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Robert B. and Floretta F. Austin Distinguished Lecture in Science

The University of Idaho College of Science proudly presents the twelfth annual Robert B. and Floretta F. Austin Distinguished Lecture in Science.

DNA Repair Doctors WITH (Chromatin) Borders: Protecting Cells From Chaos and Cancer

Presented by Michael J. Smerdon, Regents Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics
School of Molecular Biosciences
Washington State University

7 p.m. Thursday, April 27, 2017
College of Law Courtroom
711 Rayburn Street
Moscow, Idaho

The lecture is free and open to the public. All are welcome to attend.

Maintenance of genome integrity is fundamental to life. Every day massive amounts of DNA damage occur from intracellular and environmental sources (such as reactive oxygen species and ultraviolet light). This damage inflicts mutagenic and cytotoxic lesions upon the genome, which cause the progression of cancer and aging in humans. Not surprisingly, the cell has developed DNA repair pathways, such as excision repair, which are a 'first line of defense' for responding to, and removing, these lesions in cells. The challenge for repair enzymes is finding these lesions in the highly compact DNA-protein structure, known as chromatin, which packages DNA into the nucleus of all eukaryotic cells. This talk will focus on the important role chromatin plays in the efficiency of DNA repair and maintenance of genomic integrity in cells.

Michael J. Smerdon earned his B.A. at St. Cloud State University and M.S. and Ph.D. at Oregon State University. Following a post-doctoral fellowship and research faculty position at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, he joined the faculty of Washington State University in 1980. Among his many honors, he received Washington State University’s Eminent Faculty Award (the university’s highest honor for faculty) in 2012 and was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010. He was also recognized as being in the top five percent of (extramural) NIH grant awardees over the 25 years from 1980 to 2005.

The Austin Lecture

The Austin Lecture is funded by the Robert B. and Floretta F. Austin Memorial Endowment, which was established by the family and friends of the Austins in 1987. Bob Austin graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in metallurgical engineering in 1934. He was a long-time supporter of the university and a founder of the College of Mines and Earth Resources Constituent Alumni Association (C2A2). All three of the Austins’ children earned degrees from the University of Idaho, and two grandchildren are alumni as well.

For additional information, contact Eric Bennett at

Past Lectures

  • Richard A. Feely, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
  • Peter Donnelly, Director, Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics
  • Jill Seaman, Infectious Disease Physician, MacArthur Fellows
  • John L. Phillips, retired, NASA Astronaut
  • Carolyn Porco, Adjunct Professor, Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado in Boulder
  • Susan L. Brantley Professor, Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University

Margaret Werner-Washburne, Ph.D.

Oh the Humanity: Challenges to Solving Chronic, Hard Problems in a Rapidly Changing World


College of Science

Physical Address:
Mines 321

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3025
Moscow, ID 83844-3025

Phone: (208) 885-6195

Fax: (208) 885-6904


Web: College of Science