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Four biologists win "genius" prize

The MacArthur Foundation today announced the recipients of its 2008 MacArthur Fellows (a.k.a. Genius Awards): Among the 25 winners, who will receive $500,000 over the next five years, four were life scientists. Here's the line-up: linkurl:Kirsten Bomblies,;http://www.weigelworld.org/members/kirstenb a plant evolutionary geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, studies genetic incompatibility in Arabidopsis as a model for the development of new plant species in shared

By | September 23, 2008

The MacArthur Foundation today announced the recipients of its 2008 MacArthur Fellows (a.k.a. Genius Awards): Among the 25 winners, who will receive $500,000 over the next five years, four were life scientists. Here's the line-up: linkurl:Kirsten Bomblies,;http://www.weigelworld.org/members/kirstenb a plant evolutionary geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, studies genetic incompatibility in Arabidopsis as a model for the development of new plant species in shared ecological niches. In hundreds of hybrids crosses of numerous strains of the plant, she found that incompatibilities, which arose in about 2% of the crosses she studied, were likely caused by genes related to pathogen resistance and immunity. See our linkurl:story;http://www.the-scientist.com/2008/5/1/19/2/ on Bomblies' work on the intersection between plant immunity and speciation, published earlier this year. linkurl:Susan Mango,;http://www.hci.utah.edu/group/mango/MangoLab.jsp a biologist at the University of Utah, studies how specialized tissues integrate to form complex organs. Mango identified the linkurl:gene pha-4;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7607089?ordinalpos=12&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum/ as a key player in the development of the nematode's pharynx, then went on to use microarrays and computational algorithms to better understand the activity of the PHA-4 protein as a promoter for other genes involved in pharynx development. Sally Temple, a developmental neuroscientist at the New York Neural Stem Cell Institute, studies how embryonic progenitor cells divide into neurons and support cells. Much of stem cell biology has focused on early development, but Temple is exploring the interaction of partially differentiated stem cells to create complex tissues. Temple recently found that linkurl: progenitor cells;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16680166?ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum/ slowly lose their capacity to divide into cell types that form the earliest cortical layers. Her studies suggest that the limited success to date of embryonic stem cell transplants to repair neurological damage could stem from the introduction of progenitor cells at the wrong stage in development. linkurl:Rachel Wilson,;http://wilson.med.harvard.edu/ a neurobiologist at Harvard Medical School, studies how the brain distinguishes different smells. Primary olfactory neurons in invertebrates and vertebrates detect odorant types, while a set of intermediate neurons are responsible for the integration of high-order processing of odor types. By measuring the activity of these neurons in Drosophilia, Wilson aims to address how neurons are organized to sense and react to the environment. Check out our 2007 profile on Wilson's work linkurl:here.;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/52974/ Click linkurl:here;http://www.macfound.org/site/c.lkLXJ8MQKrH/b.4536877/ for a complete list of MacArthur Fellows.
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