Looking in the right direction: Carl Woese and the New Biology
September 19-20, 2015

The Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology is proud to host our symposium "Looking in the Right Direction: Carl Woese and the New Biology" from September 19-20, 2015, to mark the renaming of our Institute.

The symposium will highlight not only some of the historical aspects of work on microbiology, evolution and molecular biology as researched by Carl Woese and colleagues, but also some of the most exciting modern research directions that have been inspired or impacted by his work and ideas.

The scientific program for the event will be held at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Videos of the lectures released to the public are available here.


Public Lecture September 18, 2015

Public lecture by Penny Chisholm
"Tiny Cells, Global Impact: A Journey of Discovery with a Microbe from the Sea"
Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Friday, September 18
Alice Campbell Alumni Center
601 S Lincoln Ave, Urbana, Illinois 61801

View the lecture online.

Carl R. Woese

Carl R. Woese (1928-2012) was the first scientist to map out the evolutionary history of all life on Earth. In so doing, he not only showed that all known life is related and descended from a common ancestral state, but he also overturned one of the major dogmas of biology with his discovery of the Archaea, the third Domain of life. Because of Woese’s work, it is now widely agreed that there are three, not two, primary divisions of life – the Eukarya, Bacteria, and Archaea. This classification scheme represents one of the 20th century's landmark achievements in science and has fundamentally changed our understanding of evolutionary biology.

By basing his classification on the sequences of molecules involved in the cell’s earliest machinery for expressing genes, rather than purely physiological characteristics, Woese opened up a new way to quantify evolution, a new window on the origin of life, and a scientifically rigorous way to identify and classify all organisms. This has been especially transformative in the case of microbes, the vast majority of which cannot be cultured, but which represent the principal components of the Earth’s biosphere.

Woese’s work was an early forerunner of today’s genomic biology, with many extensions that are revolutionizing microbiology, ecology and health sciences. Woese served as a faculty member in the Department of Microbiology of the University of Illinois for nearly 50 years and was a founding member of the Institute for Genomic Biology. His many accolades include the MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, election to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Medal of Science, the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and the Leeuwenhoek Medal from the Dutch Royal Academy of Science, the highest honor bestowed upon any microbiologist. Woese was also a foreign member of the Royal Society and held the Stanley O. Ikenberry Endowed Chair at Illinois. As a memorial to his legacy, the IGB was officially renamed in 2014 as the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.

In support of research on evolution, systems biology and ecosystem dynamics, donations may be made to the Carl R. Woese Research Fund. Dr. Woese approved this fund in his name to help the next generation of scientists and to recognize his discoveries and work that have spanned nearly half a century at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.