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Eric Lander's Secrets of the Genome

At the urging of his daughter, a senior at Princeton, Eric Lander came down to New Jersey to talk about maps yesterday evening. ("I like maps!" Lander said in a line that became his motto for the next 90 minutes.) The crowded room in McCosh Hall included Princeton faculty and undergraduates as well as community members and local high school students (they received class credit). The audience paid close attention, despite the hard wooden chairs and some level of technicality (don't worry if you don't get this slide, there's another after it, he assured the audience), as Lander enthusiastically discussed the importance of maps in aiding people to better understand everything from geography to chemistry to biology.

Genome maps, he went on, evolved from early chromosomal walking-based linkage maps to today's sequencing and epigenomic maps. (In one of his many jokes from the evening, Lander said in describing the technique, "It was called chromosomal walking. I'm from Brooklyn, I call it chromosomal schlepping.") These maps are now used to study rare and common diseases as well as evolutionary relationships in finer and finer detail. Finally, Lander mentioned a new kind of map — keeping up with the popularity of 3D these days — that suggests that the genome folds into a fractal globule.

Lander's talk is to be made available as a webcast here.