Questions of smell discussed

February 24, 2005, vol. 32, no. 4



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How Do I Smell? That's the title of a public lecture to be presented at SFU March 7 and 10 by Stuart Firestein, the 2004 recipient of the Frank Allison Linville R.H. Wright award for outstanding achievement in olfactory research.

Firestein is a professor of neurobiology in the department of biological sciences at Columbia University.

He has received numerous awards for his research examining how our sense of smell can recognize and discriminate between thousands of small chemical compounds that differ by only one or two atoms.

In particular, he studies the remarkable process that occurs when odour molecules interact with proteins on the surface of sensory neurons, the odour receptors.

These receptors, discovered by researchers in 1991, comprise the largest gene family in the mammalian genome.

They represent an opportunity, says Firestein, to learn more about molecular recognition in biological systems and how the brain makes sense of a multi-dimensional stimulus such as odor.

Firestein will present a public lecture and two research seminars during his visit to SFU. The public lecture, How Do I Smell? The Science of Mammalian Olfaction, takes place on March 7 at 3 p.m. at the Halpern centre at the Burnaby campus and repeats on March 10 at 7 p.m. in room 2510 at Harbour Centre.

Firestein will also present a research seminar, Action in Olfaction: Remodelling the Olfactory System, on, March 9 at 3 p.m. at the Halpern centre, and another, How the Brain Makes Scents, at UBC on March 8, time and venue to be announced.

The annual $30,000 award was established in 1984 by Linville to recognize B.C. chemist Robert Wright, whose research contributed significantly to understanding the sense of smell.

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