Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

April 18, 2006

Renowned evolutionary biologist will discuss
‘tree of life' during Layman Lecture Series this week

DeKalb, Ill. — Evolutionary biologist W. Ford Doolittle of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia will visit Northern Illinois University this week to present the annual Layman Lecture Series.

Doolittle serves as the Canada Research Chair in Comparative Microbial Genomics at Dalhousie University and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the American Academy of Microbiology and the National Academy of Sciences. He leads a research group that focuses on the evolution of genes and genomes. Widely published in professional journals, his work has broadly contributed to the study of the early evolution of life.

Doolittle will present a seminar, titled “Uprooting the Tree of Life,” at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20, in the auditorium of Montgomery Hall. The event is open to the public. He also will lead a second more technical seminar, titled “Population Metagenomics of Extremophilic Bacteria and Archaea,” at noon Friday, April 21, in Room 201 of Faraday Hall West.

“Dr. Doolittle's work has had a profound impact on our understanding of the early divergence of the major groups of organisms, and we are excited that he will be coming to NIU to discuss his work,” said Michael Parrish, chair of the NIU Department of Biological Sciences.

The Layman Lecture series is endowed by David Layman, an NIU alumnus who taught high school biology in Chicago public schools for nearly 40 years. The lecture series invites speakers to campus to discuss timely and compelling topics in biology.

Layman began teaching high school biology immediately after graduating from NIU in 1957. He taught in the Chicago Public School system, 13 years at Richard T. Crane High School and 24 years at Carl Schurz High, before retiring in 1995. Layman's recognition of the critical role that NIU plays in preparing good teachers has led him to establish various venues supporting education and students in the Department of Biological Sciences.