Gentile Lecture

The Gentile Interdisciplinary Lecture series in the natural and applied sciences at Hope College will feature presentations by two speakers on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 22 and 23.

Dr. Jay Demas, who is an assistant professor of biology and physics at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, will present “Circadian Photoreceptors, Light Pollution and the Diminishing Power of the Dark Side” on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. Dr. Laura Listenberger, an associate professor of biology and chemistry at St. Olaf, will present “The Skinny on Fat: Lipid Storage in Mammalian Cells” on Friday, Oct. 23, at 4 p.m.  Both presentations will be in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

The presentations are scheduled in conjunction with the college’s Homecoming Weekend, which is running Friday-Sunday, Oct. 23-25.  Listenberger is a 1997 graduate of Hope, where she majored in chemistry.  She and Demas are spouses. In addition to the lectures, Listenberger and Demas will together be available for conversation with students regarding a balanced life at 1:00 pm on Friday in Schaap 3128.

Demas notes that the proliferation of artificial lighting over the past century has disrupted the daily cycle between light and dark, with darkness disappearing from the environment. Persistent exposure to light at night, he explains, is a risk factor for a number of pathologies, including breast cancer and depression.  His research is focused on a specialized organ within the retina that senses environmental light levels, providing a neurobiological link between light pollution and human health.

Listenberger’s research studies lipid droplets, the dynamic compartments within cells that facilitate storage of excess fat.  Current projects in her laboratory aim to understand the function of the lipid droplet, specifically the role that the compartment plays in protecting a cell from toxic lipid species, and how the structure of the lipid droplet facilitates the recruitment of specific proteins.  She hopes to use the knowledge to impact future treatments for obesity and related diseases.

Demas graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and from the University of Maryland at College Park with a Bachelor of Science degree, and holds a doctorate in neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis.  In biology, he teaches neuroscience courses including Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience.  In physics, he teaches a Principles of Physics course and associated lab for non-majors in addition to advanced laboratory courses.

Listenberger completed a doctorate in molecular cell biology at Washington University in St. Louis after graduating from Hope.  She teaches introductory students in St. Olaf’s Chemistry/Biology Integrated Sequence, and advanced students in Biochemistry and Experimental Biochemistry.  She recently received the 2015 Janet Andersen Lecture Award from the Midstates Consortium for Math and Science, which honors faculty who have vigorous research programs involving undergraduates, who are exceptional mentors for undergraduate research students, who are engaged and skilled teachers, or who create interdisciplinary research opportunities for undergraduate students.

The Gentile Interdisciplinary Lectureship at Hope was established in 2005 by faculty colleagues, former students and friends of Dr. James Gentile. Gentile joined the Hope faculty in 1976 and served as dean for the natural and applied sciences from 1988 to 2005, when he became president of Research Corporation, a private foundation in Tucson, Arizona, that supports basic research in the physical sciences.  After retiring from Research Corporation, he returned to Hope to serve a two-year appointment as dean from July 2013 through June of this year.

The lectureship is supported by a multi-year grant from the Kavli Foundation of Oxnard, California, to bring prominent scientists to campus.  Additional support for this year's presentations has been provided by the Midstates Consortium for Math and Science.

Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., between 10th and 12th streets.