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World-renowned scientist gives lecture at University

This year Murray State honored the former dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, Gary Boggess, by bringing in what he called a world-renowned scientist to give a lecture.

On Monday, Owen McMillan, staff scientist and dean of Academic Programs of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, presented a lecture about the scientific work he has participated in, in Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal Zone.

McMillan spoke to a full auditorium of students, staff and faculty about how evolution generates biodiversity, that is, diversity among and within plant and animal species in an environment. Most of the research he presented was on wing pattern variations in Heliconius butterflies.

Heliconius is a species-rich group of tropical butterflies which show variations in their colored wing patterns and is an ideal system to study the interface between genomes, development and the ecology and evolution of functional diversity.

McMillan said it was a great honor to give a lecture on behalf of the former dean of the College.

“It feels great,” McMillan said. “This is my first trip up to Murray and it is always an honor to speak at a named lecture. I don’t always give lectures on topics like this.”

Bonnie Higginson, vice president of Academic Affairs, said inviting outside researches to give lectures on campus is crucial to keeping Murray State current.

“It is critical that we invite distinguished researchers in all fields to share knowledge with students and faculty at Murray State,” Higginson said. “Dr. McMillan’s work in Panama and his leadership as dean of Academic Programs of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute is of great interest, not just to biology students and faculty, but to everyone who is curious about working in another country and making discoveries that impact our environment.”

According to information provided by Higginson, McMillan refused to accept compensation for his lecture, indicating he preferred the money be directed to students who wish to study abroad, especially in Panama.

Story by Alex Berg, Staff writer.