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Conference Evaluation Committee

Conference Evaluation Committee                

The GRC Conference Evaluation Committee is responsible for evaluating the scientific quality of each conference.  The committee makes annual recommendations to the board on the continuation of existing conferences and approval of proposed new conferences. Nine members of the committee are elected by the council for six-year terms, and three members of the committee are appointed by the board. In addition, all members of the board are ex officio members of the Conference Evaluation Committee.
Debra Dunaway-Mariano
University of New Mexico
Term: November 2014-2020
Debra Dunaway-Mariano is Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at the University of New Mexico. Dunaway-Mariano received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University. After completing her postdoctoral training in Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Dunaway-Mariano joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Maryland (UM). Following eighteen years of researching and teaching at UM, Dunaway-Mariano moved her program to the University of New Mexico. Dunaway-Mariano’s research is aimed at understanding enzyme catalysis. At UM she concentrated on defining the mechanisms by which enzymes catalyze the chemical steps of their physiological reactions. The studies of how enzymes select for their physiological substrate, led Dunaway-Mariano to her current passion, which is the study of pathways of evolution followed by enzymes; including determining what roles enzyme structure, stability and cellular environment play in the ease of sculpting a new enzyme function in a progenitor. Dunaway-Mariano identifies the Gordon Conference on Enzymes, Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways as her "must-go-to conference". Dunaway-Mariano states, "Reflecting back on the three decades of regular attendance at this conference, there has been a steady decrease in real discussions of ongoing work between PIs (having overlapping or complementary research interests). What brought about this trend? More generally, can/should this trend be reversed, and can the unique atmosphere and experience that the GRC offered, and that attracted the PIs in a common field to the same conference year after year, be reinstated?"
Mark H. Ginsberg
University of California, San Diego
Term: November 2014-2020
Mark H. Ginsberg is Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Director of the Physician Scientist Training Pathway at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). He received his M.D. Summa Cum Laude from the State University of New York, after which he did post-doctoral training at the University of Chicago and the Scripps Research Institute. He joined the faculty of the Scripps Research Institute, rising to the level of Professor of Cell Biology before relocating to UCSD in 2004. His research interests focus on understanding the molecular basis of regulation of cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesion. He has published over 300 peer-reviewed papers and trained more than 80 postdoctoral fellows. Ginsberg is a member of the American Society of Cell Biology, American Society of Clinical Investigation, American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Association of American Physicians. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has participated in over 50 Gordon Research Conferences, and chaired the Vascular Biology and Fibronectin, Integrins, and Related Molecules GRCs. He has delivered keynote addresses at the Basement Membrane, Signaling by Adhesion Receptors, and Cell Biology of Megakaryocyte and Platelets GRCs. Ginsberg states, "GRC has robust mechanisms for conference topic and site selection and maintains its unique character by limiting conference size, maintaining informality, and prohibiting citation of presented work. The most valuable feature of the conferences is the enabling of early career scientists to interact with stars in the field, to hear informal discussions both in and out of the meeting, and to meet their peers; sometimes forming lifelong associations. The current fees are making it difficult for these people to attend; I would like to encourage attendance by graduate students and post-docs, perhaps through a differential fee structure".
Karen M. Lyons
University of California, Los Angeles
Term: November 2014-2020
Karen Lyons is Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her A.B. at U.C. Berkeley and her PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the laboratory of Nobel laureate Oliver Smithies. She completed postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Brigid Hogan at Vanderbilt University. Research in her laboratory has focused on the roles of transforming growth factor β (TGFβ), and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) pathways in cartilage and bone formation and maintenance. A second focus is on elucidating the functions of the CCN family of matricellular proteins in cartilage and bone formation and maintenance. The CCN family includes proteins such as connective tissue growth factor and Cyr61, which function through multiple mechanisms, including engagement of integrins and interactions with secreted growth factors. The overall goal is to use insights from developmental biology to identify therapeutic approaches for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other prevalent conditions for which treatment options are currently very limited. Lyons has served as a member of the NIH Skeletal Biology: Disease and Development (SBDD) and Skeletal Biology: Structure and Regeneration (SBSR) study sections. She is a former chair of the grant review panel of the Scleroderma Foundation. She has participated in more than 20 Gordon Research Conferences, and chaired the Cartilage Biology and Pathology GRC in 2011. Lyons states, "The GRCs are vital as avenues for the free exchange of new research directions and ideas. They provide a common ground for established scientists and young investigators to interact at a level that is not possible at larger meetings. These outstanding aspects of GRCs should continue to be highlighted. At the same time, it is important for the organization to recognize that securing funding to support and attend these meetings is an increasing challenge for many scientists worldwide. The organization should explore mechanisms that increase the ability of conference chairs to raise funds that would enable global participation by both established and young investigators in these meetings."
Gabriel Aeppli
Paul Scherrer Institute
Term: November 2016-2022
Gabriel Aeppli is professor of physics at ETH Zürich and EPF Lausanne, and head of the Photon Science division of the Paul Scherrer Institute. All of his degrees are from MIT and include a BSc in Mathematics and Electrical Engineering, and MSc and PhD in Electrical Engineering. He started his career as a work-study student at IBM and after his PhD moved to Bell Laboratories and then NEC, and worked on problems ranging from liquid crystals to magnetic data storage. He was subsequently co-founder and director of the London Centre for Nanotechnology and Quain Professor at University College London. Aeppli also cofounded the Bio-Nano Consulting Company, of which he remains a non-executive director. He is a frequent advisor to numerous entities worldwide (including China, Australia, Europe and the US) engaged in the funding, evaluation and management of science and technology. Honors include the Mott Prize of the Institute of Physics (London), the Oliver Buckley prize of the American Physical Society, the Néel Medal/International Magnetism Prize of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the US National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society (London). Aeppli’s scientific research is focused on the applications of nanotechnology and photon science to biomedicine and quantum information processing. Projects include the development of optical and microwave tools for medical diagnostics and pharmacology, where the topics are new drug-target and antibody-antigen binding assays. Photons are also at the heart of efforts to control and read out quantum states in solids, including especially silicon, for which coherent, tunable pulses of THz radiation are exploited. A related topic is adiabatic quantum computing, where calculations are performed by mapping problems onto networks of qubits, and then relaxing the networks via quantum mechanics. Aeppli states: "GRC conferences should focus on the interfaces between disciplines where growth is generally likely to occur, as well as informal interactions between scientists of different generations and world regions, which will enable the collaborations needed to take advantage of current research opportunities".
Cynthia Czajkowski
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Term: November 2016-2022
Cynthia Czajkowski is Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Medicine and Public Health. Born and raised in New York City, she received her B.A. from New York University and her Ph.D. from the State University of New York - Downstate Medical Center. After completing postdoctoral training at Columbia University, she joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Neuroscience. Her laboratory uses an array of approaches including voltage and patch-clamping recording, voltage-clamp fluorimetry and site-directed spin labeling electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy to elucidate structural mechanisms underlying how neurotransmitters activate pentameric ligand-gated ion channels and how allosteric drugs modulate their activity. Her group has advanced our understanding of how a receptor binds its ligand: the first step in chemical signal transduction. She is on the editorial boards of the Journal of General Physiology and Biophysical Journal and has served as an associate editor for the Journal of Neuroscience. She has served on many grant review panels for NIH, MRC and the Wellcome Trust including reviews of NIH R13 conference grants. She has spoken at and attended numerous GRCs including Ion Channels, Inhibition in the Brain and Ligand Recognition and Molecular Gating. Czajkowski states: "GRC participation as an early career scientist provided me with lifelong research mentors and colleagues. As an established scientist, GRCs reinvigorate my science and inspire my mentees. GRC's small size, intimate locations, quality presentations on cutting-edge science and numerous opportunities for informal interactions/discussions between leading scientists, early career scientists and trainees are what make them the must-go-to conferences in many fields. Future conferences should maintain these critical qualities, be flexible to the changing scientific landscape and strive for more participation by women, minorities and third world scientists".
Sabeeha Merchant
University of California, Berkeley
Term: November 2016-2022
Sabeeha Merchant is Professor of Plant and Microbial Biology and Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California in Berkeley. Merchant earned degrees in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and undertook post-doctoral studies at Harvard University. She started her academic career in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA and served as Director of the Institute for Genomics and Proteomics until 2018. Merchant’s discoveries have influenced scholarly thought in diverse disciplines, from biogeochemistry and biological oceanography to photosynthesis, plant biochemistry and human nutrition. Merchant formulated the concepts of elemental sparing and recycling, which operate to sustain life in situations of deficiency by prioritized distribution of the limiting resource. Her concept of “reduce and re-use” has now been demonstrated across the kingdom of life. Merchant is recognized separately in plant biology for discoveries relating to chloroplast biogenesis and contributions to the genomics of algae. Merchant has served on advisory boards in government, academia and industry and is presently Editor of the Annual Reviews of Plant Biology and Editor-in-Chief of The Plant Cell. Her accomplishments are recognized by a Guggenheim fellowship, major awards from the American Society of Plant Biologists, the National Academy of Sciences and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and election to the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Leopoldina. Merchant has attended more than 30 GRCs, presented at 10 different ones, and has chaired conferences in Photosynthesis and the Cell Biology of Metals. Merchant states, "She enjoys the camaraderie and spirit at the GRCs, especially the egalitarian interactions with an international community, from student researchers to distinguished scientists, which is enabled and cemented by the structure of the program. Merchant wants to maintain this spirit through increased international participation - attendees, speakers/chairs, sites - to reflect today’s more global scientific community. She views the introduction and sunset of conference topics as key to the continued vitality, high visibility and professional stature of the GRCs".
Chad A. Mirkin
Northwestern University
Term: November 2016-2020
Chad A. Mirkin is the Director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology and the George B. Rathmann Prof. of Chemistry, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering, and Medicine at Northwestern University. He is a chemist and a world renowned nanoscience expert, who is known for his discovery and development of spherical nucleic acids (SNAs) and SNA-based biodetection and therapeutic schemes, Dip-Pen Nanolithography (DPN) and related cantilever-free nanopatterning methodologies, On-Wire Lithography (OWL), and Co-Axial Lithography (COAL), and contributions to supramolecular chemistry and nanoparticle synthesis. He is the author of over 650 manuscripts and over 1,000 patent applications worldwide (285 issued), and he is the founder of multiple companies, including Nanosphere, AuraSense, and Exicure, which are commercializing nanotechnology applications in the life sciences and biomedicine. Mirkin has been recognized with over 100 national and international awards, including the 2016 Dan David Prize and the inaugural Sackler Prize in Convergence Research. He is a Member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (Obama Administration), and one of very few scientists to be elected to all three US National Academies. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors, among others. Mirkin has served on the Editorial Advisory Boards of over 20 scholarly journals, including JACS, Angew. Chem., and Adv. Mater. At present, he is an Associate Editor of JACS, and he is the founding editor of the journal Small. Mirkin holds a B.S. from Dickinson College (1986, elected into Phi Beta Kappa) and a Ph.D. from the Penn. State Univ. (1989). He was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the MIT prior to becoming a professor at Northwestern Univ. in 1991. Mirkin states, "GRC should continue to target the cutting edge advances in science, incorporate the excitement and support of the new generation of young scientists, and deeply explore the boundaries of disciplines".
Denise Montell
University of California, Santa Barbara
Term: November 2016-2022
Denise Montell is the Robert and Patricia Duggan Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She earned her B.A. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from UCSD and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Stanford. She pursued postdoctoral studies at the Carnegie Institution and was promoted to a junior faculty position after two years. In 1992 she joined the Johns Hopkins Medical School where she rose from Assistant to Associate to Full Professor. She directed the graduate program in Biological Chemistry for 13 years and served as the founding director of the Center for Cell Dynamics. After 25 years away, she returned to California in 2013. Her research interests focus on elucidating how cells build and maintain adult tissues. This includes studies of morphogenesis, especially collective cell migration, cell fate, pattern formation, stem cell/niche interactions and the daily decisions cells make to live or die. In addition to her extensive bibliography, Montell has served on the advisory councils of the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences and the American Cancer Society. She was elected President of the Drosophila Board in 2010. She currently serves on the board of the American Society for Cell Biology. She has participated in a dozen Gordon Research Conferences and chaired the Directed Cell Migration GRC in 2017. Montell states, "The GRCs and GRSs hold a unique place in modern science. The opportunities for both formal and informal interactions in a cloistered environment create truly formative experiences. I vividly recall sitting next to a renowned scientist at my first GRC, when I was a senior PhD student, and being awed that he was interested in a scientific exchange. Going forward, preserving the essence of the GRC/GRS experience while incorporating new ideas so as to maintain a sense of excitement are key goals".
Ralph Bock
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology
Term: November 2018-2024
Ralph Bock is Director at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology and Professor at the University of Potsdam. He received undergraduate and MSc degrees from the University of Halle, Germany, and a PhD from the University of Freiburg. Prior to accepting his current position, he was an Assistant Professor at the University of Freiburg and a Full Professor and Chair of the Institute for Biochemistry and Plant Biotechnology at the University of Münster, Germany. Research in the Bock lab focuses on the biology of cell organelles (chloroplasts and mitochondria) and their integration into the genetic, metabolic and signaling networks operating in plant cells. The Bock group also develops new technologies for genetic engineering and applies these in biotechnology, synthetic biology and experimental evolution. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed papers and mentored more than 70 PhD students and post-doctoral fellows. He participated in many Gordon Research Conferences (on six different topics) and served as Chair of the Chloroplast Biotechnology GRC in 2017. He is a member of the German National Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina) and an elected member of EMBO. He was awarded the Martin Gibbs Medal of the American Society of Plant Biologists in 2017. Bock states, “What makes the GRCs truly special is the intensity of the personal interactions among participants, the ample time for stimulating discussions in and between the scientific sessions, and the great opportunities to forge new collaborations. As conferences and their formats are evolving, and some conference series may turn into virtual conferences in the foreseeable future, the GRCs need to keep and further strengthen their spirit of openness and intense interactions between participants, in the face of the challenges posed by the ever-increasing acceleration of the scientific process.”
Kathryn Song Eng Cheah
University of Hong Kong
Term: November 2018-2024
Kathryn Cheah is Jimmy & Emily Tang Professor in Molecular Genetics and Chair Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) where she served as Head, Department of Biochemistry (12 years); and as Director of the Centre for Reproduction, Development and Growth (5 years). She graduated from the University of Cambridge, UK, was a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Manchester and Imperial Cancer Research Fund, UK. She was the founding President of the Hong Kong Society for Developmental Biology; Hong Kong representative for Asia-Pacific Developmental Biology Network and the International Society of Developmental Biology; elected past President of the International Society for Matrix Biology; and served as Senior External Fellow of the University Of Freiberg Institute Of Advanced Studies. She is currently an elected member of the Board of Directors of the International Society of Differentiation. Her research focuses on functional genomics in skeletal and inner ear development and the implications for disease mechanisms. Notable discoveries are the identification of Sox2 as a hearing gene, a lineage continuum for cartilage and bone cells and a causative link between endoplasmic reticulum stress and skeletal disorders. She is an elected Fellow of the global science academy, The World Academy Sciences (TWAS). She has organised 11 Croucher Foundation Advanced Study Institutes, served on the organizing/programme committees of international symposia (e.g. Human Genome Meeting); chaired the HKSDB Symposium “From Embryology to Disease Mechanisms” (2012). She has attended over 30 Gordon Research Conferences (GRC), chaired the GRC on Cartilage Biology and Pathology in 2011. She has the highest regard for the impact of GRCs for the dissemination of frontier knowledge and for facilitating collaborations and career development at all levels. Cheah states, “The uniqueness of the GRCs and GRSs, fostering sharing of unpublished research at the cutting edge, inspires investigators at all levels of seniority and forms the bases for many long term global friendships. Looking forwards, the GRC should continue to expand its presence in Asia and its relevance in science, globally. By constantly being current, promoting interdisciplinarity and a scientific world without boundaries, it will surely empower the next generation of research leaders.”
Jorge E. Galán
Yale University
Term: November 2018-2024
Jorge E. Galán, D.M.V., Ph.D. is a graduate of National University of La Plata, Argentina where he completed his Veterinary Science degree in 1982. He earned his Ph.D. at Cornell University in Microbiology in 1986 and completed his postdoctoral studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Before joining the Yale Faculty in 1998, he was an Associate Professor at SUNY Stony Brook within the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. Currently, he is the Lucille B. Markey Professor of Microbiology, Chair of the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis, and Professor of Cell Biology at the Yale University School of Medicine. He research interest focuses on the understanding of the mechanisms of pathogenesis of the enteric pathogens Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter jejuni. He has authored more than 200 publications in the field of bacterial pathogenesis and molecular and cell biology. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences in 1990, the Searle Scholar Award in 1991, the National Institutes of Health MERIT awards in 2000 and 2015, the Hans Sigrist Prize in 2002, the Alexander M. Cruickshank Award in 2010, and the Robert Koch Prize in 2011. He is a member of the American Academy of Microbiology, the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and a member of the USA National Academy of Sciences. He has organized multiple National and International Scientific Conferences and is a member of several Scientific Advisory Boards. He has attended many Gordon Research Conferences and chaired the Gordon Conference on Microbial Adherence and Signal Transduction in 2003. Galán states, “The commercialization of research conferences has resulted in the proliferation of scientific meetings, which is threatening to degrade the true nature of these gatherings. The GRC are among the very few scientific meetings that have retained the true spirit of what scientific meetings should be about. The challenge for the future will be to maintain the spirit and relevance of these gatherings in the midst of a rapidly changing environment.”
Paul S. Weiss
University of California, Los Angeles
Term: November 2018-2024
Paul S. Weiss holds a UC Presidential Chair and is a distinguished professor of chemistry & biochemistry and of materials science & engineering at UCLA. He received his S.B. and S.M. degrees in chemistry from MIT in 1980 and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1986. He was a postdoctoral member of technical staff at Bell Laboratories from 1986-88 and a visiting scientist at IBM Almaden Research Center from 1988-89. He served as the director of the California NanoSystems Institute and held the Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences at UCLA from 2009-14. Before coming to UCLA, he was a distinguished professor of chemistry and physics at the Pennsylvania State University, where he began his academic career in 1989. His interdisciplinary research group includes chemists, physicists, biologists, materials scientists, mathematicians, electrical and mechanical engineers, computer scientists, clinicians, and physician scientists. They focus on the ultimate limits of miniatu¬rization, exploring the atomic-scale chemical, physical, optical, mechanical, and electronic properties of surfaces, interfaces, and supramolecular assemblies. They develop new techniques to expand the applicability and chemical specificity of scanning probe microscopies. They apply these and other tools to study self- and directed assembly, and molecular and nanoscale devices. They advance nanofabrication down to ever smaller scales and greater chemical specificity to operate and to test functional molecular assemblies, and to connect these to the biological and chemical worlds. Two major themes in his laboratory are cooperativity in functional molecules and single-molecule/assembly biological structural and functional measurements. He has written over 400 publications, holds over 30 patents, and has given over 700 invited, plenary, keynote, and named lectures. He has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Presidential Young Investigator Award (1991-96), the Scanning Microscopy International Presidential Scholarship (1994), the B. F. Goodrich Collegiate Inventors Award (1994), an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship (1995-97), the American Chemical Society (ACS) Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry (1996), a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1997), a NSF Creativity Award (1997-99), the ACS Award in Colloid and Surface Chemistry (2015), the ACS Southern California Section Tolman Medal (2017), and the ACS Patterson-Crane Award in Chemical Information (2018), among others. He was elected a fellow of: the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2000), the American Physical Society (2002), the American Vacuum Society (2007), the ACS (2010), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2014), the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2016), the Canadian Academy of Engineering (2017), and an honorary fellow of the Chinese Chemical Society (2010). He was also elected a senior member of the IEEE (2009). He received Penn State’s University Teaching Award from the Schreyer Honors College (2004), was named a nanofabrication fellow at Penn State (2005), and won the Alpha Chi Sigma Outstanding Professor Award (2007). He was a visiting professor at the University of Washington, Department of Molecular Biotechnology (1996-97) and Kyoto University, Electronic Science and Engineering Department and Venture Business Laboratory (1998 and 2000), and a distinguished visiting professor at the Kavli Nanoscience Institute and the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis at Caltech (2015). He is a visiting scholar at the Kavli Institute for Bionano Science & Technology and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University (2015-18). He held the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) Chaire d'excellence Jacques­Beaulieu at the Centre for Energy, Materials and Telecommunications (2016-17) and was a Fulbright Specialist for the Czech Republic (2017). He was a member of the U.S. National Committee to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (2000-05). He has been the technical co-chair of the Foundations of Nanoscience Meetings, thematic chair of the Spring 2009 and Fall 2018 ACS National Meetings. He was the senior editor of IEEE Electron Device Letters for molecular and organic electronics (2005-07), and is the founding editor-in-chief of ACS Nano (2007-). At ACS Nano, he won the Association of American Publishers, Professional Scholarly Publishing PROSE Award for 2008, Best New Journal in Science, Technology, and Medicine, and ISI’s Rising Star Award a record ten times. Weiss states, “The Gordon Research Conferences play a special role in which science can be discussed freely at early stages of development. I would like to see the meetings, discussions, and talks focus more on the challenges and opportunities of fields in order to accelerate advances and to cross-pollinate ideas.”

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