May 2010

Volume 24 Issue 5

The Scientist May 2010 Cover




Contributors Stanford molecular biologist Suzanne Pfeffer studies how receptors are transported through human cells and end up in just the right place at the membrane. She specializes in Rab GTPases, the enzymes that orchestrate much of this activity. Currently, her lab is focusing on the functioning of the Golgi apparatus, the cell’s packaging and distribution center. “The Golgi’s a really important structure in the cell, and despite d

Naturally Selected

By Sarah Greene Naturally Selected Ninety thousand ways to make you smarter. Can the molecular biologist afford to ignore developments in systems biology, bioinformatics, structural biology, and now even physics? Many thanks to readers who responded to my inaugural editorial (in the February issue), calling for feedback on the “next new thing.” To some, the thing was the t-shirt (we’re working on that), othe


Mail Do Fish have Personalities? Re: “Odd Man Out,”1 animals don’t have personalities since they are not persons. But individuals in many species (most, all?) differ from one another in the way they behave. If you do a behavioral experiment on rats, they will differ in how they respond, and the differences are in some situations consistent across tests that measure similar characteristics (like fear responses). So the rats diff

Bio and the city

By Bob Grant Bio and the city © Brett Hillyard On more than one occasion, Chicago-area police have pulled researcher Stan Gehrt out of the truck he drives around the area. Often, they are acting on tips from wary community members, who report his vehicle—topped by large radio telemetry antennae and driving through neighborhood streets in the wee hours of the morning—as suspicious. “We have to assume the position [hand

Catch of the day

By Amy Coombs Catch of the day © Greg Lynch Even discriminating sushi connoisseurs would envy the tuna George Amato has sampled. The purpose of the tasty experiment: Use DNA barcoding to find out if threatened species of tuna are sold in the United States market. Barcoding relies on a short fragment of mitochondrial DNA found in virtually all living things. The 650 base-pair region, part of the cytochrome oxidase I (COI) gene, accu

Once bitten

By Bob Grant Once bitten An SEM of the tick Ixodes scapularis, carrier of Lyme disease. © David Scharf / Science Faction / Corbis The fever kicked in during the long plane journey home to Philadelphia from Africa. An intense heat washed over my body, my head throbbed, my neck muscles ached, and I tried desperately to stretch the flimsy airline blanket over my chill-wracked arms and legs. All because of a South African tick—o

Evolution of science

By Lauren Urban Evolution of science Science is made up of cliques. Throughout Alex Shneider’s career, he has noticed certain people drawn to certain types of science, and certain types of grant proposals always being funded. Shneider, the founder and CEO of Cure Lab, a vaccine biotech based in Massachusetts, came up with a theory to explain why these cliques occur. At first, it wasn’t too popular. Shneider concluded that a certain type

Top 7 from F1000

Top 7 from F1000 © Medi-Mation Ltd / Photo Researchers, Inc. 1. Smelling the difference » How do animals quickly tell the difference between similar smells? A clue from the mouse olfactory bulb: inhibiting signals from specific neurons makes odor discrimination fast and accurate. N.M. Abraham et al., Neuron, 65(3):399–411, February 11, 2010. Evaluated by Amar Sahay and Rene Hen, Columbia University; Kristina Rehm and Rosalind Seg


The Garden of Antimicrobial Delights

By Julian Davies The Garden of Antimicrobial Delights Major advances in genomics, cloning, and chemistry will restock the dwindling supply of effective antibiotics, but we can’t depend on big pharma and biotech. Green mold hyphae and fruiting structure, Aspergillus ustus. Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc. / Visuals Unlimited, Inc. Almost all papers and reviews dealing with infectious diseases stress that new classes of antibiotic

Keep it Simple

By H. Steven Wiley Keep it Simple Telling a simple story about your data is the easiest way to get funded—and it’s one of the hardest things to do. The big and simple stories attract ample funding and top scientific talent, whereas the complex stories remain mostly ignored in specialty journals. One common piece of advice I frequently give to young scientists is to always tell a story with their data, because it’s a us

Dangerous Liaisons

By Chris Bode Dangerous Liaisons With a large portion of the US population taking multiple prescription drugs and supplements, the increased risk of drug interactions and side effects drives the need for better testing before the medicines reach patients. All illustrations © raquel aparicio My mother-in-law moved in with us when she was 82. As her physical condition gradually deteriorated, the number of medications she w

The Scientist Readers' Survey: Methodology

The Scientist Readers' Survey: Methodology Best Places to Work in Industry 2010 Survey Form: A web-based survey was posted on The Scientist web site from September 9 to November 30, 2009. 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: 1962 useable and qualifi

The Scientist Readers' Survey: Survey Questions

The Scientist Readers' Survey: Survey Questions Best Places to Work in Industry 2010 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 My supervisor helps me understand the reasons behind company research plans. Research Envi

Death Star

By Karen Hopkin Death Star A fax that Michael Hengartner sent to his mentor helped turn apoptosis into a Nobel Prize–winning pathway. © Justin Hession As an incoming graduate student at MIT in the late 1980s, Michael Hengartner knew he wanted to work with David Baltimore on the transcription factor NF-kappaB. “He’s such a great scientist and NF-kappaB is such a cool protein,” he says. “So I thought, OK

How Does Your Golgi Go?

By Suzanne R. Pfeffer How Does Your Golgi Go? Science is shedding new light on the functioning of the cell’s protein processing complex. © Biophoto Associates / Photo Researchers, Inc. Scientists have long sought a robust picture of how the Golgi complex, an organelle critical to the post-translational modification and sorting of newly synthesized proteins, operates. The Golgi contains multiple subcompartments—cis (earl

Hot histone

As climate change begins to diminish yields for food crops such as rice and wheat, just how plants detect small changes in temperature has become a hot topic.


Cutting the cord

By Edyta Zielinska Cutting the cord Courtesy of B. Monier / University of Cambridge, UK The paper: B. Monier et al., “An actomyosin-based barrier inhibits cell mixing at compartmental boundaries in Drosophila embryos,” Nat Cell Biol, 12:60–65, 2010. The finding: Like others in their field, Bénédicte Sanson and colleagues from University of Cambridge had been trying to explain how different embryonic

RNA in disguise

By Richard Grant RNA in disguise Courtesy of Tomoshige Kino The paper: H. Kino et al., “Noncoding RNA gas5 is a growth arrest- and starvation-associated repressor of the glucocorticoid receptor,” Sci Signal, 3:ra8, 2010. The finding: Tomoshige Kino from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and colleagues were looking for regulators of the human glucocorticoid receptor (GR). The GR binds gluc

Uwe Ohler: The promoter coder

By Kelly Rae Chi Uwe Ohler: The promoter coder © Alex maness Assistant Professor, Computational Biology. Age: 37 Uwe Ohler spent a year in Berlin serving meals at a homeless shelter after finishing his undergraduate degree in computer science at the University of Erlangen–Nuremberg. It was the mid-1990s, the Human Genome Project was well underway, and Ohler felt like he was missing out on something. He always took an applied

Digital Upgrade

table thead tr td { border-bottom: 2px solid #000000; } table tr td { font-size: 12px; font-family:"Trebuchet MS", Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; border-bottom: 2px solid #949494; } #featureArticleContent ul li { font-size: 14px; font-family: "Trebuchet MS", Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; } By Amber Dance Digital Upgrade How to choose your lab’s next electronic lab notebook The bound, graph-lined laboratory not

Billion-Dollar Babies

table thead tr td { border-bottom: 2px solid #000000; } table tr td { font-size: 12px; font-family:"Trebuchet MS", Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; border-bottom: 1px solid #000000; } By Jef Akst Billion-Dollar Babies The story of scientists who came up with ideas that recently convinced Pharma to give them millions of dollars. © Mark Allen Miller After 2 decades doing industry science, Roger Tung decided to take a b

A Transforming Field

By Alison McCook A Transforming Field There is no “typical” biologist. Meet two scientists who don’t fit into the usual mold—they changed genders in the middle of their careers. Here’s how they embrace their differences. Left: © Plush Studios/Bill Reitzel right: © Image Source For a few months in 2001 and the beginning of 2002, there was a jar on Julia Serano’s lab bench at the University of

Wallace's lost chest, circa 1848

By Edyta Zielinska Wallace’s lost chest, circa 1848 When Bill Wallace, great grandson of famed naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, was growing up, he would put on his great grandfather’s hat and finger a cabinet that his family considered “a bit of a shrine to Wallace,” Bill recalls. By that time, the family had sold most of Wallace’s collections, but had kept the cabinet—one of two that housed the naturalist’s specimens.

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