Pitzer College Assistant Professor of Biology Lars Schmitz Wins NSF Grant to Host International Exploratory Research Conference

Assistant Professor of Biology Lars Schmitz
Assistant Professor of Biology Lars Schmitz

Claremont, Calif. (December 7, 2012) — Pitzer College Assistant Professor Lars Schmitz has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to organize a “catalysis meeting”—an international gathering of world-renowned, multidisciplinary scientists who come together to focus on a major question in evolutionary biology. Schmitz teaches biology at Pitzer’s W.M. Keck Science Department.

The NSF grant, “Integrating approaches to macroevolution: combining fossils and phylogenies,” is administered by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Schmitz shares this award and will be organizing the meeting with his colleagues Samantha Price of the University of California, Davis and Graham Slater of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

The catalysis meeting will explore new integrative approaches to macroevolution, a field that analyzes the grand history of life on earth—the patterns and processes leading to the creation, diversification and eventual extinction of organisms. Schmitz said the meeting is a unique opportunity to create a dialogue between paleontologists and biologists who are studying macroevolution.

“Biologists and paleontologists are both trying to examine the origins and distribution of diversity across the tree of life, but they use different datasets and different techniques,” Schmitz said. “We hope that by combining data and methods from both fields we can advance our understanding of macroevolution. As in so many other areas of science, integration of knowledge is the key.”

The meeting will be held April 11-13, 2013 at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC. Participants will come from three continents, 11 countries and approximately 30 institutions.

At the Keck Science Department, Schmitz analyzes the functional morphology of vertebrates, focusing on how eye shape and retina structures evolve. He has co-authored more than 20 publications in journals such as Science, Evolution and Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The W.M. Keck Science Department is a program of Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College and Scripps College.

Related Links:
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center
Lars Schmitz’s Blog: The Eyes Have It

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility and community involvement. For more information, please visit www.pitzer.edu.

About the W.M. Keck Science Department

The W.M. Keck Science Department is the interdisciplinary home to all biology, chemistry, and physics faculty for Pitzer, Claremont McKenna and Scripps colleges. The department is administered cooperatively and is housed within an 81,000-square-foot center located at the intersection of the three colleges. The department offers 13 discrete degree options, including dual-degree programs in partnership with schools of engineering and majors in conjunction with disciplines outside the sciences. The W.M. Keck Science Department provides comprehensive, interdisciplinary instruction in small class settings and numerous opportunities for students to conduct research.

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