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You know that old saying, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, get out of the room”? Yeah, well that wasn’t the case last Thursday at February’s RTP 180 at The Frontier. It’s also never been the case for me unless I’m the only one in the room. The topic this month was Gene-Environment Interaction.

The best way I know how to describe this topic is through an example. Let’s say you live in an old house covered in mold. If you continue to breathe in mold for years and years, your genetic makeup can actually change and since, you know, its genetics, you can actually pass this change down to your offspring. Crazy huh?

Companies in Research Triangle Park have been researching, studying, and analyzing data related to this interaction. With most of the heavy hitters located right here in the Park, we invited them to take the RTP 180 stage. I’ve pulled out the five most interesting takeaways from the night, but of course, I would encourage you to go back and watch all five presentations (5 minutes each) on The RTP’s YouTube channel HERE.


The FIVE most interesting takeaways according to Will Hardison:

1. Dr. Linda Birnbaum, NIEHS: Back in 1960 Terry Sanford, North Carolina’s Governor at the time, was in charge of bringing the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to North Carolina and more specifically to Research Triangle Park. It’s been located here for the past 60 years and researches a bevy of environmental health factors.

Fun Fact: Linda likes to sing in her spare time.

Watch Dr. Linda’s full presentation


2. Susan Sumner, RTI International: We can form our biochemical fingerprint based on our metabotype, which helps us to understand our health and wellness.

Fancy way of saying, “Using science to figure out our bodies”…I think.

Fun Fact: Susan used to spin thread on 3rd shift in a mill.

Watch Susan’s full presentation


3. Joel Meyer, Duke: Mitochondria have DNA too!

I mean…I already knew this. Didn’t you?

Fun Fact: Joel and his team don’t use mice or rats for testing. Instead they use worms to conduct their studies.

Watch Joel’s full presentation


4. Heather Patisaul, NC State: Heather enjoys studying how different chemicals in our brain change how we think and behave. For example, hormones during puberty change your brain so the things that were icky and yucky (like the opposite sex, or broccoli) are now attractive and appealing. 

Fun Fact: Heather claims that the privilege of being in RTP is being surrounded by like-minded people who believe in what she believes which is that “Great technology and environmental sustainability can co-exist.”

Watch Heather’s full presentation


5. David Peden, UNC: Long exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a whole host of issues for humans in our blood stream. For example: heart problems and increased blood clots.

Fun Fact: Air Pollution can cause asthma attacks up to 24 hours after being exposed.

Watch David’s full presentation


While February’s topic was focused on the hard sciences, March will take a shift to something a little less technical – Storytelling. As always with RTP 180, we do our best to vary the topics and keep it interesting. Hope to see you on Thursday, March 17th for the next event! Tickets will go live one week before the event on March 10th.