The human genome is enormous in size and complexity, yet contains the blueprints for a relatively small number of genes. The bulk of our genome appears to be populated with remnants of virus-like elements (transposable elements), suggesting a surprisingly dynamic and intriguing evolutionary history. Some researchers today believe that the subtle effects of these transposable elements have enabled our genome to become an exquisitely fine-tuned machine, while other researchers suggest the massive accumulation of elements have simply left our genome filled with junk. Thomas H. Eickbush, Ph.D., studies a model transposable element system for which accumulating evidence suggests that they are selfish parasites, persisting since the origin of animals despite the host’s attempts to get rid of them. Whether beneficial or detrimental, the presence of transposable elements represent a considerable obstacle to understanding how genomes function.
Eickbush was born in southern Indiana and attended Indiana University where he received degrees in both Zoology and Chemistry. Leaving his mid-western roots, he went to Baltimore MD and obtained a Ph.D. in Biology from Johns Hopkins University and then to Harvard University as a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral fellow. He was appointed Lecturer in Cell Biology at Harvard for one year before joining the faculty at the University of Rochester in 1983. His research on transposable elements started in 1987.
Thomas H. Eickbush, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
University of Rochester
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Department of Biology
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