Spring Suter Science Seminars 2021

This semester’s Suter Science Seminar lineup at Eastern Mennonite University includes a patent attorney, a wildlife management professional, a watershed steward, a pediatrician, and a neuroscientist.

The events sessions will be live streamed on the EMU Facebook Page (you do not need a Facebook account to watch). 

  • Wednesday, January 27, 4:15 p.m. – “Can I really patent that?” with Eric Rutt ’01, an attorney with Wolf Greenfield Intellectual Property Law in Boston.
  • Wednesday, February 24, 4:15 p.m. – “Difficult decisions: the role of value-focused thinking in wildlife disease management” with Katrina Alger ’08, a biologist and decision analyst at the United States Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center.
  • Wednesday, March 24, 4:15 p.m. – “Wadi Rum, watersheds, and well child checks” with Laura Cattell Noll ’09 of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and pediatrician Dr. Kelly Smucker ’09.
  • Wednesday, April 7, 4:15 p.m. – “Inhibitory interneuron dysfunction drives seizures in SCN8A epilepsy” with Eric Wengert, a doctoral candidate in the neuroscience program at the University of Virginia.

The lectures are made possible by the sponsorship of the Daniel B. Suter Endowment in Biology and the co-sponsorship of supporting programs. 

Named in honor of long-time EMU biology professor, Daniel B. Suter (1920-2006), the Endowment in Biology was established in 1986 through the generous donations of alumni and friends and currently consists of over $1 million of invested funds. EMU hopes to double the Suter Endowment in order to more adequately support distinguished faculty and to increase scholarship aid to deserving students.

Eric Rutt

Attorney Eric Rutt ’01 will give the first of the 2021 Suter Science Seminars at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) on January 27 at 4:15 p.m. His talk, titled “Can I really patent that?” will delve into the debate over what developments in biotechnology can be patented, including a 2013 case involving patents for genes that cause breast cancer. 

The sessions are free to the public, and made possible by the sponsorship of the Daniel B. Suter Endowment in Biology and the co-sponsorship of supporting programs. They will be live streamed on the EMU Facebook Page.

Rutt practices law with the firm Wolf Greenfield in Boston, which handles all aspects of intellectual property, with a focus on patent prosecution and litigation.

“The patent laws of the United States contemplate that ‘anything under the sun that is made by man’ can be patented,” Rutt said. “While laws of nature, such as E=mc2, and physical phenomena, such as newly discovered plants or minerals, are excluded, what about patenting genetically engineered organisms or genes that are discovered to cause cancer?”

Rutt graduated from EMU in 2001 with a degree in chemistry. He then worked as a laboratory technician at Merck before earning his doctorate at Boston College Law School.

The next seminar will be given by USGS National Wildlife Health Center biologist and decision analyst Katrina Alger ’08 on February 24.

Named in honor of long-time EMU biology professor, Daniel B. Suter (1920-2006), the Endowment in Biology was established in 1986 through the generous donations of alumni and friends and currently consists of over $1 million of invested funds. EMU hopes to double the Suter Endowment in order to more adequately support distinguished faculty and to increase scholarship aid to deserving students.

Katrina Alger

Katrina Alger ’08, a biologist and decision analyst at the United States Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center, will give a Suter Science Seminar at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) on February 24 at 4:15 p.m. Her talk is titled “Difficult decisions: the role of value-focused thinking in wildlife disease management.”

The sessions are free to the public, and made possible by the sponsorship of the Daniel B. Suter Endowment in Biology and the co-sponsorship of supporting programs. They will be live streamed on the EMU Facebook Page.

Alger will speak on decision making and analysis for issues of wildlife disease management, and how to do so in transparent, inclusive, and defensible ways. 

“Outbreaks of disease in wildlife populations can have far-reaching consequences for biodiversity conservation, agricultural production, and human health,” Alger explains. “From a management standpoint, wildlife disease is often considered a ‘wicked’ problem due to ecological complexity, competing stakeholder objectives, and underlying uncertainty about both the system and treatment efficacy.”

Alger has worked on a variety of issues for the National Wildlife Health Center, including white-nose syndrome in bats, tissue loss disease in coral, and chytrid fungus in salamanders. She holds a master’s degree in conservation biology from the State University of New York School of Environmental Science and Forestry. 

The next seminar will be given by Laura Cattell Noll ’09 of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and pediatrician Dr. Kelly Smucker ’09 on March 24.

Named in honor of long-time EMU biology professor, Daniel B. Suter (1920-2006), the Endowment in Biology was established in 1986 through the generous donations of alumni and friends and currently consists of over $1 million of invested funds. EMU hopes to double the Suter Endowment in order to more adequately support distinguished faculty and to increase scholarship aid to deserving students.

Laura Cattell Noll & Kelly Smucker

Laura Cattell Noll ’09 of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and pediatrician Dr. Kelly Smucker ’09 will give a Suter Science Seminar at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) on March 24 at 4:15 p.m. Their talk, titled “Wadi Rum, watersheds, and well child checks” will take the audience through their professional journeys and the impact of their friendship, which began their freshman year at EMU.

The sessions are free to the public, and made possible by the sponsorship of the Daniel B. Suter Endowment in Biology and the co-sponsorship of supporting programs. They will be live streamed on the EMU Facebook Page.

Noll and Smucker joke that they became fast friends as “fellow science nerds” in college, solidifying their bond over late-night chemistry write-ups in the Northlawn dorm. 

Noll studied environmental science and justice, peace, and conflict studies at EMU before earning a master’s in environmental science from the University of Virginia. She coordinates the Local Leadership Workgroup of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and has more than a decade of experience in community-based watershed restoration and stewardship.

Smucker majored in biology and minored in chemistry and history at EMU. She worked as a research assistant in microbiology at the University of Virginia, and did translational research in leukemia at Ohio State University, where she went on to earn her medical degree. Smucker completed her pediatric residency at the University of Minnesota and is now a pediatrician in Oregon.

The next seminar will be given by Eric Wengert, a doctoral candidate in the neuroscience program at the University of Virginia, on April 7. 

Named in honor of long-time EMU biology professor, Daniel B. Suter (1920-2006), the Endowment in Biology was established in 1986 through the generous donations of alumni and friends and currently consists of over $1 million of invested funds. EMU hopes to double the Suter Endowment in order to more adequately support distinguished faculty and to increase scholarship aid to deserving students.

Eric Wengert

Eric Wengert, a doctoral candidate in the neuroscience program at the University of Virginia, will give a Suter Science Seminar at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) on April 7 at 4:15 p.m. His talk is titled “Inhibitory interneuron dysfunction drives seizures in SCN8A epilepsy,” and will examine new evidence about the mechanisms of this severe epilepsy syndrome. 

The sessions are free to the public, and made possible by the sponsorship of the Daniel B. Suter Endowment in Biology and the co-sponsorship of supporting programs. They will be live streamed on the EMU Facebook Page.

Wengert is in his fifth year of the neuroscience PhD program under the mentorship of Professor Manoj Patel. His research focuses on a severe form of epilepsy which causes intellectual disability, motor impairment, and seizures that are difficult to treat with medication. 

“Gaining clarification of the precise mechanisms of the disease is warranted to help generate novel treatment strategies,” Wengert explains. “Although previously thought to be unaffected in SCN8A encephalopathy, this presentation will highlight new evidence that inhibitory interneurons are dysfunctional in SCN8A encephalopathy, and that their abnormal activity is sufficient to drive behavioral seizures.”

Wengert earned his bachelor’s in neuroscience from Bucknell University. After his anticipated graduation from the University of Virginia this May, he will join the laboratory of Dr. Ethan Goldberg at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a postdoctoral fellow.

Named in honor of long-time EMU biology professor, Daniel B. Suter (1920-2006), the Endowment in Biology was established in 1986 through the generous donations of alumni and friends and currently consists of over $1 million of invested funds. EMU hopes to double the Suter Endowment in order to more adequately support distinguished faculty and to increase scholarship aid to deserving students.

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