Department News

On May 18, Yukiko Yamashita Presents 2017 Bloch Lecture

On May 18, Yukiko Yamashita Presents 2017 Bloch Lecture

Yukiko Yamashita obtained her Ph.D from Kyoto University, Japan, completed the postdoctoral fellowship with Minx Fuller at Stanford University (2001-2006), She started her own laboratory at the University of Michigan in 2007, and is currently an associate professor at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

She studies the cellular mechanisms of stem cell self-renewal and differentiation, with a particular focus on understanding how adult stem cells divide asymmetrically, giving rise to one stem cell and one differentiating cell, to maintain tissue homeostasis. She has shown how general cell biological processes, such as cell cycle regulation and cytoskeleton organization, which are shared by many other non-stem cells, are modulated in a stem cell-specific manner to fulfill stem cell function. Another rising interest is the role of satellite DNA, a highly repetitive and non-coding element, in eukaryotic genomes during stem cell divisions and germ line lineages.

Yamashita serves on the editorial boards of eLife, Molecular Biology of the Cell, PLoS Biology and Scientific Reports. Yamashita is a recipient of 2008 Searle Scholar Award, 2009 ASCB WICB junior award, 2011 MacArthur Fellowship, 2016 Tsuneko and Reiji Okazaki Award.

 

By Jim Henle
Konrad E. Bloch was an outstanding scientist who helped shape the discipline of biochemistry in its formative years. One of the founders of biochemical studies at Harvard, he was part of the pioneer generation that included George Wald, Paul Doty, John Edsall and Frank Westheimer. Best known for his studies of cholesterol, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1964 (shared with Feodor Lynen) for investigations in the mechanism and regulation of cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism. Especially noteworthy were the studies on the biological synthesis of the molecule and, according to the Nobel Prize website, “on various aspects of terpene and sterol biogenesis…enzymatic formation of unsaturated fatty acids and…in various aspects of biochemical evolution.”
Arriving at Harvard from the University of Chicago in 1954, he was appointed Higgins Professor of Biochemistry, a position he held until his retirement in 1982. He was part of the core group at Harvard that founded the Committee on Higher Degrees in Biochemistry. With the somewhat later arrival of James Watson, Matthew Meselson, Walter Gilbert, Mark Ptashne and Guido Guidotti, Harvard had achieved a remarkably dynamic and productive core group in biochemistry and molecular biology, of which Dr. Bloch was a signal part. The late Dean Jeremy Knowles described him as “a marvelously perceptive biochemist and a wise, generous and cultivated man who forged the connections between chemistry and biochemistry. He was one of that distinguished line of European biochemists whose deep understanding of metabolism laid the chemical foundations of today’s biology.” [quoted in Harvard Gazette, Oct. 19, 2000]
Dr. Bloch was born in Neisse, then part of Germany, in 1912; he was racially excluded from his studies at Munich in 1934 upon the Nazi advent to power. His subsequent odyssey began in Switzerland, and he was spared a likely fatal return to Germany by the intervention of John Anderson, a Yale biochemist, who helped him with a visa to the US. In America, his studies resumed at Columbia; after a brief stay in Chicago, he came to Harvard.
His work was widely recognized; in addition to the Nobel, he received the US National Medal of Science, and many other awards and honorary degrees. In addition to his scientific output, he wrote intriguing popularizing works such as “Blondes in Venetian Paintings, the Nine-banded Armadillo, and Other Essays in Biochemistry”. He died in 2000, at the age of 88. In 1986, the annual Konrad Bloch lecture was inaugurated in his honor.The author wishes to express his gratitude to Prof. Guido Guidotti for reviewing the text for accuracy.
The Bloch lecture, sponsored by Pfizer, honors Harvard faculty member and Nobel-prize recipient Konrad Bloch (1912-2000), a pioneer in the field of cholesterol and lipid metabolism.