From a flash of light in the deepest trenches of the ocean floor to a red tide bloom set aglow in the moonlight, bioluminescence enlivens many ocean organisms, from angler fish and jellyfish to tiny single-celled organisms.

Glowing animals typically create light through luminescence, when chemical compounds mix to create a glow. The process is similar to the way chemicals inside a glow stick combine to create light. Todays luminous organisms use bioluminescence for defense from predators, for their own predatory purposes, or for communication in sexual courtship.

Bioluminescence was once viewed as a fascinating feature of the living world, but one whose study seemed unlikely to contribute to society in any way. Luminescence is far more efficient than incandescence; it requires nor generates heat, so it is sometimes referred to as cold light. Today, applications of luminescence are numerous, ranging from rapid detection of microbial contamination in beef and water, to locating cancer cells, to working out brain circuitry.

If you have seen the film The Life of Pi, you have seen the beauty of luminescence. To learn more about the natural history, evolution and biochemistry of the diverse array of organisms that emit light, please join the Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST) and the Harvard Club of Chicago for Bioluminescence: Living Lights, Lights for Living, with Harvard University Professor J. WoodyWoodland Hastings on Thursday, February 21.

Prof. Hastings, the Paul C. Mangelsdorf Professor of Natural Sciences and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, is a leader in the field of photobiology, especially bioluminescence, and is one of the founders of the field of circadian biology (the study of circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle). His research on bioluminescence has principally focused on bacterial luminescence and dinoflagellates. He has published over 400 papers and co-edited three books.

Bioluminescence: Living Lights, Lights For Living, Thursday, February 21, 2013

McDermot, Will & Emery (identification required for building admission), 227 W. Monroe, Chicago

Registration and reception- 5:30pm Presentation- 6 pm

Fees: Complimentary for C2ST and Harvard Club members, $30 for non-members, $5 for students

Please register at

For some great video of undersea bioluminescence, please follow the following links:

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