CONTACT: JENNIFER CRONIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9917; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: Jan. 27, 2000
UI pediatrician/geneticist to give Presidential Lecture
IOWA CITY, Iowa When Jeff Murray, M.D., University of Iowa professor
of pediatrics, gives this year's Presidential Lecture on Feb. 6, he doesn't
plan to boast about his scientific contributions and achievements, although
there are many. Instead, he said he wants to share his thoughts on how science
has influenced his view of the world and how science interacts with society.
Murray will give the 2000 Presidential Lecture, titled: "Genes and
the Environment, Science and Society," starting at 3:30 p.m., Feb. 6
at the Levitt Center for University Advancement.
"The lecture encompasses what I do and what I'm interested in,"
Murray, who headed the UI's involvement in the Human Genome Project, has
always been fascinated with how genes and the environment interact to cause
problems, particularly facial birth defects such as cleft palate. His interest
goes beyond just understanding the basic science of genetics. As Murray explained,
talk about genes and environment raise ethical and moral issues that society
"The lecture will be a chance for the university community to share
those ideas," Murray said.
Murray, a faculty member since 1984, credits his high school science teacher
Mr. Pine for introducing him to the world of biology. His interest in genetics
came about while working in a genetics lab as an undergraduate. Murray had
planned to follow in Mr. Pine's footsteps until his wife, a nurse, encouraged
him to give medical school a shot. Medical school paid off, allowing Murray
to find his calling.
"I am very lucky," Murray said. "My work at the university
allows me to combine my interests. I like taking care of babies and sick people,
but I like the science too. Pouring things into test tubes is really cool."
Although Murray believes that his work in the clinic and the lab is important,
his life experiences outside the medical center -- his humanitarian trips
to developing countries such as thePhilippines and Brazil -- have affected
him the most. In addition to talking about the moral and ethical aspects of
genetics, Murray plans to focus his lecture on these life experiences and
what they have taught him.
"The problems I look at in the lab are important, but they are not
the most important problems today," Murray said. "Those problems
are infectious diseases, famine and the types of problems that people in this
country don't really have to deal with. People in the United States, for the
most part, are better off than people in developing countries. We, who are
better off, have a moral, social obligation to help where we can."
Murray, who holds a B.S. from MIT and an M.D. from Tufts, joined the UI
faculty in 1984 and became a full professor in 1994. In addition to his appointment
in the department of pediatrics, Murray also holds appointments in the College
of Liberal Arts (biological sciences), the College of Dentistry (pediatric
dentistry and Dows Institute for Dental Research), and the department of preventive
medicine, which has been reorganized as part of the new College of Public
He also chairs the interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in genetics and -- with
John Keller, professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery -- directs the interdisciplinary
Comprehensive Oral Health Research Center of Discovery, which focuses on craniofacial
research. Here, Murray is continuing his studies of the molecular genetic
epidemiology of non-syndromic cleft lip and palate and the mutational basis
for other craniofacial disorders. Other research projects include human linkage
mapping, the genetics of myopia, glaucoma, and cataracts, and the genetics
of language impairment.
Named a UI global scholar in 1999, Murray is preparing for an international
clinical trial to study whether vitamin intervention will help indigent women
prevent birth defects.
In addition to Murray's talk, the 2000 Presidential Lecture will include
a performance of the first movement of Eduardo Gamboa's 1997 Transparencias.
The piece will be performed by UI School of Music faculty members Tadeu Coelho,
flute, and Ksenia Nosikova, piano.
The lecture and performance are free and open to the public.
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the
UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care,
medical education and research programs and services they provide.