Keynote and Faculty Speakers


The 2018 keynote address will be given at 7:15 p.m. Friday, November 2, at the Fayetteville Town Center.

Invited faculty talks will be given from 1:30-3:00 p.m. Friday, November 2, in the Chancellor Hotel, Eureka Springs Ballroom, on the Fayetteville Square.  Abstracts and titles will be posted when available.

Invited student talks will be given from 3:15-5:00 p.m. Friday, November 2, in the Chancellor Hotel, assigned rooms, on the Fayetteville Square.  (Please see the link to “Invited Student Speakers.”)


2018 Keynote Speaker (Friday Evening – Town Center – 7:15 pm)

   Dr. Christopher E. Mason, Ph.D.
Department of Physiology and Biophysics
Weill Medical College of Cornell University

TITLE:  Planetary-scale and space-based genomics for improving astronaut health.

ABSTRACT:  The avalanche of easy-to-create genomics data has impacted almost all areas of medicine and science, from cancer patients and microbial diagnostics to molecular monitoring for astronauts in space. Recent technologies and algorithms from our laboratory and others demonstrate that an integrative, cross-kingdom view of patients (precision metagenomics) holds unprecedented biomedical potential to discern risk, improve diagnostic accuracy, and to map both genetic and epigenetic states. Leveraging these data, the global profile of the world’s urban systems ( is being created to track the intra-city and inter-city shifts in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) markers. Finally, these methods and molecular tools work together to guide the most comprehensive, longitudinal, mutli-omic view of human astronaut physiology in the NASA Twins Study, which lay the foundation for future long-duration spaceflight, including sequencing, quantifying, and engineering genomes in space.


Faculty Speakers:


PHYSICS (1:35 pm Friday):

  Dr. Yong Wang, Ph.D.
Department of Physics
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

TITLE:  Watch to learn: Understanding the spatial organization and dynamic diffusion of molecules in live bacteria

ABSTRACT:  Spatial organization and dynamic diffusion of molecules inside bacterial cytoplasm are vital for them because transport and mixing of cytoplasmic molecules and resources primarily rely on diffusion due to the small size of bacteria and lack of active transport mechanisms. Although the diffusion of particles and molecules in various solutions and environments has been extensively studied both theoretically and experimentally, quantitative knowledge on the dynamic diffusion of biological molecules inside live bacteria remains relatively limited, due to the lack of temporal and spatial resolutions on single live bacteria. The recent development of super-resolution fluorescence microscopy in combination with single-particle tracking has provided powerful tools for understanding the organization of various cellular components and dynamics of cellular processes in live systems. In this talk, I will present our research on the organization and anomalous diffusion of the histone-like nucleoid-structuring proteins (H-NS) in E. coli bacteria, for which we achieved a spatial resolution of 20 nanometers and a temporal resolution of 30 milliseconds. In addition, I will describe how the ultra-high spatial and temporal resolution allows us to understand the antibiotic mechanism of silver ions and nanoparticles, which suppress the growth of and kill bacteria, opening new avenues to fighting against antibiotic-resistant microbes.


BIOLOGY (2:05 pm Friday):

  Dr. Laura MacDonald, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
Hendrix College

TITLE:  Collagen Increases Tumorigenic Characteristics of Papillary Thyroid Cancer Cells Harboring BRAF V600E Mutations

ABSTRACT:  Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine cancer, and incidence is increasing worldwide. Thyroid cancer can be classified as well-differentiated, poorly differentiated, or anaplastic. Of well-differentiated thyroid cancers, papillary thyroid cancer is most common, and is associated with activating BRAF mutations. While the genetic basis for thyroid cancer is well-understood, less is known about how the tumor microenvironment alters papillary thyroid cancer tumor cell behavior. Jolly and others reported that papillary thyroid tumors derived from cells harboring activating BRAF mutations and PTEN deletions were enriched with fibrillar collagen in mouse models. Additionally, they reported that upregulation of collagen I and the cross-linking enzyme lysyl oxidase was associated with advanced disease and decreased survival in patients. In this study, we investigated whether growth on collagen enhanced tumorigenic characteristics of papillary thyroid cancer cell lines. Interestingly, cell lines grown in the presence of collagen displayed a more aggressive phenotype. Notably, these cells were more mesenchymal in morphology, had increased growth rates, were more resistant to apoptosis induction, and were less sensitive to small molecule inhibitors. These and other results suggest that presence of collagen in the tumor microenvironment increases tumorigenic behavior of tumor cells, which may play an important role in thyroid cancer progression.  


CHEMISTRY (2:35 pm Friday):

  Dr. Irosha N. Nawarathne, Ph.D.
Department of Chemistry
Lyon College

TITLE:  TB or not TB? That is not the only question

ABSTRACT:   Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) remains a public health crisis and a health security threat with 600,000 new cases with resistance to rifamycins (RR-TB), of which 490,000 had MDR-TB. Among reported MDR-TB patients, 6.2% were diagnosed with extensively drug resistant (XDR) TB. The rifamycins, long considered a mainstay of tuberculosis treatment, particularly rifampin (RMP) – the most effective first-line drug in combination therapy, bind to the β subunit of Mycobacterium tuberculosis RNA polymerase (MTB RNAP) and block RNA synthesis. TB is fully curable using combination therapy that includes rifamycins; the average treatment cost per TB case is about $0.045 million. However, numerous drug resistant strains (MDR and XDR-TB) disrupt interactions between rifamycins and modified MTB RNAP, via single mutations in the β subunit, leading to drug resistance. The financial toll of treating patients with MDR-TB and XDR-TB comes at a terrible price with greater drug resistance as the treatment time increases to 20-32 months and due to the lack of available therapeutics. Appallingly, the alternative TB drugs show life-threatening side effects. In our lab, we strategically explore the ways to find novel therapeutics for prevalent MDR/XDR-TB to prevent the global epidemic through multiple TB outbreaks and to reduce the financial burden. Certainly, there is more to our research story.