Annual Patton Lecture

The annual Patton Lecture in Insect Physiology is hosted by the Department of Entomology, Cornell University, and sponsored by Dr. Daljit S. and Elaine Sarkaria. The annual traveling lectureship is in honor of Dr Robert L. Patton (1914-2008). Dr Patton was a member of faculty at Cornell from 1939-1978. He was a pioneer in insect electrophysiology and contributed to many other areas of insect physiology.

The 16th Annual Patton Lecture on 16 October 2017

This year’s Patton Lecturer is Professor Christina Grozinger, Department of Entomology, Center for Pollinator Research, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Pennsylvania State University.  Her Lecture will be presented at 3 pm on Monday 16th October 2017, in 2123 Comstock Hall.  The lecture is:

Cooperation and conflict in social insect societies: from pheromones to genes

Abstract:  While honey bee colonies are often thought of a harmonious “superorganisms”, our studies of interactions among the queen, workers and drones have revealed a nuanced and sophisticated pheromone communication system that balances cooperation and conflict among members of the colony.  Our studies provide novel insights into genomic, epigenomic, physiological and chemical mechanisms that regulate the variation in pheromone production and responses to these pheromones that shape social behavior in honey bees.  We have extended these studies to other social insects (bumble bees, paper wasps, and fire ants) to begin to examine the evolution of the genomic pathways underpinning chemical communication and reproductive dominance and the interplay between social environment and individual behavior. Finally, our studies demonstrate the power of using genomic approaches to identify and characterize social cues and signals and their impacts.

The Patton Lecturers

2016 Professor Mark Brown, Department of Entomology, University of Georgia

2015/16 Professor Carl Thummel, Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah

2014 Professor Bryony Bonning, Department of Entomology, University of Iowa State

2013 Professor David O’Brochta, Department of Entomology, University of Maryland

2012/13 Professor Bill Hansson, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany

2011 Professor Jon Harrison, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University

2010 Professor Serap Aksoy, Head of the Division of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health

2009 Professor Bruno Lemaitre École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland

2008 Professor Julian Dow Integrative and Systems Biology, University of Glasgow

2007 Dr Walter Leal Chemical Ecology and Olfaction Group, Department of Entomology, University of California at Davis

2006 Dr David Denlinger Department of Entomology, Ohio State University

2005 Professor Fred Nijhout Department of Biology, Duke University

2004 Professor Dr Randolf Menzel Freie Universität Berlin

2003 Dr Jim Truman Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Janelia Farm

2002 Professor Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, John Hopkins Malaria Research Institute


Robert L. Patton

PattonRobert Patton (1913-2008) was born in Livingston, Montana and received a BS degree from Montana State College, Bozeman and a PhD degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the faculty at Cornell in 1939, and he contributed to the field of insect physiology through research, a textbook and mentoring of 22 graduate students, several of whom became distinguished contributors to the discipline.
Dr Patton was a pioneer in insect electrophysiology. In the early 1950s, he monitored the electrical activity of the insect nervous system using electro-mechanical equipment of his own design. This work was reported in Newsweek magazine. In 1978, he was named a Professor Emeritus and, in 2002, he was honored by Cornell with the creation of a permanent visiting lectureship in his name.

Dr Patton was also skilled in ultra-micro chemistry. During World War II, he was a member of the team that developed a method for the chemical isolation of Plutonium 239. In 1948, he was cited by President Truman for his contribution to the war effort.

Dr Patton was very active in scouting, serving as a troup leader and in other roles, for which he was recognized by the Silver Beaver Award in 1981. He enjoyed playing the clarinet and was an accomplished woodworker.