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Pioneering Geneticist Michael Young Delivering Thomas Hunt Morgan Lectures

(Oct. 5, 2015) — Michael W. Young, an esteemed geneticist known best for identifying the genes that regulate circadian rhythms, will deliver two lectures at the University of Kentucky this week as part of the 2015 Thomas Hunt Morgan Lecture Series sponsored by the UK Department of Biology.

Young, vice president for academic affairs and Richard and Jeanne Fisher Professor at The Rockefeller University, will speak Thursday, Oct. 8, and Friday, Oct. 9.

His first lecture, "Genes Controlling Sleep and Circadian Rhythms in Drosophila," will take place at 4 p.m. Thursday in Room 116 of the Thomas Hunt Morgan Biological Sciences Building. His second lecture, "Genetic Pathways to Understanding Human Sleep Disorders," will be at 10 a.m. Friday in the William T. Young Library's UK Athletics Auditorium.

Young's research on the molecular biology and genetics of biological rhythms spans more than three decades. Young conducted a series of groundbreaking studies on mutant fruit flies, discovering the molecular mechanisms that control circadian rhythms. His lab’s findings have implications for sleep and mood disorders, as well as dysfunctions related to the timing of gene activities underlying visual functions, locomotion, metabolism, immunity, learning and memory.

Recently, Young's lab has begun to study sleep and circadian rhythms at the genetic and molecular levels in humans.

Young is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. He is a recipient of the 2013 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, the 2013 Wiley Prize in Biomedical Science and the 2012 Canada Gairdner International Award. He has also been awarded the 2012 Massry Prize, the 2011 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for Biology or Biochemistry, and the 2009 Neuroscience Prize of the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation.

He received his undergraduate degree in biology in 1971 and his doctoral degree in genetics in 1975, both from The University of Texas, Austin. Following postdoctoral work in biochemistry at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Young was appointed assistant professor at Rockefeller in 1978 as part of The Rockefeller University Fellows Program. He was named associate professor in 1984 and professor in 1988, and from 1987 to 1996 he was an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. From 1991 to 2001, Young headed the Rockefeller unit of the National Science Foundation’s Science and Technology Center for Biological Timing. Young was named the university’s vice president for academic affairs and Richard and Jeanne Fisher Professor in 2004.

The Thomas Hunt Morgan Lecture Series is the leading lecture hosted by the Department of Biology each year. Thomas Hunt Morgan, an alumnus of UK, rose to prominence as a renowned geneticist. Known as the "Father of Modern Genetics," Morgan won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933 for discoveries related to the role chromosomes play in heredity.