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April 9, 2012


Jianzhi Zhang

Buchanan Lecturer to discuss genetics, primate evolution

Pioneering evolutionary biologist Jianzhi Zhang will discuss the genetic changes underlying human origins during the Jean Pasakarnis Buchanan Lecture Thursday (April 12).

“On the Path to Humanity: Genes Lost, Gained, and Modified During Primate Evolution” is the topic of his discussion, scheduled at 7 p.m. in 112 Life Sciences Building. The event is free and open to the public.

Genetic changes in human and primate evolution have likely impacted who we are, what we do, and how we behave today. These changes include gains, losses and modifications of genes controlling sensory, immune, cognitive and other functions, and many of them are clearly adaptive. Nevertheless, there is no genetic evidence that humans have had more adaptive changes than chimpanzees since their separation 6-7 million years ago. Zhang will discuss human and primate evolution in the context of biology’s overriding principle: natural selection.

He will also give a biology department talk, “Pleiotropy and Why Life Is Imperfect.” Pleiotropy is the phenomenon in which one gene or mutation affects multiple traits, with broad implications for many areas of biology such as adaptation, cancer, aging, and sexual conflict. The talk is 10:30 a.m. Friday (April 13) in 112 Life Sciences Building.

Zhang teaches evolutionary biology and ecology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His interests include genomics, evolution and systems biology. In the past decade, he pioneered molecular genetics and genomic studies in the quest to understand the genetic changes underlying human origins.

He received his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Fudan University in Shanghai. Zhang was a Fogarty Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institutes of Health from 1999-2001 and has taught at University of Michigan since 2001.


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