This lecture is dedicated to the memory of Donald “Buzz” Wassenberg, a Master’s degree candidate at San Diego State University at the time of his death in 1986. He died of cystic fibrosis at the age of 26. Buzz was an outstanding individual, both personally and professionally. He displayed an enthusiasm about life that was not dampened by the severe medical problems he faced. His approach to science was innovative and he generated an excitement regarding new experimental ideas and results.
Buzz had completed his laboratory research in Dr. Sandy Bernstein’s laboratory and had begun writing his thesis prior to his death. SDSU awarded his Master’s degree posthumously at the spring, 1987 graduation, where Dr. Bernstein presented the completed thesis and the degree to Buzz’s parents. This research was subsequently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. To honor his memory and to provide inspiration to his peers and colleagues, we have begun an endowment fund. This allows us to bring top investigators to SDSU to present recent advances in genetic disease research.
Forest Rohwer is a Fellow of the American Academy for Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) and Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). He led the development of viromics, which involves isolating and sequencing the RNA/DNA from all of the viruses in a sample. From this data, it is possible determine what types of viruses are present and what functions they are encoding. Dr. Rohwer uses viromics to study ecosystems ranging from the human body to coral reefs and has shown that most genomic diversity on the planet is viral. By applying these approaches to the cystic fibrosis lung, his lab has shown that much of the microbiology in this disease has been missed. These insights are being translated into personalized knowledge about individual patient's disease state and potential treatments. Dr. Rohwer has published >150 peer-reviewed articles, was awarded the International Society of Microbial Ecology Young Investigators Award in 2008, and was listed as one of the World's Most Influential Scientific Minds in 2014. He has also published two books: Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas and Life in Our Phage World.