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For Immediate Release: August 3, 2009
Contact: Gina Hebert, 508-289-7725; ghebert@mbl.edu

2008 Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie to Speak on Touch Sensitivity (and Green-Glowing Worms) at the MBL Friday Evening Lecture, August 14

MBL, WOODS HOLE, MA—Dr. Martin Chalfie, co-recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his development of green fluorescent protein (GFP), will discuss his research on touch sensitivity at the Friday Evening Lecture on August 14 at 8:00 PM in the MBL’s Lillie Auditorium 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole. Dr. Chalfie’s lecture, which is entitled “Touching Green Worms,” is free and open to the public.

The senses that allow us to touch, hear, detect acceleration, and determine body position all respond to mechanical signals. In contrast to senses such as vision, taste, and smell where the cellular components that detect (transduce) the sensory signals are known, the molecular mechanisms underlying the mechanical senses, such as hearing and touch, remain elusive. Dr. Chalfie’s lab has used traditional and molecular genetics to identify genes needed for touch sensitivity in the nematode worm, C. elegans. Some of these genes are needed for the development of the touch sensing cells; others are needed for their function.

Much of Dr. Chalfie’s research relies on being able to visualize the cells and their proteins, for which GFP has been essential. Dr. Chalfie was the first person to insert GFP into the genome of an organism (C. elegans) and discover that it glowed inside the organism, illuminating its cellular and sub-cellular parts. Chalfie received the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with MBL Distinguished Scientist Osamu Shimomura, who first discovered GFP in the jellyfish Aequorea, and Roger Tsien, who engineered GFP to glow brighter and in different colors.

Martin Chalfie is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor and Chair of the Department
of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. Dr. Chalfie received his A.B. in 1969 and his Ph.D. in 1976, both from Harvard University. After postdoctoral research at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in England, he joined the Columbia University faculty. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Friday Evening Lecture series will conclude for this summer on August 21, when Josh Sanes of Harvard University will speak on “The Circuits that Let Us See.”


The MBL is a leading international, independent, nonprofit institution dedicated to discovery and to improving the human condition through creative research and education in the biological, biomedical and environmental sciences. Founded in 1888 as the Marine Biological Laboratory, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the Americas.