Professor of Ecological Physiology Rachel Bowden will deliver the Distinguished Professor Lecture at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 4, in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center at Illinois State University.
Bowden will give a talk titled “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex (Determination) but Were Afraid to Ask.” The event is free and open to the public.
Bowden’s work on sex determination in red-eared slider turtles focuses on the impact of the environment in which buried eggs develop. “In species with temperature-dependent sex determination, sex is not determined by chromosomes but by the temperature at which the eggs are incubated during embryonic development,” said Bowden, who has received more than $1.6 million in external funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health in support of her work on red-eared slider turtles, and her scholarly record includes over 60 peer-reviewed journal articles.
Pursuing her studies for nearly 25 years, Bowden knows much remains mysterious about the workings of temperature-dependent sex determination. “When most people think of how sex is determined, they immediately think of the way that we mammals do it: Mom provides one of her two sex chromosomes (an X) and Dad provides either an X or Y chromosome. Therefore, it comes as a complete surprise to most people that many animals do not even bother with sex chromosomes,” she said.
Bowden received her Ph.D. from Indiana University Bloomington in 2001 and was a postdoctoral researcher at Iowa State University from 2001 until she joined the School of Biological Sciences at Illinois State University in 2003. She was promoted to professor of ecological physiology in 2013 and has received recognition for her scholarship at Illinois State. She received the University Research Initiative Award in 2007, the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Researcher Award in 2012, and the Outstanding University Researcher Award in 2013. She received the University Teaching Initiative Award in 2007.
In addition to her formal teaching assignments, during her time at Illinois State University she has mentored 15 graduate students (five Ph.D. and 10 master’s degree students) and numerous undergraduate students in her research laboratory. A former Ph.D. student received the Clarence W. Sorensen Distinguished Dissertation Award in 2018.
In all aspects of her research she takes a highly collaborative approach, which has resulted in her co-authoring papers and grant proposals with 11 different faculty members within Biological Sciences.