Evolutionary biologist, author of “Finding Your Inner Fish” speaks at TU

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Norman M. Hulings Memorial Lecture, hosted by the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, will feature evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin as its speaker, at 7:00 p.m., November 7 in the Great Hall in the Allen Chapman Activity Center on the TU campus. In addition to recognizing the 80th anniversary of the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, the lecture is being held in conjunction with the bicentennial celebration of Charles Darwin’s birth—the “Darwin Year.”

Shubin has scoured the globe researching the evolutionary origin of anatomical features of animals, and has found new fossils that change the way we think about many of the key transitions in evolution. These discoveries have emerged from his expeditions to Greenland, the High Arctic of Canada, Argentina, China, Morocco, Nova Scotia and the deserts of the United States. In 2006, he announced in the journal Nature the startling discovery of the fossil remains of Tiktaalik roseae, a newly discovered species that has been called a "missing link" between fish and land animals.

In Shubin’s book, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body, he traces the evolutionary transition between life in water and life on land in order to answer the question, "Why do we look the way we do?" The answers to this question come from seemingly strange places: from the bodies, fossils and DNA of everything from microbes to worms and fish. Together with DNA, new fossils are giving scientists surprising insights into the human body. Following the lecture, Shubin will be signing copies of his book, which is available at local bookstores.

Shubin’s work has enjoyed growing exposure in popular culture. He has been named an ABC Person of the Week and appeared as a good-humored guest on the Colbert Report.

"His lecture promises to be informative and engaging," said Mark Buchheim, TU associate professor of biological science. "The biology and geosciences departments at TU are planning additional Darwin Year events for the spring, and Shubin’s presentation will be a great way to kick off the celebration."

Shubin is provost of academic affairs at the Field Museum in Chicago and also a paleontologist and the associate dean of organismal and evolutionary biology, and the Robert R. Bensley Professor at the University of Chicago. Author of numerous scientific papers, he has received a variety fellowships and awards including a Miller Research Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, The Berlin Prize and ABC News Person of the Week.

The Norman M. Hulings Memorial Lecture was named to honor the late TU alumnus and longtime executive with ONEOK and Oklahoma Natural Gas Co.

Amethyst Cavallaro