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Robert E. Benoit Distinguished Lecture Series

Robert E. Benoit Distinguished Lectureship

female students look at water samples next to the duck pond
A male Passerini’s tanager, Ramphocelus passerinii, eats the fruit of Piper sancti-felicis. Photo by Bernadette Wynter Rigley.

Established by alumni of Lambda Chi Alpha & Sigma Omega Tau Fraternities
in memory of Dr. Robert E. Benoit

Biological Sciences lectureship

recent Lecture

Inaugural lecture with

Dr. Steven Wilhelm

Kenneth and Blaire Mossman Professor of Microbiology
University of Tennessee


Wednesday, April 12, 2023


Viruses and Cyanobacteria in Fresh Waters: A Molecular Biologist’s Tales.

Healthy fresh waters rely on the millions of microbes found in every drop. Understanding events that lead us to consider these waters “unhealthy”, like toxic cyanobacterial blooms, requires a focus on not just the organisms causing the problem, but also on all the other microbes in the system.  Over the past 20 years an array of biomolecular tools – including DNA and RNA sequencing, metabolomics, and the data science that supports these – have been developed in concert with lab and field studies in the Laurentian Great Lakes as well as bodies of water around the world. These tools have been deployed with a focus on why we are seeing more algal blooms, why these blooms are more toxic and how the interplay between bacteria and viruses works to constrain the spatial and temporal extent of these failing ecosystems. From the perspective of understanding how we might best deal with harmful freshwater blooms in the future, the presentation will new insight into the interactions between ecology and physiology of viruses and bacteria and the implications of a changing climate.

Steven Wilhelm is the Kenneth and Blaire Mossman Professor of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Tennessee. His research group studies synergies between microbial communities and biogeochemical cycles in lakes and oceans. Lab members use biomolecular tools - DNA and RNA sequencing, metabolomics, and PCR-based quantitative analyses - to study viruses, bacteria, cyanobacteria and algae.  Along with an active research team he is also the principal investigator of a NSF-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates site at UTK that is entering its twelfth consecutive year.

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About the series

The Robert E. Benoit Distinguished Lectureship in Biological Sciences was established by members of the Lambda Chi Alpha Alumni Chapter at Virginia Tech, which includes alumni from both Sigma Omega Tau and Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternities, in memory of their former advisor, Dr. Robert E. Benoit, associate professor emeritus of biological sciences at Virginia Tech.

All talks are free and open to the public.  Registration is encouraged but not required.  Attendees are invited to stay for a reception after the talk.    

For more information:

Contact Jenny Orzolek, Senior Director of Major Gifts for Advancement | 540-231-5643