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Seminar to Address the Rise in Complexity in Nature

Biology Seminar to Address the Rise in Complexity in Nature

(May 22, 2002)

Scientist and author Professor Eric J. Chaisson of Tufts University will be the speaker at this year's John A. and Betty C. Moore Science As a Way of Knowing Seminar (SAAWOK), hosted by UCR's Sigma Xi, the Department of Biology, and the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. The annual seminar is open to the public and invites speakers who have established a reputation in both science and science education. It will take place at 4 p.m. on May 30th in Room E of the University of California Extension Center. The title of Chaisson's talk is "Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature," the same as his most recent book (Harvard University Press, 2001).

"My talk is based on the book and is meant for a general audience interested in science," said Chaisson. "I think the talk would especially interest high-school science teachers. I intend to illustrate the talk by showing two slides simultaneosly, side by side. One slide will be slightly technical, the other will, via art, help interpret the opposite slide."

Chaisson is director of the H. Dudley Wright Center for Innovative Science Education at Tufts University. He is also research professor of physics and astronomy and research professor of education at the university. He teaches introductory astrophysics at the Harvard College Observatory and is co-director of the Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium, based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Trained initially in atomic physics, Chaisson obtained his doctorate in astrophysics from Harvard University in 1972. He has held research and teaching positions at MIT and Wellesley College, and, before joining Tufts University, was for five years scientist and director of educational programs at the Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

Chaisson's major research interests are currently twofold: (1) a thermodynamic study of physical and biological phenomena, involving a search for underlying common features that serve as clues to the origins and evolution of material systems in the universe, and (2) working with experienced teachers and computer animators to discover better ways and novel curricula to enthuse teachers and instruct students in all aspects of science, mathematics and engineering.

"The talk will address two of the foremost problems in science today: the origins of matter and the origins of life," said Chaisson. "I will attempt to show how today's scientists are 'thinking out of the box' while doing interdisciplinary research in order to attack problems of frontier science -- one of them a problem in astrophysics, the other a problem in biochemistry."

The Department of Biology's SAAWOK seminar series is named after John Moore, professor emeritus in the department, and his wife Betty. Moore was trained as an embryologist and geneticist at Columbia University in the 1930s and 40s. Later, he was chair of the department of zoology at Columbia University and, subsequently, at Barnard College. In 1960, Moore became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and, in 1963, of the National Academy of Sciences. He joined UCR's department of biology in 1969.

In addition to his scientific accomplishments, Moore is widely recognized for his contribution to the teaching of science. He has made significant contributions to the Biological Sciences Curriculum Series (BSCS), developing an accurate, modern biology curriculum that focused on inquiry-oriented instruction. He is also the author of a seven volume series entitled "Science as a Way of Knowing." Scientists and educators from around the world continue to consult this series in their research, for their personal enrichment, and in their teaching from the high school to the graduate school level. Moore's most recent book is "From Genesis to Genetics : The Case of Evolution and Creationism" (University of California Press, 2002).

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