The Institute for the Science of Origins is led by more than 30 fellows working at the interface among the seven interdisciplinary sciences of evolution and origins. They range from faculty of Case Western Reserve University to curators at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to the COO of ideastream.
Cynthia Beall is a physical anthropologist whose research focuses on human adaptation to high-altitude hypoxia, particularly the different patterns of adaptation exhibited by Andean, Tibetan and East African highlanders. Her current research deals with the genetics of adaptive traits and evidence for natural selection, with the role of nitric oxide in oxygen delivery at high altitude and with the human ecology of high-altitude Tibetan nomads. Professor Beall is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.
Professor of Physics
Corbin Covault leads the High Energy Astrophysics group within the physics department. His main research activity is the study of the origin of the highest energy cosmic rays using the Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory. The origin and nature of cosmic rays remains a profound astrophysical scientific mystery, touching areas of particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology. Corbin Covault also studies the application of astrophysical detector techniques to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI), and is working to develop the Scanning Observatory For Optical SETI (SOPHOS), a dedicated array of telescopes to look for nanosecond laser flashes from extra-terrestrial sources.
Darin Croft received his B.A. from The University of Iowa and his M.S. and Ph.D. from The University of Chicago. He spends most of his time investigating the fossil mammals of South America and teaching human anatomy to medical and graduate students at Case Western Reserve. He has active field programs in the Andes of Chile and Bolivia, and his research spans alpha taxonomy (describing new species), phylogenetics (how animals are related), paleoecology (how extinct animals lived and interacted with each other), and macroecology (large scale trends in species diversity and community evolution). Many of his investigations focus on a group of endemic (and now extinct) mammals called notoungulates.
Chief Curator Dittrick Medical History Center and Adjunct Associate Professor of History
James Edmonson is Chief Curator of the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum, an interdisciplinary study center in the College of Arts and Sciences at CWRU. He received his M.A. and Ph.D in the history of technology in the Hagley Graduate Program of the University of Delaware. Edmonson spends most of his time working with the remarkably rich collection of rare medical books, archives, and medical objects at the Dittrick. He is the author of American Surgical Instruments (1997), and his most recent work is Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine, 1880-1920 (2009). Notable collections under his care at the Dittrick include the Percy Skuy Collection on the History of Contraception and the Stecher Collection of Darwiniana, which includes 180 letters of Charles Darwin’s correspondence. Edmonson has served on the Council of the American Association for the History of Medicine (2006-10), UMAC (University Museums and Collections) of ICOM (International Council of Museums), and is the American liaison and secretary general of the European Association of Museums of the History of Medical Sciences. He has been consultant to medical museums and collections including the Warren Anatomical Museum of Harvard University and the New York Academy of Medicine, and has served on grant review panels of the National Library of Medicine and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Dr. Gerson’s research interests include stem cells and DNA repair. In his stem cell research, he developed mesenchymal stem cells as a therapeutic infusion for blood stem cell transplantation and for the correction of genetic disorders. He identified a gene therapy strategy method that creates drug-resistant stem cells capable of selectively repopulating the recipient without the need for high-dose toxic therapy. He has developed inhibitors of DNA repair to improve the efficacy of anti-cancer agents, and transgenic mouse models that examine the role of critical genes in the stability of stem cell populations over the lifetime of the animal. These studies may predict stem cell diseases of aging and cancer. His research has generated 12 patents in the area of gene therapy and cancer drug development that have been licensed to three companies.
His leadership of the Stem Cell Center and the Cancer Center involve coordinating research throughout the medical centers in Cleveland. He is also leading University Hospitals’ effort to bring cancer care under one roof in the New Cancer Hospital scheduled to open in 2010.
Neil Greenspan is an immunologist and clinical pathologist. After studying biochemical sciences at Harvard, he received his M.D. and Ph.D. (in immunology) from the University of Pennsylvania and pursued post-graduate training in clinical pathology and molecular immunology at Barnes Hospital and Washington University. Since joining the Case Western Reserve faculty, Neil has studied immunity to bacterial pathogens and autoimmunity in a mouse model of lupus, pursued the conceptual implications of evolution for understanding immunology, and directed the Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics Laboratory of University Hospitals since 1986. He also teaches immunology and related fields to medical students, graduate students and pathology residents. In other activities, Neil chaired the planning committee for Case Western Reserve’s Celebration of Darwin and Evolution that extends throughout the 2008-2009 academic year and recently joined the Evolution and Medicine Review as a senior correspondent.
Yohannes Haile-Selassie’s paleoanthropological work centers on the Afar region of Ethiopia. He and his team will scour large areas looking for fossil remains dating less than 10 million years old. Their goal is to find specimens of human ancestors, but they also reconstruct fossil material of other animals to determine the ecology of the region when our ancestors walked, and determine what species our ancestors consumed or competed with. Dr. Haile-Selassie has been head of the Department of Physical Anthropology since 2002, and received his Ph.D. from UC-Berkeley before joining the museum staff.
A graduate of Beloit College with a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, Ralph Harvey has been the principal investigator and field team leader for the U.S. Antarctic Search for Meteorites program since 1991. He is an author or co-author of more than 100 publications on diverse topics in the planetary sciences, ranging from micrometeorites to icesheet dynamics to the history of Mars. He is a principal investigator in NSF’s Office of Polar Programs as well as NASA’s Cosmochemistry and Mars Fundamental Research programs. He is a frequent contributor to science instrument and landing site definition panels for NASA’s
Mars Exploration Program. Recently, he was a member of the preliminary examination team for the STARDUST sample return mission, and both an asteroid and an Antarctic mountain now bear his name.
Andy Jones conducts work on the biogeography and evolution of bird faunas using museum specimens and DNA sequences. A particular focus is his examination of the effects of Pleistocene climate change on birds in the Appalachians and the Philippines. Dr. Jones received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, and has been head of the Department of Ornithology since 2007.
Joe Keiper focuses on insect biology and how this knowledge can help us use insects as 21st-Century tools. His work in wetlands documents the biodiversity that occurs there, but he strives to use insect morphology community composition as a means to determine ecosystem health. In Northeast Ohio, he utilizes fly maggots as forensic evidence during investigations into human death under mysterious or suspicious circumstances (forensic entomology). Dr. Keiper received his Ph.D. from Kent State University and has been head of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology since 2000.
CHO director Bruce Latimer is Professor of Anthropology, Anatomy, and Cognitive Science at Case Western Reserve University. Physical anthropologist Latimer is internationally recognized as an expert on the evolution of human locomotion. His research has helped shape our present understanding of the evolutionary processes that led to the ability of humans to walk upright on two feet. Latimer is among a group of scientists who analyzed the famous 3.2 million-year-old “Lucy” fossil skeleton. In the fall of 2009, Latimer and other members of an international scientific team announced the discovery and identification of a new species of early human ancestor, Ardipithecus ramidus. In June, 2010, Latimer and and an international team of scientists announced the discovery and analysis of the oldest-known Australopithecus afarensis skeleton, which has led to the biggest leap forward in understanding this species since the initial “Lucy” discovery. This new and much larger male specimen is nicknamed “Kadanuumuu,” meaning “big man” in the Afar language.
An alumnus of Florida State University (BS) and MIT (PhD), Jim Van Orman did his postdoctoral work at the Carnegie Institution of Washington before coming to Case Western Reserve. His research extends from studies of Earth’s core and mantle, to atomic transport in solids and liquids at high pressures and temperatures, to unraveling the history of the early Solar System recorded in meteorites. In 2005 he was awarded the F.W. Clarke Medal by the Geochemical Society in recognition of his experimental and theoretical contributions to our understanding of diffusion in the deep Earth and its consequences for trace-element geochemistry and rheological behavior.
Patricia Princehouse is an evolutionary biologist and historian of science. She earned her masters from Yale and a PhD from Harvard, where she worked with Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin. She has conducted fieldwork on primate evolution in Africa and North America, and also has research interests in what artificial life and digital organisms can tell us about patterns and processes of evolution. Princehouse grew up on a farm near Dayton, Ohio, and has always had a keen interest in the natural world, especially animals. Princehouse has received many teaching awards, and in 2003 was honored by the National Center for Science Education’s “Friend of Darwin” award for helping preserve the integrity of Ohio’s public school science curriculum. She is currently working on a book titled Darwin’s Mutant Phoenix.
Michael Ryan’s research interests are primarily in the description of new species of ceratopsian (horned) dinosaurs, and the documentation of their diversity and biology as seen in the fossil record. He works on the paleoecology and paleobiogeography of the Late Cretaceous dinosaur fauna of the western interior of North America, and also conducts expeditions to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. Dr. Ryan has been head of the Vertebrate Paleontology department at CMNH since 2004, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Calgary.
Glenn Starkman is a professor of physics and astronomy, director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics, and director of the Institute for the Sciences of Origins at Case Western Reserve University. His research extends from searching for habitable planets around other stars to understanding the shape of the universe, from looking for miniature black holes in particle accelerators to extending and testing Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.
Prof. Taylor is the author of more than 60 scientific papers and has given more than 70 invited talks in recent years. As a physicist, he has worked in both theoretical and experimental high energy physics, serving as co-spokesman of the MiniMax collaboration (FNAL T-864) at Fermilab (1993 – present) and as co-spokesman of the FELIX collaboration at CERN (1996-present). Prof. Taylor has also been a leader in creating new programs aimed at empowering scientists as entrepreneurs. He is Director of the Physics Entrepreneurship Program at Case Western Reserve University, Coordinator of Case’s Science Entrepreneurship Programs and Co-Director of InTICE, the Institute for Technology Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship. Prof. Taylor was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society for providing a new paradigm for graduate education in Physics through the creation of an innovative Physics Entrepreneurship Master’s Program, and was awarded the prestigous 2003 Price Institute Innovative Entrepreneurship Educators Award for pioneering the innovative Physics Entrepreneurship Program.
Mark Turner is the founding director of the Cognitive Science Network. His most recent book publication is an edited volume, The Artful Mind: Cognitive Science and the Riddle of Human Creativity, from Oxford University Press. His other books and articles include Cognitive Dimensions of Social Science: The Way We Think about Politics, Economics, Law, and Society (Oxford), The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language (Oxford), Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science (Princeton), and Death is the Mother of Beauty (Chicago). He has been a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Advanced Study of Durham University. He is external research professor at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study in Cognitive Neuroscience and distinguished fellow at the New England Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology. In 1996, the Académie française awarded him the Prix du Rayonnement de la langue et de la littérature françaises.
Michael Weiss, born and raised in Cleveland, has been chair of the Department of Biochemistry at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine since 1999. He is also a professor of medicine in the Endocrine Division. Dr. Weiss received his undergraduate degree at Harvard College and M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the joint Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology. He completed a residency in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and began his faculty career in the Endocrine Unit of Massachusetts General Hospital. Prior to relocating to Case Western Reserve, Dr. Weiss was a professor of biochemistry and medicine at the University of Chicago.
Dr. Weiss’s research promises to enhance the clinical care of patients with diabetes mellitus through the development of novel ultra-stable and receptor-isoform-specific analogs of insulin. These analogs may make feasible an implantable closed-loop insulin pump as an artificial beta cell and may enable tight glycemic control without weight gain. Dr. Weiss also is investigating the genetics of neonatal diabetes in an effort to circumvent the need for lifelong insulin therapy in this subset of patients.
Idit Zehavi is a member of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University. She received a Ph.D. in Physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. She has held research positions at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona, before joining Case Western Reserve in 2006. Her research interests include cosmology and the large-scale structure of the universe, galaxy formation and evolution, and cosmic flows. She is an astrophysicist working at the interface of theory and observations, performing studies using large surveys of galaxies. In recent years she has been extensively involved with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, an ambitious survey mapping a quarter of the sky.