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.
The Big Day dawns at last. As the sun heaves itself out of the Atlantic Ocean this morning and Boston stirs to life, the Dicty World Race will roar into action in the Massachusetts General Hospital lab of Dan Irimia. Twenty teams have sent in their finely tuned racing organisms to settle the question of which will be faster in a race against the clock through a microfluidic maze, the Dictyostelium discoideum a.k.a. Dicty, the slime mold with a vast reputation (and literature), or a human neutrophil-like cell line called HL-60. You can follow the action live here.
ASCB member M. Daniel Lane, the former chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University and a prolific investigator into adipogenesis and the mechanisms of satiety and hunger, died April 10, aged 83, at his home in Baltimore. Lane joined the ASCB in 1985.
The first line of Franklin Carrero-Martínez's CV is a showstopper—"Scientist, Diplomat and Educator with a Ph.D. in Neurobiology." But he comes by all of it honestly. As of this writing, Carrero- Martínez, who is in his second year as a AAAS Science & Technology (S&T) Policy Fellow, is in Mexico City. He has been officially posted for two months to the U.S. Embassy there by the U.S. State Department to advise on Environment, Science, Technology and Health (ESTH) issues, including working on a Mexican version of our Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) technology transfer program. It's a policy level program to encourage Mexican researchers to bring new ideas out of their academic laboratories and into real world applications. U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto agreed on sharing this and other technology ideas in talks last May. As a Senior Science Policy Advisor in the Office of the Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary (STAS for those keeping acronym score), Carrero- Martínez is in Mexico City to make it happen.
Before that, Carrero-Martínez held the Pakistan S&T portfolio at both the U.S State Department and the U.S. National Academies of Science. That was during his first year in Washington as a Roger Revelle Fellow in Global Stewardship, a special AAAS policy fellowship program for early career faculty. As a Revelle Fellow, Carrero-Martínez was free to find his own placements. He ended up with two and with two offices—one at the State Department and one at the U.S. National Academy of Science (NAS). In both places, Carrero-Martínez picked up the Pakistan S&T portfolio, which was an orphan. "I guess no one wanted Pakistan because it was so hard. But I found it not to be too difficult. I guess I enjoy the higher adrenalin of dealing with complex issues and walking that line."
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.