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Distinguished Scientists Fellowship ProgramOn Saturday, December 3, Professor Erwin Neher, co-recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, headlined a series of lectures at the 12th King Saud University Workshop titled Frontiers in Science.

The Nobelist is part of the Highly-Cited Research Unit, multidisciplinary team of renowned scientistsDistinguished Scientist Fellowship Program's from some of the world’s most respected research programs and universities. The event featured a lecture by each of the 11 DSFP team members, whose expertise includes Pharmaceutical biophysics, molecular biology, biochemistry, biodiversity, botany, organic chemistry and atmospheric chemistry.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi, Vice Rector of Graduate Studies and Scientific Research, opened the workshop with a speech: “what is enough?” for King Saud University. He emphasized that while the number of the KSU publications in international scientific journals has risen exponentially in recent years, KSU is also committed to reaching a point at which faculty members, particularly Saudis, are listed among the world’s most highly-cited researchers.

In Dr. Neher’s opening presentation, “What happens before and after exocytosis”, he explained how the brain handles its information flow and adjusts synaptic connections on the second and sub-second timescale, focusing on the processes of neurotransmitter release and Ca++ signaling. Dr. Neher is a Professor Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry.

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Dr. Tim Blackburn’s “Nature out of place” summarized his research on the spread of exotic birds beyond their immediate environment and how they seek to colonize new locations. Dr. Blackburn’s presentation, which provided insights into the basic principles of ecology and evolution, showed how some birds “hitch rides” to new locations, while others are deliberately transported for hunting, providing food or simply as reminders of home.

Dr. Heinz Rennenberg’s “Starving or freezing” explored the 'food for fuel' dilemma in which the world is faced with a choice between using agricultural land for food production or as a renewable energy source. Using Romania and poplar plantations as an example, Dr. Rennenberg’s lecture suggested that currently uncultivated marginal land (i.e. land with poor soil or other undesirable characteristics) can provide high amounts of biomass for bio-energy.

In the presentation, “How to escape when sessile,” Dr. Heribert Hirt explained that in contrast to animals, plants cannot move away from adverse environmental conditions. He said his research team’s goal is to understand how plants perceive and transmit stress signals and how plants regulate stress gene expression. Dr. Hirt believes that a thorough understanding of these processes will provide a solid basis to help secure agriculture and environment under changing global conditions.

Rainer Hedrich’s “How to go on land without drying” discussed the evolution of saving water and dehydration tolerance, based on studies of algae and liverworts. Dr. Hedrich noted how these life-forms have overcome water stress by developing strategies to dry out and rehydrate. Dehydration tolerance, he said, is mediated by the water stress hormone ABA.

King Saud UniversityDr. Al-Rasheid, gave his thanks to Dr. Ali, a stalwart supporter of the DSFP, and theother  distinguished scientists who attended the event. Dr. Rasheid recently co-authored a research paper with Doctors Neher and Hedrich explaining the sensory biology and biomechanics of the Venus flytrap. The article was published in the September 13, 2011 issue of PNAS, a highly influential scientific journal covering the biological, physical, and social sciences.

Erwin Neher -

“What happens before and after exocytosis" - Synapses need rapid vesicle turnover

Tim Blackburn -

“Nature out of place"- Following birds along the invasion pathway

Heinz Rennenberg -

“Starving or freezing"- An the bioenergy dilemma be defeated?

John Mundy -

“Some have to die to survive" - From programmed cell death to resurrection”

Ton Bisseling -

“Roots of symbiosis" - Where it came from and how it works”

Heribert Hirt -

“How to escape when sessile" - Makeup of green signaling networks

Ted Farmer -

“What a difference a lipid makes" - Herbivore defense chemistry

Jan de Leeuw -

“Back to the Future" - On the fingerprints of Climate and Climate Change

Jos Lelieveld -

“Climate change" - Increasing weather extremes

Markus Riederer -

“How plants grow a shield" - Structure and function of the green skin

Rainer Hedrich -

“How to go on land without drying" - The evolution of saving water

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