Notebook

NIH Neuroscientists Sent Packing Out of This World Leech Locomotion Peaceful Research Honored Scent of a Book Deal Women Scientists: The Sequel The Great Beyond Online Wellcome Awards New Head at CCR Switches At Bell Labs The shutdown of the U.S. government on November 14, occasioned by wrangling between Republicans and Democrats over stopgap budget bills, sharply curtailed representation of National Institutes of Health researchers at the Society for Neuroscience meeting, held in San Diego Nov

November 27, 1995

  • NIH Neuroscientists Sent Packing
  • Out of This World
  • Leech Locomotion
  • Peaceful Research Honored
  • Scent of a Book Deal
  • Women Scientists: The Sequel
  • The Great Beyond Online
  • Wellcome Awards
  • New Head at CCR
  • Switches At Bell Labs The shutdown of the U.S. government on November 14, occasioned by wrangling between Republicans and Democrats over stopgap budget bills, sharply curtailed representation of National Institutes of Health researchers at the Society for Neuroscience meeting, held in San Diego November 11-16. NIH scientists whose functions were deemed "nonessential" were advised to leave the meeting between noon and midnight November 14 to ensure that the cost of their return flights would be covered. NIH employees staffing an institutional exhibit packed it up and shipped it home two days before the scheduled November 16 closing of the exhibit hall. A society press spokesman at the meeting maintained that "we have no way to gauge" how many of the estimated 20,000 scientific attendees were compelled to leave the neuroscience conference because of the government shutdown but contended that "it hasn't really affected the meeting."

    Space biology research has found a home in cyberspace. Earlier this month the National Library of Medicine and National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced its new online resource-SPACELINE. Intended for clinicians and basic researchers in life science, the information service includes journal articles, technical reports, books and book chapters, conference proceedings and abstracts, bibliographies, and audiovisual materials. The database covers such areas as psychological and behavioral aspects of living in space; the effect of space on the physiology of biological systems; and applications of space biology for improving life on Earth. SPACELINE is available to holders of a valid NLM user code. An average search costs roughly $1.50, according to NLM officials. For access information, contact the NLM public information office, NLM, NIH, Bethesda, Md. 20894; (301) 496-6308. E-mail: publicinfo@nlm.nih.gov.

    leeches SMALL SUCKER: Steve DeWeerth examines computer chip that models one leech segment of a bioengineered model of the invertebrate.


    From much-maligned medieval bloodsucker to modern bioengineering model of movement, the reputation of the leech has come a long way with the help of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. Using unique circuitry and miniature transistors, bioengineers and biologists have modeled how the leech's simple nervous system controls circulation and swimming. "We're learning how the systems work and we are giving back to biologists, but the other side of the goal is to apply what we learn to engineering systems, whether they be biomedical prosthetics or robotics," says Georgia electrical engineer Steve DeWeerth. The research team has completed models of individual leech segments and is now designing chips to connect the parts, in effect building a leech one piece at a time.

    Garman Harbottle ANYTHING TO GET A DATE: Garman Harbottle won the Seaborg Medal for his carbon-dating investigations.


    Garman Harbottle, a senior chemist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, has received the Seaborg Medal from the American Nuclear Society. The medal, which honors research that has been especially beneficial to the development of "peaceful applications of nuclear technology," was presented to the Brookhaven scientist late last month. Established in 1984, the award has been given nine times since its inception. Harbottle has used carbon dating and neutron-activation analysis to identify the origin of works of art and archaeological findings, such as a lump of 12th-century nonindigenous raw iron found in 1860 in the Canadian Arctic and sculptures created in France during the ninth through 15th centuries (see also Notebook, The Scientist, Nov. 13, 1995, page 30). In addition to this work, Harbottle has measured natural radioactivity in soils. A small-scale gas counter he developed in the late 1970s along with two now-retired Brookhaven scientists facilitated the carbon-dating research. He was also part of the Brookhaven team that definitively established the half-life of silicon-32 as 172 plus or minus 4 years. Harbottle joined Brookhaven's chemistry department after receiving his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1949. He was nominated for the award by the Society for Archaeological Sciences.

    The search for love the second time around can sometimes lead to scientific as well as romantic inspiration. At least, that's what happened to James Vaughn Kohl, coauthor of the recently published volume The Scent of Eros (New York, Continuum Publishing Co., 1995). In a press release accompanying the book, Kohl-who manages a clinical laboratory for a group of physicians at Partell Medical Center in Las Vegas-writes, "My scientific interest in the nature and nurture of human sexuality dates back more than 10 years to a change in my attitude toward sexuality-one that came about as a result of a failed marriage." The search for an "explanation for either my ex-wife's or my own newly acquired sexual behavior" led Kohl to study the link between odors and pheromones, or sex attractants. The book, which Kohl wrote with Robert T. Francoeur, a professor of human sexuality at Farleigh Dickinson and New York universities, explains that odors can accelerate puberty, control women's menstrual cycles, and influence sexual orientation.

    Historian of science Margaret Rossiter has published the long-awaited second volume of her series examining the history of women scientists. Women Scientists in America: Before Affirmative Action, 1940-1972 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995) discusses women researchers' contributions to the war effort as well as the post-World War II era, when, despite obstacles placed in their paths, they made real progress in their chosen fields. "Women scientists were there in record numbers in the 1950s and 1960s," Rossiter-Marie Underhill Noll Professor of the History of Science at Cornell University-writes in her introduction, "though one might have to look rather hard to find them." The book is a sequel to Rossiter's 1982 Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 (E. Pennisi, The Scientist, Oct. 15, 1990, page 10).

    Online In San Antonio, Texas, Trinity University sociology professor Michael Kearl wanted to develop new visual aids for his death and dying class, so he created DeathNet to convey a multimedia approach to the subject. He begins by showing the students with a videotape sequence of now-deceased coma patients Karen Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan, and their families in order to discuss American attitudes toward euthanasia. Students then access DeathNet's World Wide Web site to read euthanasia legislation, explore attitudes about physician-assisted deaths, and create hypotheses about the level of support for the subject among various religious groups. The students can test the hypotheses using analytical software to examine national and international data. For information on DeathNet, contact Irma Guerrero at (210) 736-8406 or iguerrer@trinty.edu.

    The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is accepting applications for three medical sciences competitive awards programs. The Molecular Parisitology Award Program offers two scholar awards of $400,000 each, payable over five years and two $150,000 new investigator awards, payable over three years. The program is intended "to encourage novel approaches to the study of parasitic and tropical diseases, which are devastating human health in many developing and tropical countries." The New Initiatives in Malaria Research Program, being awarded for the first time, will grant two awards of $400,000 over four years to "encourage novel research on basic questions about the biology and pathogenesis of malaria." Experience in malaria is not a prerequisite, the fund notes: "The program encourages investigators from other fields to apply their expertise to developing new ideas and approaches in this area." Collaborations between scientists at the same or different departments or institutions are also encouraged. The Molecular Pathogenic Mycology Award Program provides two $400,000, five-year scholar awards and two $150,000 new investigator awards, payable over three years. The scholar awards in the parasitology and pathogenic mycology programs are aimed primarily at investigators at the associate and early professor levels who have made significant contributions to the fields. The new investigator grants are intended for "individuals who have made a commitment to research" in the subjects, generally at the early to middle assistant professor level. In the case of the malaria awards, applicants must hold a Ph.D. and be affiliated with a United States or Canadian educational institution. Senior investigators from other disciplines who are interested in redirecting their efforts are also encouraged to apply to the pathogenic mycology program. Deadline for the three programs is January 15. For information, contact Finley Austin, Program Officer, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 4709 Creekstone Dr., Suite 100, Morrisville, N.C. 27560-9771; (919) 991-5112. Fax: (919) 941-5884. For information about these and other fund programs, send E-mail to: mailback@bwfund.org. Type "menu" on the subject line for a list of programs.

    The Council for Chemical Research (CCR), a Washington, D.C.-based group "dedicated to promoting closer research linkages among industry, government, and academia," has elected Thomas A. Manuel as chairman for 1995-96. His term began at the conclusion of the group's 17th annual meeting in Pittsburgh last month. Manuel is vice president for technology of the chemicals group of Air Products and Chemicals Inc. in Allentown, Pa. Manuel was elected to the CCR Governing Board in 1991 and served as first vice chair in 1994. As chairman, he will also participate in the Council of Scientific Society Presidents. Manuel received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1961. CCR membership of more than 400 reprentatives of some 200 institutions and companies is composed of more than 400 department heads from 157 universities and vice presidents and directors of research from 36 industrial firms and nine government laboratories.

    Arun Netravali IN CHARGE: Arun Netravali was named research vice president at Bell Labs.


    Arun Netravali, a pioneer in video research, has been named vice president of research at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J. Netravali, 49, succeeds Nobel physicist Arno Penzias, 62, who has headed research at Bell Labs since 1981. Penzias has been named to the newly created position of chief scientist and retains the title of vice president. Netravali, whose "book on digital pictures is today's bible on video compression," according to Bell Labs president Dan Stanzione, has been at the company for 23 years. Prior to his appointment, he held the dual role of vice president of communications sciences research and vice president of the quality, engineering, software, and technologies (QUEST) organization, the labs' internal consulting and technology realization group. He joined Bell Labs in 1972 and became head of the visual communications research group in 1978 and director of computing systems research in 1983. In 1990, he was manager of the company's high-definition TV project, and was named communications research vice president in 1992. A native of India, he earned a Ph.D. from Rice University in Houston, and worked on the space shuttle program at NASA from 1970 to 1972. His book, Digital Pictures-Representation and Compression (New York, Plenum Press, 1988) was coauthored with Bell colleague Barry G. Haskell. He is the author of more than 150 papers and two books, and holds more than 60 patents in computer networks, human interfaces to machines, picture processing, and digital television. In his new position, Netravali heads a staff of about 1,400 scientists and engineers responsible for basic and applied research in the physical sciences, communications, and computer technologies. His predecessor, Penzias, who joined Bell Labs in 1961 and took part in the Echo and Telstar satellite experiments, received the 1978 Nobel Prize in physics along with colleague Robert Wilson for their confirmation of the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe.

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