member-written papers that generate scientific discussion among attendees. Each year, Agilent Technologies and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation sponsor forum events.

Most recently, the Forum on Synthetic Biology was held at Imperial College in London. Entitled Creating an Environment to Support Investment and Innovation in Synthetic Biology, the joint meeting focused on promoting discussion between prominent government figures in the United States and the United Kingdom. Moreover, forum attendees examined synthetic biology’s relation to the bio-economy and how international leaders should continue to support both fields in the coming years.