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Reviewing peer review

By | February 8, 2006

Peer review is on every life scientist?s mind lately, it seems. One of the main complaints I heard while researching the linkurl:February cover story;http://www.the-scientist.com/2006/2/1/26/1/ is that the process is inherently difficult to investigate scientifically. Each journal has a somewhat unique system for reviewing papers, and each paper will have a unique journey through a journal?s reviewing machinery. But I?ve learned that even though peer review has obvious imperfections, it?s the b

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Risky enough business?

By | February 8, 2006

I?m an obvious beneficiary of medical technology. Without the computer surgically embedded in my skull, I?d be totally deaf. The device, called a ?cochlear implant,? routes past my damaged inner ear by triggering my auditory nerves with sixteen tiny electrodes coiled up inside my cochlea. It?s not a cure, though, any more than glasses cure vision loss. It?s a prosthesis, a workaround. Compared to the extraordinary delicacy and precision of naturally evolved organs, it?s clumsy. It?s like

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Structural bio meeting folds - er, wraps

By | February 5, 2006

Despite the diversity of topics and speakers, some common threads emerged at the joint structural biology meetings in Keystone this past week. First, structural genomics clearly has hit its stride. The US Protein Structure Initiative deposited some 1,300 structures in the linkurl:Protein Data Bank;http://www.rcsb.org/pdb between 2000 and 2005, RIKEN added 1,347 of its own between 2002 and 2005, and the Structural Genomics Consortium added another 180 in the past 18 months or so. That?s nearly 3,

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Patrinos leaving DOE on a high note

By | February 2, 2006

Ari Patrinos is ending his stint as associate director of science for biological and environmental research at the Department of Energy to head up Synthetic Genomics, Inc, a linkurl:J. Craig Venter venture;http://www.the-scientist.com/2006/1/1/38/1/ launched this past summer. Having spent ten years leading the DOE?s often budget-crunched biology efforts, I couldn?t help but wonder why he was leaving prior to a huge influx of government money as mentioned in George Bush?s linkurl:State of the Un

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Yes, that's a bacterial culture in my NMR tube

By | February 2, 2006

There?s linkurl:a pretty slick paper;http://www.nature.com/nmeth/journal/v3/n2/abs/nmeth851.html in the February __Nature Methods__. Alexander Shekhtman, of SUNY-Albany, describes a novel technique called STINT-NMR (for structural interactions using in-cell NMR), which maps a protein?s structural changes in response to protein-protein interactions in vivo. Shekhtman presented his work Tuesday (Jan. 31) at the Keystone Symposium on Structural Genomics, and I got the chance to talk to him about i

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Protein crystallization by intelligent design?

By | February 1, 2006

If they awarded a prize for best seminar title, Zygmunt Derewenda would win it, hand?s down. According to the abstract book for the Keystone Symposium on Structural Genomics, his seminar was to be entitled "Protein Crystallization: From Art to Science." But the University of Virginia researcher decided that was a bit too provocative, so he opted for a more "neutral" title: "Protein Crystallization by Intelligent Design." Derewenda's point, of course, is that crysta

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The State of the Science Union

By | February 1, 2006

President Bush thinks that science is the key to keeping the US ahead. It will help the country wean itself off fossil fuels, he said in his fifth linkurl:State of the Union;http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020129-11.html last night, and it will keep the nation?s businesses competitive in the global marketplace. He wants to start with children, whom he?d like to see ?take more math and science and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations.? Pre

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Big numbers, new tools at Keystone

By | January 31, 2006

One thing's certain at the Keystone Symposia on linkurl:Structural Genomics;http://www.keystonesymposia.org/Meetings/ViewMeetings.cfm?MeetingID=817 and linkurl:Frontiers in Structural Biology;http://www.keystonesymposia.org/Meetings/ViewMeetings.cfm?MeetingID=816 running this week in Keystone, Colorado: there's some seriously big science going on in the world of structural biology. Aled Edwards of the University of Toronto rattled off the program goals of the linkurl:Structural Genomics Consor

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Keystone, like chromatin, all wrapped up

By | January 26, 2006

Well the Keystone meeting on Epigenetics and Chromatin Modeling in Development has wrapped, and the reaction from participants was very positive, indication that the epigenetics field -- which has broadened significantly to include much of the chromatin and transcriptional control community -- is set for some significant findings. Many told me that the selection of talks was the best they?d heard in years. ?I didn?t fall asleep during any of them,? said one meeting-goer as we waited for the bu

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KillerRed: The Hypoxia Connection

By | January 25, 2006

A few days ago I blogged on linkurl:a new fluorescent protein;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/22976/ called KillerRed. Upon irradiation with green light KillerRed produces reactive oxygen species in sufficient quantities to kill both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. The authors suggest several potential applications, but I?ve come up with another: hypoxia research. Before I joined __The Scientist__ I was a postdoc in Celeste Simon's lab at the University of Pennsylvania. Simon works

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