Looking to learn more about the latest research happening in West Michigan? Each year, Van Andel Institute hosts free Public Lecture Series, which spotlights groundbreaking science and K–12 education initiatives. Learn more about our first two virtual lectures below.

Biobanks: The Science of Samples

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 | 12–1 p.m.

The research that drives discoveries in health and disease is fueled by biological samples.

These critical specimens allow scientists to investigate how our bodies work when they’re healthy, how they change when we’re sick, and how we can better prevent, predict, diagnose and treat diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and many others.

That’s why it’s incredibly important to treat samples with the utmost care and consistency, a task that requires specialized skills and state-of-the-art facilities called biobanks.

Join VAI’s Dr. Scott Jewell for an inside look into the world of biobanking and a snapshot of the ways the Institute’s own biobank is fueling breakthroughs right here in Grand Rapids.

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Scott Jewell, Ph.D. – Director, Pathology and Biorepository Core

Meet Dr. Jewell

Dr. Jewell is an expert in biobanking, which encompasses the management and storage of the crucial biological samples that facilitate research into health and disease. As director of VAI’s Pathology and Biorepository Core, Dr. Jewell oversees the Institute’s contributions to many large-scale, collaborative projects designed to shed new light onto cancer, Parkinson’s, rare disorders and many other diseases.

The Epigenetic Playbook of Cancer: Mechanisms and Therapeutic Opportunities

Tuesday, April 25, 2023 | 12–1 p.m.

Every cell in our bodies is home to nearly six feet of DNA, the genetic playbook responsible for making us. But if every cell has the same playbook, how and why does the human body have so many different types of cells that perform different functions? Why do some become skin cells, while others become muscle cells, heart cells or brain cells?

The answer is epigenetics — a complex set of processes that ensure the right plays are run at the right time. Epigenetics processes are vital for maintaining health but, when the wrong plays are called, they can contribute to diseases such as cancer and many others.

Join VAI’s Dr. Scott Rothbart for an inside look at how epigenetics is revolutionizing what we know about health and informing new strategies for treating cancer — including a sneak peek into groundbreaking efforts to move breakthroughs from the lab to the clinic.

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Scott Rothbart
Scott Rothbart, Ph.D. — Associate Professor, Department of Epigenetics

Meet Dr. Rothbart

Dr. Rothbart studies the ways in which cells pack and unpack DNA. This elegant process twists and coils roughly two meters of unwound DNA into a space less than one-tenth the width of a human hair. Although this process is impressive, it is also subject to errors that can cause cancer and other disorders. Dr. Rothbart seeks new targets for drug development in this process.


We look forward to announcing additional public lectures in the coming weeks. Visit vai.org/events to explore upcoming events.