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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 29, 2003

Renowned Biologist Lectures Sept. 10-12

David Hillis, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow, Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professor and director of the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics at the University of Texas, will lecture on evolution and related topics Sept. 10-12 at the University of Iowa as an Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor.

His free, public lecture, "The Tree of Life," will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10 in Macbride Auditorium.

He is also scheduled to lecture to combined biological sciences and geoscience classes from 10:30 to 11:20 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 11 in Room S401 in the Pappajohn Business Building on "Accuracy of Phylogenetic Analyses." In addition, he will speak from 4 to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12 in Kollros Auditorium of Biology Building East on "Sex And The Single Rotifer (And Other Tales Of Sexual Intrigue)."

A leader in the study of the evolution of biotic diversity and the construction of evolutionary trees (phylogenies), his interests range from viruses to vertebrates. An elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has served on numerous National Science Foundation panels and in an editorial capacity for 13 different journals, including "Systematic Biology." He has published 142 articles in scientific journals and edited three books.

Hillis is noted for two contributions of broad public interest -- conservation ecology and epidemiological/criminological applications of phylogeny. Much of his current descriptive work involves small salamanders living in caves and springs in central Texas. He led the effort to conserve a newly-discovered and endangered species in Austin, Texas, and, as a consequence, the status of cave salamanders has become important to debates over land use and development over aquifer recharge zones.

He has also explored the practical applications of phylogenetics to studying the history of viruses among humans. He helped demonstrate that an HIV-positive dentist in Florida did, indeed, infect some (but probably not all) of his patients with HIV. Most recently, he helped bring a conviction in an attempted-murder-by-HIV case by showing that a patient of the defendant (a physician) was the source of the virus found in the victim (the defendant's former girlfriend). Because of his work, phylogenetic systematics is now admissible in U.S. courts of law.

His visit is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences departments of geoscience and biological sciences and the Ida Cordelia Beam Visiting Professor Program.

Ida Beam, a native of Vinton, willed her family farm to the UI Foundation in 1977. Her only university connection was a relative who graduated from the College of Medicine. With proceeds from the sale of the farm, the UI established a fund to bring a variety of top scholars to the university for lectures and discussions.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. Persons with disabilities who require an accommodation in order to participate should contact the department of geoscience at 335-1818.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 301, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, Writer, 319-384-0009,