‘Evo-devo’ trailblazer Brian Hall to give Assembly Series lecture

Scientific discoveries in understanding how body structures change and advance over time are relatively recent and are the result of scientific trailblazers working in the field of evolutionary developmental biology, also referred to as “evo-devo.”

One of those pioneers, Brian K. Hall, PhD, will visit Washington University in S. Louis and give an Assembly Series lecture at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7, in McDonnell Hall, Room 162 (please note venue change). His talk, this year’s Thomas Hall Lecture, is free and open to the public.

Hall’s research has focused primarily on the development of the skeleton, especially the craniofacial skeleton, which has helped answer critical questions such as why bone loss occurs when activity is reduced and what causes facial birth defects such as the cleft palate.

The title of his talk, “Embryos in Evolution and Evolving Embryos: An Historical Overview with Emphasis on Getting ‘A Head’ by Riding the Crest of the (Neural Crest) Wave,” refers to his pioneering work on neural crest cells, a group of cells in the embryo that form in the developing nervous system, then migrate to form bones, cartilage and teeth in the head.

Using fluorescent dyes, he has tracked the cellular interactions that “switch on” different cell types. This understanding of cellular differentiation also has demonstrated that many structures once thought to be homologous – arising out of a common ancestral structure – in fact arise from different developmental processes.

In 2007, Hall retired as the George S. Campbell Professor of Biology and University Research Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, after teaching there since 1968 and serving as Department of Biology chair from 1978-85. Additionally, for the past 20 years, he has been a fellow of the Centre for Human Biology at the University of Western Australia in Perth.

Among his most recent books published since 2005 are Bones and Cartilage: Developmental and Evolutionary Skeletal Biology; Strickberger’s Evolution: The Integration of Genes, Organisms and Populations (4th edition) with B. Hallgrimsson; The Neural Crest and Neural Crest Cells in Vertebrate Development and Evolution; and Evolution: Principles and Processes.

Hall received a BSc degree, a BSc (honors) degree and a doctoral degree, all in zoology, from the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales.

For more information on this and future Assembly Series programs, visit assemblyseries.wustl.edu or call (314) 935-4620.