Professor Darren Griffin was the guest speaker at a lecture for postgraduate students enrolled on the Global Skills Award programme.
The lecture, entitled ‘Are our (genetic) male bits disappearing?’ was well received thanks to the fascinating subject and Darren’s friendly and humorous delivery. Even those from a non-biosciences discipline were interested in the ideas that were discussed and felt that they took a lot of information away with them.
“Professor Griffin made this into a very interesting topic of investigation. It was clearly structured and I could understand what he was talking about, even though I didn’t have any knowledge of this area prior to the lecture” – Psychology student
Darren initially looked at male and female traits, posing the questions, “Why do we need men?” and “Why do we have sex?” before giving a basic biology lesson on genomes and genetic exchange.
The main focus of the seminar however was on the (male) human Y chromosome and how it came to ‘shrink’.
Darren explained that a string of mutations caused by the absence of a ‘mutual support mechanism’ led to a structural differentiation between the X and Y chromosomes. In mammals, this involved a loss of DNA from the Y chromosome, the accumulation of ‘junk’ DNA and a reduction in genetic exchange.
This process continued until there was very little similarity between X and Y and only a small region of genetic exchange.
He then went on to discuss the ‘debate’ in the genome evolution community about whether or not the mammalian (including the human) Y chromosome would eventually disappear and when. He looked at two opposing theories by Jenny Marshall-Graves and Jennifer Hughes, given at the 18th International Chromosome Conference in Manchester on 31 August, 2011.
Darren closed the lecture by saying that the human Y chromosome has indeed shrunk considerably; but it has also evolved some clever mechanisms to ‘put the brakes on’.
Darren has always enjoyed giving the global skills lecture. He said: “It’s an important opportunity to get across work that we do in Biosciences in an accessible way to students with a range of backgrounds. The programme is an exciting one and the audience is always receptive.”
What do you think? Did you attend the lecture last Monday? What did you make of the topic of the lecture?
Here are some more quotes from other postgraduate students that attended:
“He was able to simplify really complex material without losing the importance and the essence of it. It was a great lecture” – Law student
“Excellent. This lecture was one of the best I have seen in my academic career, so far. Funny, entertaining and interesting. An evening well spent!” – Business student
“Professor Darren Griffin executed the lecture with extreme confidence, humour and in-depth knowledge” – Biosciences student
Professor Darren Griffin
Darren Griffin is a professor of genetics. You can read more about him and his research at http://www.kent.ac.uk/bio/profiles/staff/griffin.html.