Christina is a science writer for the American Society for Cell Biology. She earned her Ph.D. in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh.
On a brisk and sunny New England fall Saturday, hackers filed along the Cambridge sidewalks, skirting the venerable Harvard Museum of Natural History to descend the starkly modern concrete stairs of the university's five-year-old Northwest Science Building. Down the steps they went, under the suspended whale skeletons and into a basement with natural light pouring in from the windows mounted in the lawn above. There on modular red sofas and often on the floor, the hardiest spent the next 30 hours immersed in Science Hack Day Boston, an experiment in combining science, skill, and playfulness that was sponsored in part by ASCB.
There's only one place this weekend where you could crochet proteins, make a laser phonograph, crowd source a science fraud detector, and build a machine that sorts candy by color (a flow confectionometer?). Anyone with an interest in science and a playful streak can sign up to join a two day "science hacker" community in Boston this weekend at Harvard Northwest Building for free (thanks to sponsors like the ASCB), contributing to projects or coming up with their own.
Like a kid hovering over an ant with a magnifying glass, you can easily fry a worm with a microscope. But if you could do it without zapping the subjects, long exposure imaging would be immensely helpful for studying a cell process like development in a living Caenorhabditis elegans embryo. In a pair of just published papers—one in Nature Biotechnology yesterday and another in Nature Methods on October 6—Hari Shroff, tenure-track investigator at the NIH, unveiled a pair of new microscopes that offer an alternative solution to the problem of light-blasted subjects.
Grace Groovy of the International Journal of Cancer and Tumor would be happy to publish your nonsensical data, Science Magazine news reporter John Bohannon discovered. But that journal wasn't the exception. In a 15-month investigation, Bohannon concocted a bogus paper that he fed into a program that randomly generated bogus variations from bogus researchers at various bogus institutions which he then submitted to 304 open-access journals.
Two longtime ASCB members, Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley, and James Rothman of Yale University, have won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of how molecules move through the cell in vesicles and fuse to target membranes in a process known as "trafficking."
In a city where bikes outnumber cars and even people, more than 900 scientists dodged bicycles as they picked their way to the conference center for the 2013 EMBO meeting in Amsterdam. Kai Simons, Director Emeritus and Research Group Leader of the Max Planck Institute-CBG in Dresden, opened the meeting last Saturday, October 21. His talk that extended his pioneering research on lipid rafts in eukaryotic cell membranes toward bacteria with a new class of proteins called hopanoids that stand in for sterols on bacterial "liquid-ordered" membranes.
Got a piece of venerable (if supposedly functional) equipment taking up bench space? Turn it into an ASCB #ThrowbackThursday winner! The ASCB Post is ramping up its weekly Twitter hashtags with a cell biology twist. #ThrowbackThursday, which features blasts from the ASCB past like old photos of ASCB members (with the opportunity to guess the identity) or a landmark paper published back in the day, is adding a new category for historic/obsolete lab equipment.
Big discoveries can turn up in unexpected places, such as neurons of the Pacific electric ray, Torpedo californica. That was the start of Richard H. Scheller's path to the 2013 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, which he received last week. Along with Thomas C. Südhof of Stanford University, Scheller won for their independent investigations into the regulatory mechanisms of neurotransmitter release.
In the grand march of human history, first there was the cave wall and charcoal. Then came the inked poster. Now comes the ePoster, the dynamic multimedia form of the venerable 3'8" (1.1m) X 6' (1.828 m) paper poster. For the first time, the 2013 ASCB Annual Meeting will feature this new presentation format (see Jessica Polka's example below).
Later this fall, a few, a precious few, ASCB members will be booking flights to Stockholm. For the rest of us, take a seat with your laptop tonight to watch live as another batch of Nobelists—the Ig Nobelists—step into the bright lights. This is one show you will be glad to miss as an honoree.