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Mike Axtell: The curious gardener

By | April 1, 2009

Credit: Photo by Bob Skalkowski / Photography" /> Credit: Photo by Bob Skalkowski / Photography As a postdoc at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, MA, Mike Axtell would often come into the lab carrying bits of plants he had clipped from bushes by the sides of the busy roads. He would dump them on his desk and begin to prepare them for microRNA sequencing, hoping to determine wh


Ed Boyden: The brain engineer

By | March 1, 2009

Credit: © Matt Kalinowski Photography" /> Credit: © Matt Kalinowski Photography At the end of his junior year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998, Ed Boyden was hanging out with friends in the basement of the famed Media Lab, trying to figure out what to do for the summer. "We saw this competition online and thought, hey, that's cool," recalls Boyden of the first International Underwater


Michelle Chang: A catalyst for change

By | February 1, 2009

Credit: © Eric Millette" /> Credit: © Eric Millette As a child, Michelle Chang would sit listlessly in a University of California, San Diego, lab while her mother, a geneticist, ran experiments. As hours ticked by on the lab clock, the young Chang made a decision: she would not grow up to be a researcher. But after only a handful of introductory science classes her freshman year at UCSD, Chang became so excited about

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Leonard Foster: A quantitative quality

By | January 1, 2009

Credit: © Robert Karpa" /> Credit: © Robert Karpa When he was a child growing up in northern British Columbia, Leonard Foster's great aunt spread natural willow extract over her garden to promote plant root growth; when Foster and his three younger siblings came down with sore throats, his mother served hot tea spiked with a resinous mixture, called propolis, which is made by honey bees. These traditional customs seemed to work. But Foster wasn't entirely convinced. Star


Michael Laub: The systems savant

By | December 1, 2008

Credit: © Matt Kalinowski Photography" /> Credit: © Matt Kalinowski Photography When Michael Laub arrived at Stanford University in 1997, genomics was in its infancy, with many DNA technologies just being developed. So when he wanted to study cell cycle gene expression in Caulobacter crescentus, he decided to build his own DNA microarray. But the equipment he needed to make primers for the array was booked


Doris Tsao: A real visionary

By | November 1, 2008

Credit: © Eric Shambroom Photography" /> Credit: © Eric Shambroom Photography As a child, Doris Tsao spent long hours musing on the mechanics and philosophy of vision with her father, who owns a company that designs artificial vision systems. "He made vision seem like the greatest scientific problem," she says. By the time Tsao was 11 or 12, she'd been hit by "the realization that your sense of vision is created by your brain" - and


Patricia Wittkopp: Fresh eyes on flies

By | October 1, 2008

Credit: ® Roy Ritchie" /> Credit: ® Roy Ritchie By the end of high school, Patricia Wittkopp was so over fruit flies. They had sparked her passion for genetics, but as she shopped around for an undergraduate research project at the University of Michigan, Wittkopp wanted more. "I remember thinking to myself, 'We already did a fruit fly lab in high school, and I want to do something else'," she says.


John Rawls: Raising a new model system

By | September 1, 2008

Credit: © Alex Maness Photography" /> Credit: © Alex Maness Photography In John Rawls' basement lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, thousands of spotted and striped zebrafish swim in their shoe box-sized tanks. Some of the eggs the fish lay Rawls will make sterile after fertilization - each time creating a new chance to examine the relationship between gut microbes and


Pieter Dorrestein: Small molecules, big goals

By | August 1, 2008

Credit: © Max Dolberg" /> Credit: © Max Dolberg Pieter Dorrestein went to Northern Arizona University primarily for the rocks. The rocky landscape made it the obvious choice for an aspiring geologist, and the rock climbing was just as appealing. In 1997, as a sophomore, Dorrestein heard that chemist John MacDonald was looking for a climbing partner. Once they'd paired up, the two hit it off and Dorrestein became fascinated with MacDonald's work in molecula


Martin Burke: The smart synthesizer

By | July 1, 2008

Credit: © Nick Burchell" /> Credit: © Nick Burchell In November 1998, Martin Burke was on his first clinical rotation in the MD/PhD program at Harvard Medical School when he met a 22-year-old cystic fibrosis patient who was taking 17 different medications. Knowing that a single missing chloride channel causes the disease, it bothered Burke that the treatment comprised such a large cocktai


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