Stowers Investigator Kicks Off the 2016 TEDxKC Talks

TED talks are a popular forum for sharing worthwhile ideas. The TED organization invites the world's leading thinkers and doers to speak on topics ranging from ecology to technology to political policy.

Kansas City is one of many communities that organize and host a local TED-like event called TEDx that is designed to help spark conversation and connections at the local level.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stowers Investigator Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, PhD, was invited to participate in the eighth annual TEDxKC event. He opened the event by introducing guests to their jellyfish “cousin” Thalia democratica and explained the extensive genomic ancestry they share with humans. He used this curious example to highlight the importance of basic, curiosity-driven research in a wide variety of intriguing and new model organisms.

Sánchez Alvarado also introduced guests to Schmidtea mediterranea, a freshwater flatworm that can be cut into multiple pieces that will each regenerate into a complete animal. He revealed that the flatworm does not conform to some of the biological “rules” that scientists have derived from the seven most common species used to study biological function. Those seven species, which include humans, mice, and fruit flies, make up only 0.00009% of all known animal species.

He suggested that research specialization “is beginning to impede our progress at best, and at worst leading us astray.” He argued that a renewed sense of exploration, by asking better questions, is in order and that support of basic research institutions like the Stowers Institute is necessary.

Listen to Sánchez Alvarado’s entire motivating talk at