On 30 April, Euki Yazaki, who joined iTHEMS in April, gave a talk at the second iTHEMS Biology Seminar. Euki's main research motivation is to understand the diversity and evolution of eukaryotes, especially by focusing on microorganisms called "protists". Most of you probably know nothing about protists. In fact, protist is not a proper phylogenetic group. It is "any eukaryotic organism that is not an animal, plant, or fungus" (from Wikipedia) - i.e. a category to dump all the eukaryotes that most people don't know about and don't care about. Yet, as Euki illustrated, they make up most of the phylogenetic diversity of eukaryotes, and there are still many many species that haven't been discovered. He described his previous research where he isolated an unknown protist from Palau which was different from any other protist that had been discovered, and determined its phylogenetic placement by large-scale DNA sequence data analyses. Euki and I believe that protists hold the key to understanding the origin of eukaryotes and to uncover some new exciting biology. Euki's talk also sparked interest from non-biologists to learn more about phylogenetics, a topic that involves lots of mathematics, which will hopefully be the topic of a seminar in the near future.
- Jeffrey Fawcett