John is ASCB Senior Science Writer and the author among other things of two nonfiction books for older children, "Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science" and "Black & White Airmen," both from Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, Boston.
If cells were cars, then the three pioneering cell biologists just named winners of the 2014 E.B. Wilson Medal, the highest scientific honor of the American Society for Cell Biology, helped write the essential parts list. William "Bill" Brinkley of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, John Heuser of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Peter Satir of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx identified crucial pieces of the cytoskeleton, the cell's shape-shifting framework, and showed how these elements drive life at the cellular level.
After a month of online voting by ASCB members, Peter Walter of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), was voted 2015 President-Elect. Walter, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, will serve on the ASCB Executive Committee next year before becoming President in 2016 and continuing on as Past President in 2017.
The Kaluza Prizes to honor the best in graduate student bioscience research are growing. In announcing the opening of the 2014 Kaluza Prize competition, the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), in collaboration with Beckman Coulter Life Sciences, said that the awards will increase to $5,000, $3,000, and $1,000 in ranked order for the top three winners.
It isn't your imagination. The recent ups and downs in biomedical research funding have made for turbulent times in academic laboratories across the US. Jennifer Couzin-Frankel points out in her overview article to an imaginatively reported "News Focus" section last week in Science on the work force and funding crisis in biomedical science that the NIH budget doubled between 1998 and 2003 from around $14 billion to $27 billion but remained essentially flat for the next five years. The 2009 federal stimulus package created a bump in spending of an additional $10.4 billion but the "regular" NIH budget continued to lose altitude as inflation ate away at the actual value of flat funding. Then came last year's heart-stopping federal shutdown and the sickening 5% across the board sequester nose dive. The net result is that the number of R01 principal investigators (PI) has remained virtually static over the last 13 years: NIH funded 20,458 PIs in 2000 and 21,511 PIs in 2013.
It's been nearly 14 years since the primary cilium pushed its way into cell biology's center ring with the discovery that this "irrelevant" vestigial organelle was connected to a common and fatal human disorder, polycystic kidney disease (PKD). In the years since, a long list of diseases and disorders have been classified as ciliopathies while the primary cilium currently has 2,347 citations on PubMed.
It's not a corsage but ORCID is a way of pinning your scientific identity firmly to your scientific chest. ORCID is, of course, an acronym. It stands for Open Researcher and Contributor ID but ORCID is also the tiny organization with global reach that issues unique alphanumeric identifiers for contributors to the world's scholarly and scientific literature. ORCID, the organization, refers to the identifier as the ORCID ID, which both makes sense and sounds redundant. As children, we all believe that we are what the British call a "one off" because it's self-evident that there is only one you, even if "you" are half a set of twins or have a common surname like Wang, Kim, Smith, Garcia, Müller, Murphy, or Rossi. But in research, convincing the wider world that you are THE one who published THIS paper is not trivial. Thus comes ORCID: one researcher, one 16-digit number (that is also a unique URL).
The University of Chicago (UChicago) and the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) have made their first joint research award since MBL became a UChicago affiliate last year to a group headed by ASCB member Clare Waterman with three other ASCB members as co-investigators. The Frank R. Lillie Research Innovation Award will support cross-disciplinary research at MBL in Woods Hole, MA, into integrin activation and actin dynamics during cell migration. The $125,000 award honors both MBL's 125th anniversary and Frank Lillie, who was chair of Zoology at UChicago and the second director of MBL in the early 20th century.
It's Thanksgiving. You're home from grad school and lab where you're fired up about cytoplasmic accumulation and nuclear clearance of TDP-43, a protein implicated in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, when Aunt Carol passes you the candied sweet potatoes and sweetly asks, "Now, dear, what is it that you are doing in your research?" You take a deep breath and begin, "So..." About a minute later, you're explaining how to knock out the TDP-43 analog in fruit flies when a look of horror crosses Aunt Carol's face. "Flies? Your laboratory is full of flies?"
March is Women's History Month and both the Royal Society in the United Kingdom and the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SI Archives) in the United States scheduled Wikipedia "edit-a-thon" sessions to strengthen the online encyclopedia's inadequate coverage of women in science history. The Royal Society's event was last week but for the Smithsonian's there's still time to sign up and learn how to become a Wiki editor or go along in person to the Women In Science session on Tuesday, March 18, at the SI Archives offices in Washington.
ASCB member, former ASCB President, and 2013 ASCB Annual Meeting keynote speaker, Elaine Fuchs has been named the winner of the American Association for Cancer Research's 2014 Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research. Fuchs, who is a professor at the Rockefeller University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, is known for her pioneering work on epidermal stem cells and the relationship between "stemness" and cancer progression.