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 17th Annual Patton Lecture on 15 October 2018

This year’s Patton Lecturer is Professor Francesco Pennacchio, Laboratory of Entomology “E. Tremblay”, Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Napoli “Federico II”.  His lecture will be presented at 3 pm on Monday 15th October 2018, in 2123 Comstock Hall.  The lecture is:

Insect immunity as affected by stress factors

Abstract Insect immune barriers are suppressed by invading parasites and pathogens, which have developed effective virulence strategies, as a result of a long co-evolutionary process. However, the immune response is not only modulated by these biotic stress factors, but is also conditioned by several abiotic stressors. Among these, poor nutrition and pesticides play an important role. In particular, neurotoxic insecticides are able to interfere with the cross-talk between the nervous and immune systems, often separately considered. Unveiling the regulatory mechanisms of these physiological networks paves the way towards the development of new bioinspired strategies for pest control and pollinator protection.

Francesco Pennacchio is Professor of Entomology at the University of Napoli “Federico II” (Italy), Visiting Professor at Newcastle University, and coordinator of an international network of PhD Schools in “Insect Science”. He is member of the Italian National Academy of Entomology, currently serves as President of the Italian Entomological Society (Società Entomologica Italiana), and as member of the Council for International Congresses of Entomology. He is co-editor in chief of “Journal of Insect Physiology”, since 2010. In 1989 he received a PhD in Entomology, at the University of Napoli “Federico II”, for his research on parasitic Hymenoptera biology, on which he continued to focus as visiting scientist (1989-1991) at Texas A&M University (College Station, TX, USA). The study of the molecular physiology of insect parasitoids and of the interactions with their victims and host plants is at the core of his research interests, along with biotechnologies for insect control that can be developed based on this knowledge. He is internationally recognized for his work on insect immunity and immunosuppression strategies by parasites and pathogens, and on how environmental stress can alter insect immunocompetence. In 2013 he was awarded the Cozzarelli Prize by the National Academy of Sciences of USA for his work on elucidating the molecular mechanism through which the neonicotinoid clothianidin adversely affects the insect immune response and promotes replication of a viral pathogen in honeybees bearing covert infections. This work sheds new light on a further level of regulation of the immune response in insects and has implications for bee conservation.

 The Patton Lecturers

2017 Professor Christina Grozinger, Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University

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.