The Al Downe Lecture

The Al Downe Lecture is funded from the Al Downe Memorial Fund which was initially established in 2007 via a generous donation from a former student in order to provide an opportunity for Queen’s students to experience the inspiration and knowledge of a high profile Lecturer.  Subsequently the Fund has attracted donations from other students, colleagues, friends and family.

Aylward E.R. Downe

Al Downe, BSc (Alberta), MSc and PhD (Queen’s) was Fellow of the Entomological  Society of Canada and of the New York Academy of Sciences.  He taught at Kansas State and University of Saskatchewan, Regina before coming to Queen’s as an Associate Professor in 1967. He served as Head of the Department of Biology (1975-1980) and retired in 1993, but continued his association with the department until his death in 2002.  Al Downe inspired generations of Queen’s Biology students in the classroom and also in the laboratory.  His research on the biochemical and reproductive physiology of blood feeding insects was of the highest quality, and his great depth and breadth of knowledge was passed on to research students and undergraduates with rigor, energy, passion and much humor.  Al was a gifted speaker, who shared his great enthusiasm for science in ways that stirred and motivated others.  In recognition of this Al was awarded the 1992/93 Biology Department Student Council Award for Excellence in Teaching. It is thus fitting that he is remembered by bringing a high profile lecturer to speak to the Queen’s community on biology related topics.

2016 Al Downe Lecturer


Dr. Mariana Federica Wolfner, Professor Dept. of Molucular Biology & Genetics, Cornell University, Ithica NY

 Aylward E.R. Downe Memorial Lecture

 The inside-view of reproductive interactions between males, females, & their molecules in Drosophila

Friday, April 1, 12:30 pm, School of Medicine Room 032A, Queen’s University

Physiological and behavioral changes in female animals during & after mating are induced by seminal fluid components, in conjunction with female-derived molecules. In insects, these physiological changes include increased egg production & ovulation, & regulated storage of sperm. These post-mating changes improve the reproductive capacity of the mated pair. Using a model insect like Drosophila, we can dissect how the changes occur. Using micro-CT scanning, we can see post-mating movements by reproductive organs; these movements regulate efficient gamete transit. Parallel molecular and genetic studies let us identify the seminal proteins that cause the post-mating changes, & the mechanisms through which they act. These findings provide a basic understanding of insect reproduction. They are also relevant to designing methods for control of insect-vectored diseases, & to evolutionary questions such as the basis for the rapid evolution of reproductive molecules.

Previous Al Downe Lecturers:

2014.  Steve Whyard is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Manitoba.


Biotech vs Bugs - Exploring RNAi as a Strategy for Controlling Pests


2012.  Angela E. Douglas is the Daljit S. and Elaine Sarkaria Professor of Insect Physiology and Toxicology at Cornell University. 


Friends Within:  Interactions Between Insects and Their Resident Microbiota.


2011. Anthony A. James – Distinguished Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of California (Irvine).  

Development of anti-pathogen effector genes for control of vector-borne diseases.



2010. Marla B. Sokolowski – Professor of Biology and Canada Research Chair in Genetics and Behavioural Neurology, University of Toronto (Mississauga).


The foraging gene: will that be to stay or to go?


2008. Peter F. Billingsley – Senior Director, Entomology and Quality Systems, Sanaria Inc., Rockville, MD.


Exploiting the immune interface between vectors and their hosts.



I've spent more time than many will believe [making microscopic observations], but I've done them with joy, and I've taken no notice those who have said why take so much trouble and what good is it?

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

It's a parts list... If I gave you the parts list for the Boeing 777 and it had 100,000 parts, I don't think you could screw it together and you certainly wouldn't understand why it flew

Eric Lander

What is true for E. coli is also true for the elephant

Jacques Monod

The world becomes full of organisms that have what it takes to become ancestors. That, in a sentence, is Darwinism

Richard Dawkins

Shall we conjecture that one and the same kind of living filaments is and has been the cause of all organic life?

Erasmus Darwin

Nature proceeds little by little from things lifeless to animal life in such a way that it's impossible to determine the line of demarcation


Cells let us walk, talk, think, make love, and realize the bath water is cold

Lorraine Lee Cudmore

In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history

Charles Darwin

It is my belief that the basic knowledge that we're providing to the world will have a profound impact on the human condition and the treatments for disease and our view of our place on the biological continuum

J. Craig Venter

Imagine a house coming together spontaneously from all the information contained in the bricks: that is how animal bodies are made

Neil Shubin

A grain in the balance will determine which individual shall live and which shall die - which variety or species shall increase in number, and which shall decrease, or finally become extinct

Charles Darwin

The stuff of life turned out to be not a quivering, glowing, wondrous gel but a contraption of tiny jigs, springs, hinges, rods, sheets, magnets, zippers, and trapdoors, assembled by a data tape whose information is copied, downloaded and scanned

Steven Pinker

We wish to discuss a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid. (D.N.A.). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biologic interest

Rosalind Franklin

We are biology. We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. In between we do what we can to forget

Mary Roach

The systems approach to biology will be the dominant theme in medicine

Leroy Hood

I've always been interested in animal behavior, and I keep reading about it because it's so surprising all the time - so many things are happening around us that we neglect to look at. Part of the passion I have for biology is based on this wonderment"

Isabella Rossellini

Because all of biology is connected, one can often make a breakthrough with an organism that exaggerates a particular phenomenon, and later explore the generality

Thomas Cech

Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of evolution

Theodosius Dobzhansky

Biology is now bigger than physics, as measured by the size of budgets, by the size of the workforce, or by the output of major discoveries; and biology is likely to remain the biggest part of science through the twenty-first century

- Freeman Dyson

Nothing can be more incorrect than the assumption one sometimes meets with, that physics has one method, chemistry another, and biology a third

- Thomas Huxley