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Facing the Global Water Crisis

By | May 10, 2004

DRY EARTH:Photo by Roger Lemoyne/LiaisonA woman sits on the ancient steps that once led down to Lake Rajsamand near Udaipur, India. The lake dried up in 2000 due to drainage of its feeder rivers for agricultural purposes and drought.Eli Raz, an Israeli geologist, found himself in something of a hole, and a rather deep one. He had stopped his car on a desert highway near his home by the Dead Sea to inspect some rock formations. As he was walking a few hundred meters from the road, he felt a rumbl


On first consideration, it seems a straightforward question: How effective and safe is drug A in treating condition B? But the design and analysis of the clinical trials that set out to answer this question are far from straightforward, involving an overwhelming number of variables.First, the subjects: Any group of human beings will show boundless variation in terms of both genetic makeup and non-genetic variation, such as age and lifestyle.Then the disease: Behind the convenient categorization,


The Tribulations of Clinical Trials

By | April 26, 2004

PictureQuestA plain tablet in a no-name blisterpack. It could save a life.Or maybe not.Since 1994, the Food and Drug Administration has approved year-to-year increases in the number of new candidate drugs for human testing in the United States, rising from 3,350 in 1996 to 3,900 in 2002.1 But the number of drugs that successfully negotiate the trial process and ultimately receive FDA approval is frustratingly low. Despite pharmaceutical companies' and the National Institutes of Health's research


Human Origins from Afar

By | April 12, 2004

LAND OF OUR FATHERS?© 1998 David L. Brill/Brill AtlantaA westward view of Ethiopia's Middle Awash Valley, from the Central Awash complex near Aramis.In a dusty, barren area in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia, about 140 miles northeast of Addis Ababa, lies a place that holds unique renown among paleontologists. Over the eons, seasonal rains have washed out and exposed bits of the past, including a spectacular, if scattered, assemblage of human ancestors. Here, a triangular area, 310 miles


Science Museums Exhibit Renewed Vigor

By | March 29, 2004

Erica P. JohnsonApreschool girl with black braids presses a finger to a disk that twists a brightly lit DNA model, transforming its ladder shape into a double helix. Her head bops from side to side in wonder as the towering DNA coils and straightens. When a bigger boy claims her place, the girl joins meandering moms and dads with their charges as they twist knobs, open flaps, and simply stare at flashing helixes and orange information boards: all a part of the museum exhibit called "Genome: The


Investigating Molecular Motors Step by Step

By | March 15, 2004

Thom Graves MediaThe audience, several hundred biophysicists strong, was not expecting a James Brown impersonation. But there he was: Physiologist Yale Goldman, keynote speaker on motility at the Biophysical Society's annual meeting, doing his "asymmetric hand-over-hand motility dance with a limp" to tinny strains of "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." And while Goldman, who eschewed Brown's trademark, over-the-top couture for understated, Ivy League-issue khakis and blue blazer, won't star on MTV any


The Right Research Mix

By | March 1, 2004

Digital VisionIn April 2003, the UK's Medical Research Council established a task force to assess possible future research models for the council's National Institute of Medical Research. "We've been looking ... for any hard data that helps us look at the relative merits of different models," says MRC task force secretary David Smith, "and we're not finding it." While the council gathered lots of anecdotal material, Smith continues, "I don't think it obviously leads to any clear conclusion.No wo


Best Places to Work Survey: Postdocs Speak Up

By | February 16, 2004

Give a postdoc an environment that encourages collegial work, and not competitive strife, and that person will respond with ample praise. At least, that's the lesson of The Scientist's Best Places for Postdocs 2004 survey; it's the magazine's largest yet, with 3,529 usable responses from postdoctoral researchers in Western Europe, Canada, and the United States.Postdocs rated access to publications and journals as the most important attribute of a university. High-quality research tools attracted


These Postdocs Appreciate Uncle Sam

By | February 16, 2004

Institutions that nurture postdocs' scientific development dominated this year's Best Places for Postdocs survey. Participants ranked five federally funded research facilities among the top 15 institutions, all of which earned high marks for scientific development and resources.US government labs have become fertile greenhouses for some of the country's best and brightest researchers. Because government labs also dole out grants to institutions and scholars, they have become exemplars for other


The University of Alberta's pre-eminence in The Scientist's postdoc survey came as little surprise to many of the institution's researchers. These scientists cited as particularly important the April 2003 opening of a campus postdoc office, which provides a wide range of training and support services. The new office has encouraged postdocs to attend sessions on teaching, communication, and leadership, with which science graduates all too often lack experience, says postdoc Sheryl Gares.Carlos Fl


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