“Of Worms and Men” – Canada Research Chair and TWU Professor Eve Stringham gives public inaugural lecture.

Canada Research Chair Professor Eve Stringham and doctoral student Kris Schmidt study C. elegans in the new High Resolution Microscopy and Live Imaging Laboratory at Trinity Western University.

Called Caenorhabditis elegans and nicknamed C. elegans, because they move "elegantly", the one millimetre long worm found in the soil of temperate climates will be making a dazzling appearance on November 8 at Trinity Western University. Professor Eve Stringham Canada Research Chair in Developmental Genetics and Disease awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), will present her inaugural public lecture entitled, "Of Worms and Men: What model organisms tell us about human disease," and that's where the worm will make a "glowing" appearance.

Under the new Olympus Spinning Disk Confocal Microscope valued at over $300,000 C. elegans takes on an almost modern art appearance. Glowing green and showing their threadlike nerve cells when treated, the worm is the focal point of Stringham's research. Helping understand what causes defects in cell signaling, the scientist is shedding light on complex diseases and health concerns such as Alzheimers, Parkinsons, nerve damage and rejuvenation and cancer, all at the molecular level.

But if you think that worms aren't such big deal you'll be surprised. Stringham suggests that there are thousands of scientists around the world studying this specific worm and every two years there is an international conference dedicated to C. elegans. But why is this worm so important to science?

Says Stringham, "We share a common biochemistry and genetics such that the basic processes of cell division, cell specialization, cell migration - which I'm really interested in - all of these things are pretty much the same in humans, so I can study this stuff in a worm, find genes in a worm that control these things and sure enough there they are in humans as well. And when basic processes like cell division or cell migration go wrong, well, you end up with disease. So by studying how these things work in C. elegans, I have a better understanding of human biology and disease...and that's why you study a worm."

The new microscope and companion laboratory play key roles in this critical research. The powerful microscope that eliminates out of focus haze above or below the plain of focus is also equipped with epifluorescence. This filters out some wavelengths of light and allows only light of a particular wavelength to hit a specimen. There are certain molecules in nature that will fluoresce when light of a given wavelength is shone on them. The equipment, driven by two computers, can also reconfigure a specimen into 3D and create time lapse photography capturing exactly how a cell can change shape.

Says Stringham, "My lab is particularly interested in understanding how signaling between cells can elicit shape changes in cells so that they can migrate or in the case of a nerve cell, extend out an axon. We're interested in how that signaling information gets integrated and communicated to the cytoskeleton of the cell and how that causes changes in the shape of the cell so that it will then respond in a particular way."

Stringham will be sharing more about her research and C. elegans when she gives her inaugural lecture. Dr. Louis Lefebvre, Canada Research Chair in Genomic Imprinting from UBC and Stringham's colleague will be the respondent. Other notable guests who have been invited to the public lecture are government officials, representatives from NSERC who awarded the grant and delegates from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Murdoch Charitable Trust and Olympus, who were all responsible for funding the new High Resolution Microscopy and Live Imaging Laboratory. A private donation was also received to complete the project's costs.

Tours of the new laboratory and microscope will be given following the lecture.

For more information on Professor Eve Stringham's research can be found by visiting:

"Good science is about asking good questions.There will always be something relevant to discover."

Professor Eve Stringham

Event Information at a glance:

Who: Inaugural lecture featuring Dr. Eve Stringham, Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor at Trinity Western University
What: Lecture entitled: "Of Worms and Men: What model organisms tell us about human disease."
Where: Block Hall, Trinity Western University, 7600 Glover Road, Langley BC.
When: Thursday, November 8
Time: 7:00pm
Cost: Free to attend, Reception and tour of the Microscopy and Imaging Laboratory follow the lecture.

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a not-for-profit Christian liberal arts and sciences university enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers undergraduate degrees in 39 major areas of study ranging from biotechnology, education, nursing, theatre and music to business, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 15 graduate degrees include such areas as counseling psychology, business, theology, administrative leadership and interdisciplinary studies in English, philosophy and history.


Last Updated: 2007-11-15
Author: erin mussolum