For biologists, we are surprisingly shy about the facts of life. After all, where do cell biologists come from? Storks or DNA are not adequate answers. So who are our scientific ancestors and who are our human ones? Who were the influencers, the supporters, and the guides? And from where inside came the endless questions and the itch to see how a thing works? What were the outside events that turned so many into explorers, plodders, geeks, glass washers, and the occasional genius?
A cellular eye-opener is awaiting ASCB/IFCB meeting attendees arriving at the Philadelphia International Airport next month for the December 6-10 meeting. Twenty-three ASCB members from the greater Philadelphia area have mounted Larger Than Life, a stunning exhibition of microscopy imagery blown up into massive prints. Larger Than Life comes on the heels of the joint ASCB National Institute of General Medical Sciences photo exhibition, Life: Magnified, at Dulles International Airport outside Washington DC, which closes at the end of November. Both cell image exhibitions have drawn raves on social media from biologists and the general public. The Philadelphia show is between Terminals E and F.
Two long years in the South Korean military gave Eunyong Park time to change his mind and his career direction toward biology, a change that led to his winning this year’s $3,000 Kaluza prize for excellence in graduate research. Park won the ASCB Kaluza Prize, which is supported by Beckman Coulter, for his remarkable work at Harvard University deciphering the mechanisms of protein translocation in living cells. When cells make new proteins that are destined to reside in the membrane or enter the secretory pathway, they are threaded through channels in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).
Two longtime ASCB members and longtime advocates for bringing underrepresented minorities into bioscience have been named as PIs in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under its wide-ranging "Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce" program.
Winners of a Nobel Prize typically get a private call from a member of the selection committee shortly before the news breaks to the public. But this year the Nobel committee couldn't reach W.E. Moerner, a professor of chemistry at Stanford University and an ASCB member. Moerner was in Recife, Brazil, on the morning of October 8, attending the Third International Workshop on Fundamentals of Light-Matter Interactions. Moerner had his cell phone turned off to save international roaming charges. So when it was announced that he was one of the three winners of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry it fell to the Associated Press to reach his wife, Sharon, at home with the news. She turned to WhatsApp to send him the message to turn on his phone. Moerner was thrilled to share his excitement with family, friends, and colleagues. His first call was to his son, Daniel, who is working toward a PhD in philosophy at Yale University.
To be clear, E. Josephine Clowney, the 2014 winner of the $5,000 ASCB Kaluza Prize supported by Beckman Coulter, says she met her husband and learned to be a good scientist as a disc jockey for her college radio station. Leaving the husband part aside, Clowney explains the scientist part this way—playing all kinds of music on the highly eclectic WCBN-FM at the University of Michigan (UMich) in Ann Arbor, including music she didn't think at first was music, such as a Thai elephant orchestra with pachyderms soloing on gongs. Elephants and Elvis, the music opened her ears and her mind to the unfamiliar, the eccentric, and the unconventional.
"Interest in biology has never been higher,” says Louis Reichardt, emeritus professor of physiology at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). And yet, as federal research funding declines, Reichardt worries that many graduate students are despairing of their prospects for productive research careers. “It takes some ingenuity now to find future opportunities in science,” he says. In recent years, Reichardt has devoted his own ingenuity to helping students find these opportunities. A glimpse of his work can now be seen on iBiology.org.
Bruce Alberts, professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who served as ASCB president in 2007, was just named one of the nation's top scientists by President Obama. Alberts and nine others are recipients of the National Medal of Science, the Nation's highest honor for individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. Alberts will be presented the medal in a ceremony at the White House later this year.
Eleanor (Josie) Clowney , a postdoc at Rockefeller University who did her graduate work at the University of California, San Francisco, has been named the winner of the 2014 $5,000 ASCB Kaluza Prize for outstanding research by a graduate student. The Kaluza Prizes are supported by Beckman Coulter. Clowney won for her breakthrough work on olfactory neurons performed in Stavros Lomvardas’ lab. Her work provides a new perspective on how acute transcriptional specificity can be achieved through epigenetic mechanisms.
Inmate-college students at San Quentin Prison will soon have microscopes for their biology lab through an ASCB Outreach Grant, offered by the Committee for Postdocs and Students (COMPASS) outreach subcommittee. ASCB members Ryan McGorty and Adam Williamson, both postdocs at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), asked for the outreach grant to help their volunteer efforts as instructors for a introductory biology course for prisoners.