Heading to New Orleans in Seat 9C

red ferrariThe ASCB meeting is a finely tuned machine.
Photo Credit: Peter Zoon
While December is a special time for many around the world, the month has added significance for cell biologists—it's the time of their main gathering, the ASCB Annual Meeting, which will start this year on Saturday in New Orleans! Right now I find myself taking part in this annual migration so while this crowded miniscule airplane makes its way towards the Gulf, let me pull in my elbows in Seat 9-C and put down a few notes on a very busy season—they must have designed these seats for morula-sized people, by the way.

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New Partners and New Ventures for ASCB in Science Education Reform

newpartnersIn a 2012 Science editorial, Bruce Alberts, a former ASCB president who was then the journal's editor, urged professional societies to team up in leading innovation in science education. ASCB took that charge seriously. In an editorial that appears in the latest issue of CBE—Life Sciences Education (LSE) ,  Adam Fagen, the Executive Director of the Genetics Society of America (GSA), and I announce an important editorial partnership to strengthen ASCB's science education journal, which has been called the flagship of data-driven, science education reform.

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Lessons from a Society of Societies

This week, ASCB went to ASAE, or rather five ASCB staffers and yours truly attended a meeting of the ASAE in Atlanta. ASCB, I trust you know, stands for the American Society for Cell Biology. The ASAE acronym remained a mystery to me until a diligent search of their website turned up the answer deep on the FAQ page (American Society for Association Executives).

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Within the Genome: All One and All Different

On  a recent hot Sunday afternoon, my eight-year-old son, Davide, and I left “the girls” (mom and four-year-old daughter) at home to embark on a field trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History on the National Mall in Washington, DC. We were going to visit a science exhibit celebrating the 10th anniversary of the human genome sequencing.1,2 It turned out to be one of my best Sundays in quite a while!

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The Story of WI-38, the Other Famous Cell Line

Recently, a news feature published in the journal Nature caught my attention. I was pleased to read such an insightful piece on a key issue for cell biologists—the ethical and effective use of human tissues and cells. Credit goes to science reporter Meredith Wadman who took a closer look at the intriguing “back story” behind a rather famous cell line, WI-38, that was established in 1962 by Leonard Hayflick at the virology powerhouse of the day, the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia1. The twists and turns of the WI-38 story are complex, and I strongly encourage followers of this blog to read Wadman’s feature article, which sets out the facts clearly and yet doesn't duck the implications.

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Beefing Up Value for Young Scientists

There was a famous TV commercial in the ‘80s featuring a fierce old woman holding a gigantic fluffy bun wrapped around a miniscule hamburger patty. “Where’s the beef?” rasped the woman as she probed into the deceptive bun. The expression has become a proxy for addressing “value proposition,” not only in important fast food matters, but also more broadly. It’s a legitimate question to ask professional societies as well. Where’s the beef? Why should I join? What do I get for my membership? As Executive Director of one of the nation’s largest professional scientific societies, ASCB, I remind myself that everything that we do must offer members a precise and specific value. This month, ASCB has embarked on a new initiative aimed at our younger members. So I must open the bun and look inside.

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Cell Biology’s Super Resolution Revolution Stars at AAAS Meeting

"The Beauty and Benefits of Science" was the title of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2013 Annual Meeting that I attended last week in Boston. In other words, science is cool. Indeed, I heard a lot of cool science and I had many cool discussions with old friends and made new ones. However it did not help that I came down with a cold at the meeting—that was not cool, just cold—but I kept going, simply trading handshakes for air high-fives to avoid spreading germs.

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