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Lectures on Sex, Genes and Chromosomes

New Foundation supports visiting scientists: Lectures on Sex, Genes and Chromosomes

David and Genevieve Becroft Foundation to support distinguished visiting scientists: Jenny Graves on the decline of the Y chromosome and the future of humankind

Unbeknown to the science community, it was the generosity of the David and Genevieve Becroft Foundation of Auckland that contributed in large part to the visit by Robert Lord May, President of the Royal Society of London, in 2002. Now the trustees, Dr and Mrs Becroft, have agreed that the Foundation will support further annual visits of distinguished speakers in S&T through the Royal Society of New Zealand.

This year, Professor Jenny Graves, head of the comparative genomics group at Australian National University, will be the 2003 Royal Society Distinguished Speaker, supported by the David and Genevieve Becroft Foundation and the Australian High Commission. The Royal Society of New Zealand is also very grateful to the Ministry of Research Science and Technology for funding the work involved in these international visits. Professor Graves, who will be touring the country for the next 10 days, is internationally recognised for her work on the origin and evolution of human sex chromosomes, sex determination and the inactivation of X chromosomes.

She is currently setting up a centre for Kangaroo Genomics and has advised the New Zealand Government on the potential for interfering with Y chromosome genes to create infertile transgenic possums. But her public lecture will cover the topic that she is best known for the gloomy prediction that the Y chromosome is losing genes: It takes just one gene to determine whether you develop as a male or a female.

This gene lives on the Y chromosome and somehow triggers the development of a testis in the embryo, which in turn pumps out male hormones. In her public lecture, Professor Graves will describe how comparing the genes and chromosomes of humans with those of other animals including kangaroos and kiwis has helped us to understand where the Y chromosome came from, how it works, and to predict its ultimate decline and disappearance in a few million years. Professor Graves will also explain why humans might separate into two different species and how intersex individuals (who have mutations that mean their genetic sex does not match their physical characteristics) could be the saviours of humankind.

Professor Graves' public lectures will be given in the five main centres:

Auckland, Friday 29 August
5.30 - 7.00pm, Engineering Lecture Theatre 1439(Atrium), The University of
Dunedin, Monday 1 September
7.00pm Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum

Wellington,Wednesday 3 September
5.45pm, National Library, Molesworth Street, Wellington
Palmerston North, Thursday 4 September
5.30pm, Thursday 4 September, Japanese Lecture Theatre, Massey
Christchurch, Friday 5 September
8.00pm, Christchurch Art Gallery, Worcester Boulevard
For more information see

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