Self-described radical collaborator C. Brandon Ogbunu, associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University, will deliver a talk at the 12th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Seminar on Jan. 20. 

Ogbunu’s talk, “Living, Learning, and Adaptive Landscapes: How Evolutionary Biology Can Help us Navigate it All,” will be held at noon in Steger Hall Auditorium, 1015 Life Science Circle, on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus. The talk is free and open to the public.

The annual seminar is sponsored by Virginia Tech’s Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Science, which invites internationally renowned scientists who can present their work to the broader scientific community at Virginia Tech as well as express the importance of diversity and the work of King in their own research and experience. The event is part of a weeklong series celebrating King at Virginia Tech. 

Ogbunu also serves as the Dr. Martin Luther Jr. Visiting Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a computational biologist, he  uses experimental evolution, mathematical modeling, and computational biology to explore the underlying causes and consequences of disease. He examines this across scales from the biophysics of proteins involved in drug resistance to the social determinants driving epidemics at the population level. 

“Dr. Ogbunu is part of a new generation of scientists who are spanning traditional scientific disciplines, in his case evolutionary biology and math, to make new discoveries,” said Ignacio Moore, professor of biological sciences and chair of the department’s diversity committee at Virginia Tech. 

Growing up and witnessing the devastating effects of the AIDS epidemic led to Ogbunu’s interest to major in chemistry and study disease at Howard University. During the latter part of his undergraduate program, he tapped into the intersection of inequality and public health and began to consider how forces such as poverty can drive the spread of diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.

In addition to his faculty appointments, Ogbunu channels his creative energy through writing.  He has written for a number of publications, including Scientific American, Undark, and the Boston Review. He currently serves as an Ideas contributor at Wired magazine and contributing editor to New York Public Radio’s podcast, "Radiolab."

The seminar is co-sponsored by the College of Science’s Diversity Committee; the College of Natural Resources and Environment; the Moss Arts Center Women and Minority Artists and Scholars Lecture Series; the Office of Inclusion and Diversity; the Department of Biological Sciences’ Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Seminar; the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine; and the Fralin Life Sciences Institute’s Global Change Center.

The seminar opens the spring 2023 Virginia Tech Life Science Seminars, a universitywide series funded by the Fralin Life Sciences Institute. These interdisciplinary seminars are given by renowned scientists from the United States and abroad whose research connects to the life sciences disciplines at Virginia Tech. The series, open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff will run through the end of the spring semester.

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