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.
Singling out his work on the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching (GCAT), an educational cooperative that buys microarray chips in bulk and distributes them to undergraduate labs, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) awarded ASCB member A. Malcolm Campbell of Davidson College, the Elizabeth W. Jones Award for Excellence in Education. The GSA award recognizes a "significant, sustained impact on genetics education at any level."
Elaine Fuchs grew up surrounded by scientists. Her father and aunt were scientists at Argonne National Laboratories, and later her older sister became a neuroscientist. So Fuchs has followed in the family footsteps. Today she is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, a professor at the Rockefeller University, and a widely recognized pioneer in adult stem cell research. She is also a former ASCB President. As an ASCB stalwart and a stem cell pathfinder, Fuchs was drafted to serve on the ASCB Stem Cell Task Force last spring and helped write the preliminary report, which was presented for public comment last month.
It is the Talk of Talks. Win the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology and you get an hour in the brand new 1,000-seat Aula Medica of the Karolinska Institutet in which to explain the science that earned your airfare to Stockholm. In your Nobel lecture, you can thank your mentors, colleagues, and former labbies plus include a wave hello to family. You can also point out the philosophical implications of your work or issue a dire warning.
Tina Han, postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), found out that she'd just won $5,000 on Facebook. It wasn't a holiday giveaway or a scam. It was a missed voice mail from ASCB and a friend's quick Facebook message that Han was the winner of ASCB's $5,000 Kaluza Prize supported by Beckman Coulter for outstanding research as a graduate student.
You finished all your replicates, your data are entered into your favorite statistical software, and you've got your fingers crossed that the test reveals a P-value of less than 0.05. It reads 0.039 and you breathe a sigh of relief. Without that P-value, you would have been stuck with your null hypothesis—that terrible possibility that your observed effect was meaningless. Instead, with the P-value on your side, you're finally ready to publish a significant observation. That is, unless you show it to Valen Johnson, a statistics professor at Texas A&M University, who has just published an analysis in PNAS1 that indicates your data are not so convincing.
Tina W. Han, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who did her graduate work at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern), has been named the winner of the first $5,000 ASCB Kaluza Prize supported by Beckman Coulter for outstanding research by a graduate student. Han won for her breakthrough work on the functional characterization of RNA granules while in Steven McKnight's lab at UT Southwestern. Nine additional Kaluza entrants were named winners of ASCB Beckman Coulter Distinguished Graduate Student Achievement Prizes, which will include travel awards to attend the 2014 ASCB Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.
It was in San Diego and nearly 40 years ago but Randy Schekman still vividly remembers his first ASCB Annual Meeting. George Palade, fresh from Stockholm where he had just received his 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was there to speak about the innovations in electron microscopy and cell fractionation that earned him the prize. Schekman has no better word for the experience than "thrilling."
Sydney Brenner is, of course, the Nobel Prize winner who brought us Caenorhabditis elegans, the lab model organism. That should make Brenner "a man who needs no introduction" except in cell biology where historical amnesia is as common as Pipetman. As Brenner himself noted last year in Science, "I once remarked that all graduate students in biology divide history into two epochs: the past two years and everything else before that, where Archimedes, Newton, Darwin, Mendel—even Watson and Crick—inhabit a time-compressed universe as uneasy contemporaries."
The ASCB Kaluza Prize supported by Beckman Coulter is named for the German mathematician Theodor Kaluza (1885-1954), who is the namesake of Beckman Coulter's flow cytometry software system. The posthumous reputation of Kaluza, who was not a biologist but a German mathematician, has been on the rise in recent years, and the eponymous honor of a $5,000 cash prize for scientific achievement for an ASCB graduate student is only the latest feather.