Montana State University

Nov. 9 lecture to focus on DNA damage caused by ultraviolet light

November 3, 2010 -- MSU News Service

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN -- A free public lecture about DNA damage caused by ultraviolet light will be given on Tuesday, Nov. 9, at Montana State University.

Bern Kohler, a professor in MSU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will speak on "Four Billion Years of Fun in the Sun: How Ultrafast Events Protect DNA from Deadly UV Rays" at 4 p.m. in the Procrastinator Theater in the Strand Union Building. A reception will follow in the Leigh Lounge.

The Kohler research group uses femtosecond (one millionth of a billionth of a second) lasers to make "movies" of the elementary and exceedingly rapid events behind chemical reactions. Microscopy provides access to minuscule spatial dimensions; femtosecond laser spectroscopy reveals the temporal evolution of the microscopic world.

Kohler's talk will focus on how UV rays in sunlight constantly damage the DNA of all living organisms. This damage causes mutations that can lead to skin cancer, the most widespread human cancer in North America. Experiments show that DNA can act as its own sunscreen by safely and efficiently dissipating dangerous energy from sunlight. These properties limit damage to DNA by UV light and have important implications for the types of biomolecules that could thrive on the early Earth or perhaps elsewhere in the universe.

Kohler's lecture is presented by the Kopriva Science Seminar Series, which is funded through an endowment created by Phil Kopriva, a 1957 microbiology graduate from MSU. Kopriva, who died in 2002, also created an endowment to fund the Kopriva Graduate Fellowship Program, which provides support and opportunities for graduate students in the College of Letters and Science, particularly in the biomedical sciences. The series features six seminars annually, with talks provided by MSU graduate students, faculty members and guest speakers. For more information about this and other Kopriva lectures, visit Kopriva series.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu