Renowned evolutionary biologist to speak for SFA’s Darwin Day event

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — In a celebration of scientific curiosity and the contributions of biologists, Stephen F. Austin State University’s Department of Biology is set to celebrate Darwin Day Feb. 12 with special guest speaker Dr. David Hillis from The University of Texas at Austin.

Embracing the spirit of inquiry that defines Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking contributions to evolutionary theory, Hillis will give his talk on Darwin’s “Tree of Life” hypothesis.  

Hillis is the Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professor in Natural Sciences at UT Austin, where he studies molecular evolution and biodiversity in the Department of Integrative Biology. He is the director of UT Austin’s Biodiversity Center and also directs the Dean’s Scholars Program of the College of Natural Sciences.

“We are delighted to have Dr. Hillis on the SFA campus to speak at this special event as we gather together to celebrate, remember and reflect on not only the contributions of Darwin but also the contributions of many scientists in general,” said Dr. Carmen Montaña, assistant professor of biology.

Hillis’ research is focused on the tree of life and how we can use it to understand processes of evolution. He is one of the foremost evolutionary biologists today investigating the evolutionary relationships among living organisms. His work has helped the study of the evolutionary development of a species or a group of organisms throughout most fields of molecular biology in recent years, from studies of the epidemiology of human immunodeficiency viruses to studies of the origin of life.

Hillis’ research appears in over 200 scientific publications, and he has authored numerous books, including his most recent: “Armadillos to Ziziphus: A Naturalist in the Texas Hill Country.” In recognition of his contributions to evolutionary biology, he has received many honors, including being elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the National Academy of Sciences. He has served as president of the Society for the Study of Evolution and the Society of Systematic Biologists.

Hillis will give his featured talk, “Applications of the Great Tree of Life,” from noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 12 in the Miller Science Building, Room 139, on the SFA campus.