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.
John Pringle has been going to different sorts of meetings this last decade. He is still a regular at the ASCB Annual Meeting and at smaller yeast biology gatherings. Indeed he was in New Orleans for the ASCB Annual Meeting in December to receive the E.B. Wilson Medal, the ASCB's highest scientific honor, for his pioneering work on cell polarization and cytokinesis. But Pringle also goes, when he can, to the International Coral Reef Symposium, the Society for Microbial Ecology, and the International Symbiosis Society. He still has a small yeast group in his lab although his other interests have represented the majority since 2007. He is becoming known at these marine biology and ecology meetings, but Pringle says that he wishes there were more cell biologists there. John Pringle aims to correct that.
Biologists are passionate about papers. Here we ask an ASCB member to pick two journal articles that were important, either personally or scientifically, and to answer—briefly and informally—three questions: Why did you pick this paper? What's it about? What does it mean to you?
Consider it a triumphant return appearance. Their roles and most of all their science had changed in the dozen years since Elaine Fuchs, then president of the ASCB, introduced her keynote speaker at the 2001 ASCB Annual Meeting, Craig Venter. That had been during Venter's first big moment in the world media spotlight as head of Celera, his private "shotgun" gene sequencing company that had just completed the first draft of the human genome in an uneasy alliance with the public consortium led by the National Institutes of Health. Already a leading investigator of stem cells, a term that was just coming into the public consciousness in 2001, Fuchs was about to move to the Rockefeller University in New York City.