ASCB President-Elect Peter Walter, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is the co-winner of the 2014 Shaw Prize in Life Sciences and Medicine. Walter, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, will share the $1 million Shaw Prize with Kazutoshi Mori of Kyoto University for their work on the unfolded protein response (UPR), the cell's quality control response to an accumulation of defectively folded proteins.
David L. Spector of the Cold Springs Harbor Lab (CSHL), a scientist long known for his pioneering work in live cell imaging of the nucleus and its surprisingly fluid geography and population, has been named to a pair of prestigious memberships, one in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the other in EMBO, the European Molecular Biology Organization. Spector, who is both a professor and Director of Research at CSHL, has been an ASCB member since 1980. He chaired the ASCB Annual Meeting program committee in 2008 and served on ASCB's governing Council from 2010 to 2012.
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.
ASCB Women in Cell Biology committee member Ora Weisz, of the University of Pittsburgh, was inducted last week into Johns Hopkins University's (JHU) Society of Scholars. The Society recognizes accomplished former JHU postdoctoral fellows or visiting faculty who have gained marked distinction elsewhere. Just over 600 people have been inducted into the society since 1969. Weisz joined distinguished academics from around the world for an induction ceremony at JHU's Peabody Institute on April 7.
It was an all-or-nothing moment. Titia de Lange, a newly hired assistant professor at the Rockefeller University, had months of prep work and her entire grant's supply budget in hand as she waited to cross York Avenue, the busy north-south street on Manhattan's Upper East Side that separates Rockefeller from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where a collaborator was waiting to sequence de Lange's protein distillate. "We walked with all the protein we had from 1,500 liters of HeLa cells," de Lange recalled. "If we had tripped it would have been a problem. "It was a potentially self-destructive experiment, but it worked."
A yogurt producer with concerns, a puzzling aspect of bacterial genomes, a discussion over coffee, and a new MIT faculty member so youthful that he was mistaken for a freshman—these are a few links in the chain of discovery that led to CRISPR, today's hottest genetic rewriting technology. It stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, and CRISPRs are changing biological research by making it easier than ever to edit genomes, opening whole fields to new possibilities in experiments and likely providing new treatments for complex diseases.
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.
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.
For those who think scientific discoveries pop up overnight, consider Tom Rapoport's tale of the holiday carp and how it led him to study the translocation channel through which proteins, such as insulin, are secreted. Rapoport's latest discovery starts with a fish 30 years ago and ends, or at least continues, this month with a publication in Nature of the first x-ray structure of an open protein translocation channel.