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Beeser talks ribosomes at Lyon College

On Friday, November 16, Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Alexander Beeser at Lyon College, presented his recent research in a talk entitled “The Central Dogma's Second Step: Translational Control of Gene Expression” for the faculty colloquium series.

He effectively explained to the audience his incredibly complex research on ribosome makeup and replication by using a comprehendible example: the alternator of a car. Beeser simplified certain concepts in his talk so that the information would be more easily accessible to non-majors in the room.

To explain his concept, Beeser took an alternator in one hand and a hammer in the other and tapped lightly on the metal body. The audience concluded that such force would not alter the function of the part. Even if he were to severely dent the body of the part, if put into the car, the car would run. If a screwdriver were shoved into the rotating blades on top of the part and then replaced into a car, however, the car would not run.

Through this example, the audience could understand that some things can be done to the alternator that would have no effect, little effect, or major effect. Similar changes can be made within the coding of proteins within ribosomes.

“How do we understand how it is that a ribosome can take information…and convert that into the proteins that the cell needs?” Beeser asked. The ribosome question, Beeser claims, is the “fundamentally unanswered question in cell biology.”

Beeser explained that every cell in the human body contains the same coding of DNA, and yet we have countless specialized cells that differ drastically from one another. The organelle called the ribosome is responsible for deciding what proteins to create based on what that specific cell needs.

Beeser and his students alter various sections of ribosomes and observe the growth rate of cells containing them. Rather than trying to find out what makes a ribosome work, Beeser is more interested in isolating the mutations that cause the proteins to not work. The cells whose growth rate is altered are the main focus: these hold the key to understanding the functioning parts of the ribosomes.  

“Faculty colloquiums encourage interaction with multiple interdisciplinary fields,” says sophomore research student Hannah Zang. “The people that attended Dr. Beeser's talk were very diverse in their fields, but still got to learn more about his research and experiences. I highly encourage students to take that opportunity to see other professors talk, even if it isn't something necessarily in their major.”