Synthetic Biology is topic of next URI Honors Colloquium lecture, Oct. 11

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KINGSTON, R.I. – October 3, 2011 – James J. Collins, a professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, will speak at the University of Rhode Island on Tuesday, Oct. 11 about innovative ways to reprogram bacteria, which could lead to cheaper drugs, greener fuels, and more effective treatments for chronic diseases and antibiotic resistant infections.

The lecture will be held in Edwards Auditorium at the URI Kingston campus beginning at 7:30 p.m. The event is part of the URI Honors Colloquium, which seeks to answer the question, “Are we ready for the future?”

Director of the Center of BioDynamics at Boston University, Collins has received numerous awards for his accomplishments, including a MacArthur “Genius Award” and a National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award. He was also named to the Scientific American list of top 50 outstanding leaders in science and technology.

Collins’ work is linked to a new field of science called synthetic biology. He will discuss the current status of this new field as well as what can be expected in the future. Collins founded this discipline from his construction of biological circuits that can program organisms in the same way as computers. This programming may lead to improvement in the function of biological systems. Vibrating shoe insoles, which provide sensory enhancement stimulation that can help improve balance, are just one example of Collins’ new developments.

The rest of the speakers in the lecture series are: URI Professor Jason Dwyer on trends in nanotechnology (Oct. 18); URI Professor Chris Roman, hurricane researcher Joseph Cione, and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute chief technologist James Bellingham on robotics use in the atmosphere and ocean (Oct. 25); biological engineer and brain and cognitive scientist Ed Boyden on enhancing the brain — past, present and future (Nov. 1); cognitive scientist Deb Roy and media researcher Johanna Blakley in a panel on social media (Nov. 8); cybersecurity expert Richard Clarke on cyberwarfare (Nov. 15); and Laurie Zoloth, director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society, on ethics and genetics (Nov. 29).

All of the lectures will be streamed live at, where the complete schedule of events is also listed. For additional information about the URI Honors Colloquium, contact Deborah Gardiner at or 401-874-2382.

Major sponsors of the Honors Colloquium are the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, the URI Honors Program, and the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, with sustaining sponsors including The Mark and Donna Ross Honors Colloquium Humanities Endowment and the URI Office of the Provost and Office of the President. Additional support is provided by URI’s Harrington School of Communication and Media, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, Classroom Media Services, College of the Environment and Life Sciences, College of Human Science and Services, College of Business Administration, College of Pharmacy, Office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance, University College, Coastal Institute, Division of University Advancement, College of Nursing and Department of Communication Studies.