Noted science researcher visits Centenary for lecture April 17

SHREVEPORT, LA — Dr. Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, a noted researcher in the area of regeneration, will deliver a free public lecture at Centenary College on Tuesday, April 17 at 11:00 a.m. in Brown Chapel. His talk, “Life is an open secret: solving old problems by researching new organisms,” is part of a series of public events offered during the College’s Sustainability Week from April 16 through 21 and is partially underwritten by the Attaway Professorships in Civic Culture Program. A full list of events is available at centenary.edu/events.

“Dr. Sánchez Alvarado’s visit is one of the capstone events tied to our focus this year on the global challenge of sustainability, and his work on regeneration is timely and relevant,” says Dr. Jenifer K. Ward, provost and dean of the College at Centenary. “He is also a specialized researcher with broad interests in art, civics, and culture—an exemplar of the kind of well-rounded education Centenary’s liberal arts curriculum offers.”

Alvarado holds a Ph.D. in pharmacology and cell biophysics and currently serves as an investigator at both the Stowers Institute for Medical Research and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. For the past 15 years, his laboratory has developed tools to study the molecular mechanics of regeneration using the freshwater flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea. Studying the regenerative processes that allow Schmidtea mediterranea and other planarians (flatworms) to grow new heads and tails after amputation or injury has important implications for human biology and health and also provides insights into the fundamental molecular and cellular activities governing biological function.

“Why does regeneration happen? What are the factors that determine the extent and varied manifestations of this metazoan attribute? Answering these questions requires us to dissect the genetics, cell biology, and physiological aspects that make regeneration possible,” writes Alvarado on his Howard Hughes Medical Institute research page. “Irrespective of what we may learn about the molecular nature of regeneration, it is clear that its study will also provide insights into many fundamental mechanisms and unresolved aspects of metazoan biology.”

In addition to his public convocation lecture exploring the important roles science and research play in improving the quality of life, Alvarado will visit Dr. Rebecca Murphy’s Biotechnology lab section and supplement one of the class’s ongoing projects.

“My Biotechnology class has been doing outreach projects to take to Sciport, and we are focusing on communicating accurate scientific information to families and public audiences,” explains Murphy. “When Dr. Alvarado visits, he will be reinforcing the importance of communicating science by working with my class to set up Foldscopes (paper microscopes) that are portable and can be used to make the microscopic world a little more accessible. He’ll also talk a little about the background of these scopes and how they can be utilized.”

More information about Alvarado’s regeneration research lab at the Stowers Institute is available at planaria.stowers.org, including a link to his recent TEDx talk entitled “Life on this planet is the history of rule breakers.”