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May 2011

Volume 25 Issue 5

The Scientist May 2011 Cover

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Contributors

Contributors Lewis Wolpert was raised in South Africa where he trained to become a civil engineer specializing in soil mechanics, which he abandoned for cell biology in 1955. “A friend told me that soil mechanics wasn’t very sexy and that some of my work could be relevant to the study of cell mechanics,” he says. After obtaining a PhD from University of London, King’s College, Wolpert focused on morphogenesis with a special interest in the p

One Hip Dino

By Jef Akst One Hip Dino An artist’s rendition of Brontomerus mcintoshi delivering a powerful kick to a Utahraptor Francisco Gascó For high school junior Mathew Wedel, an internship at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in 1992 was a pretty sweet gig. He was one of those kids whose dinosaur phase had never worn off, and now he got to help prepare and catalog fossils and identify bones donated to the museum by local farmers. But the youn

Lobster-Pot Science

By Richard P. Grant Lobster-Pot Science Andrzej Krauze HIDDEN JEWEL Microbiology labs typically contain myriad flasks and stacks of petri dishes crowded with bacteria. That’s fine for someone studying their physiology or genetics. But for researchers wanting to gain insight into bacterial behavior, that laboratory setup is far from optimal. The problem is that homogeneous environments, such as petri dishes, are quite different from the n

New Blood for Gene Therapy

By Megan Scudellari New Blood for Gene Therapy Klein working with five-year old Felix Ott, who was diagnosed with Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome at age three. When he was four, Felix received stem-cell gene therapy, and the now seven-year-old has since been able to live a normal life. Verena Müller The two 3-year-olds were very, very sick. One was bleeding internally, suffered from severe eczema and anemia, and had multiple infections in his lungs and colon. The

Micro Farmers

By Cristina Luiggi Micro Farmers Dustin Rubenstein discusses how the discovery of amoebas that farm their own food links the development of agriculture with the evolution of social behavior. Although agriculture is often touted as a pivotal human invention, it is not unique to us. It turns out that even slime molds with a penchant for sociality can farm. For Dustin Rubenstein, an evolutionary ecologist at Columbia University, this unexpected finding points to an e

Skeleton Keys

By Lewis Wolpert Skeleton Keys There are a surprising number of unknowns about how our limbs come to be symmetrical. If you stretch out your arms or legs and compare their length, you will, in most cases, find that they are very similar. Indeed, the external features of our body are reliably symmetrical; a noticeably asymmetrical feature is perceived as an abnormality. Related Articles Down to the bone Of mice and paws Signaling blocker halts bone growth

If Bacteria Can Do It?

By H. Steven Wiley If Bacteria Can Do It… Learning community skills from microbes Andrzej Krauze One of the greatest joys of being a scientist is continuously having the opportunity to see the world in new ways. At a national laboratory or research university, you’re exposed to many different fields of research, from which you can always glean something useful. My current fascination is learning about microbial communities and how they thrive by achi

Power Failure

Power Failure Does mitochondrial dysfunction lie at the heart of common, complex diseases like cancer and autism? Kevin Hand Mitochondria are tiny. A single human cell can contain hundreds to thousands of these potato-shaped organelles, depending on the tissue type. They power the biochemical reactions in our cells through the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). These oft-overlooked furnaces, not studied in earnest until the 19

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Wrestling with Recurrent Infections

By Gayatri Vedantam and Glenn S. Tillotson Wrestling with Recurrent Infections Clostridium difficile is evolving more robust toxicity, repeatedly attacking its victims, and driving the search for alternative therapies to fight the infection. photoillustration by Sean Mccabe; Science Photo Library (boy); Sebastian Kaulitzki/ Istockphoto.com (Intestines); Olena Timashova/Istockphoto.com (Green bacteria); Jiri Flogel/Istockphoto.com (Blue bacteria) As infectiou

Best Places to Work Industry, 2011

By Hannah Waters Best Places to Work Industry, 2011 By forging new relationships and finding novel uses for existing technologies, this year’s top companies are employing creative ways to advance their science. Like the reeds of an old Aesop fable, the companies that topped our 2011 Best Places to Work in Industry survey are bending—but not breaking—under the strain of continued economic adversity. With funding agencies still awarding grants onl

Survey Questions

Survey Questions Best Places to Work Industry 2011 Category Question Research Environment My company provides adequate funding for my research. Research Environment My company’s research mission is logical and practical, and I understand my role in it. Research Environment Open collaboration with other company scientists helps ensure that I meet the company’s goals. Research Envi

Survey Methodology

Survey Methodology Survey Form: A Web-based survey form was posted at www.the-scientist.com from September 8 to November 29, 2010. Results were collected and collated automatically. Invitations: E-mail invitations were sent to readers of The Scientist and registrants on The Scientist web site who identified themselves as working in commercial or industrial companies. Responses: 2,213 useable and qualified responses were received. Responses were rejected if the

An Insoluble Problem?

By Robert Michael Stroud An Insoluble Problem? The challenges of crystallizing membrane proteins—and how they’re being overcome Computer artwork of a G protein-coupled receptor in the lipid bilayer of a plasma membrane Medi-Mation Ltd / Photo Researchers Membrane proteins represent only a handful of the total number of protein structures defined to date. Yet these proteins, which represent nearly 40 percent of all known proteins, including recepto

Control from Without

By Richard P. Grant Control from Without Courtesy of Bruce Vogel (hemicentin-GFP in C. elegans) The paper X. Xu, B.E. Vogel, “A secreted protein promotes cleavage furrow maturation during cytokinesis,” Curr Biol, 21:114-19, 2011. Free F1000 Evaluation The finding Successful cell division is critical to the survival of all life and depends on the coordinated actions of dozens of proteins. Bruce Vogel, at the University of Maryland in Baltimore

Hangover Headache

By Hannah Waters Hangover Headache Alfred Pasieka / Photo Researchers, Inc The paper C.R. Maxwell et al., “Acetate causes alcohol hangover headache in rats,” PLoS ONE, 5:e15963, 2010. Free F1000 Evaluation The finding While many people get a headache after drinking alcohol, migraineurs have more severe headaches induced by fewer drinks. Using a rat model of migraines, Michael Oshinsky of Thomas Jefferson University and colleagues show that the

Compact Model T

By Hannah Waters Compact Model T Dr. Klaus Boller / Photo Researchers, Inc (Human T Cell during Metaphase) The paper J.S. Rawlings et al., “Chromatin condensation via the condensin II complex is required for peripheral T-cell quiescence,” The EMBO Journal, 30:263-76, 2011. Free F1000 Evaluation The finding Naïve T cells remain in a quiescent state, becoming activated only when they encounter their complementary antigen during an immune res

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Making the Gradient

By Karen Hopkin Making the Gradient Ron Kaback didn’t believe that electrochemical gradients could power the transport of sugars and amino acids across cell membranes—until he proved that they do. H. RONALD KABACK Professor of Physiology University of California, Los Angeles F1000 Faculty Member: Neuronal Signaling Mechanisms Photo © 2011 Jim Cornfield Ron Kaback got hooked on membrane transport as a medical student at the Albert Einstei

Andrew Carter: Dynein Trailblazer

By Hannah Waters Andrew Carter: Dynein Trailblazer Nick Morrish Group Leader, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Medical Research Council. Age: 36 The typical biologist’s desk is strewn with reprints and lab notebooks, maybe a coffee cup, perhaps a small model of a DNA molecule. Structural biologist Andrew Carter’s workspace has all these things, but a cluster of framed dog photographs stands out amid the clutter: his collection of corgi pictu

Going with the Flow

By Kelly Rae Chi Going with the Flow A guide to the new wave of budget, easy-to-use flow cytometers In January Tim Bushnell, scientific and technical director of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Flow Cytometry Core in New York State, packed a $50,000 flow cytometer in his car and drove it to a lab 15 minutes away. There, he trained beginners to use the technique—which identifies and sorts specific populations of cells—on the new benchtop

Simplifying Teaching

By Hannah Waters Simplifying Teaching How to make your teaching more efficient, effective, and enjoyable without slighting your lab projects Carrie O’neill © ImageZoo/Corbis When he took his first job at Arizona State University, James Elser had spent nearly a decade in the lab and didn’t really know what to expect when it came to teaching. After instructing a few graduate classes, he was tossed in front of his first large class for nonsci

Wanted: Another Scientific Revolution

By Laura J. Snyder Wanted: Another Scientific Revolution In the 19th century, four friends changed the way scientists viewed themselves. It’s time for another shake-up. Broadway Books, 2011 When H.M.S. Beagle set sail from Plymouth Sound on December 27, 1831, the ship’s young naturalist, Charles Darwin, was a self-proclaimed “natural philosopher.” By the time he disembarked the ship about five years later, he was a “scientist”

Book excerpt from The Philosophical Breakfast Club

By Laura J. Snyder Book excerpt from The Philosophical Breakfast Club In Chapter 8, “A Divine Programmer,” author Laura J. Snyder explains how Darwin’s own ideas on evolution may have been influenced at lavish parties hosted by one of the club’s members, Charles Babbage On Monday, February 27, 1837, Charles Darwin delivered a talk at a meeting of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. Darwin wrote to his sister Caroline that night with news of

Capsule Reviews

By Bob Grant Capsule Reviews Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life by Marcus Wohlsen Current, April 2011 In the 1970s brash, young mavericks like Bill Gates and Apple’s two Steves (Wozniak and Jobs) toiled in their respective garages creating software and hardware that would one day revolutionize society’s relationship with computers—all without the benefit of towering office high-rises or financial backing from investors with

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