Penn Symposium to honor veterinarian Ralph Brinster

Last September, Ralph Brinster, a researcher in the School of Veterinary Medicine, became the first veterinarian to receive the National Medal of Science, one of the most prestigious awards bestowed upon scientists in the United States. Later this month, a unique meeting will honor that achievement and place in context Brinster’s half-century career at Penn.

The Penn Symposium, to be held Aug. 24-25 at Hill Pavilion, will feature 17 speakers who are among the leaders in germ cell and developmental biology. It is an apt lineup, as research led by Brinster, the Richard King Mellon Professor of Reproductive Physiology at Penn Vet, has focused on manipulating the germline of mammals to make breakthroughs in reproductive science. His findings have been applied in genetic engineering, in vitro fertilization, and cloning. In addition, his recent work has identified a stem cell-based method that may be used to preserve fertility in boys who undergo cancer therapies.

“Ralph Brinster has had a stellar 50 years at Penn,” says Michael Atchison, a professor of biochemistry and director of the VMD/PhD Program at Penn Vet, and one of the symposium’s organizers. “Ralph is exceptionally humble but he has really been a game changer, making discoveries that have changed the field.”

The organizers expect about 300 people to attend the symposium, both from within Penn and from other institutions.

Notable guest speakers will include Nobel Laureate Michael Brown—a Penn Medicine alum—who will present a keynote address on genetically engineered strains of mice that have served as models for human disease. Penn Provost Vincent Price and Penn Vet Dean Joan Hendricks will be among those offering opening comments, and Brinster himself will close out the symposium summarizing the milestones in research over his career.

“I am extremely honored by the symposium that Penn Vet and the University are hosting in recognition of my 50 years here,” says Brinster. “However, I’m a bit embarrassed to be singled out in this way. I must emphasize that my research accomplishments throughout my career are largely a result of the great talent and hard work of my students, collaborators, and colleagues to whom I am greatly in debt and fortunate to have had as friends and fellow research scientists.”

Registration is free but limited. To sign up, visit the Penn Vet website.

Ralph Brinster