July 2011

Volume 25 Issue 7

The Scientist July 2011 Cover

Featured Articles

image: The Birth of Optogenetics

The Birth of Optogenetics

By Edward S. Boyden | July 1, 2011

An account of the path to realizing tools for controlling brain circuits with light.

image: Exosome Explosion

Exosome Explosion

By Clotilde Théry | July 1, 2011

These small membrane vesicles do much more than clean up a cell’s trash—they also carry signals to distant parts of the body, where they can impact multiple dimensions of cellular life.

image: Best Places to Work Academia, 2011

Best Places to Work Academia, 2011

By The Scientist Staff | July 1, 2011

Whether it’s attending a Scottish dance party or asking physics buffs to custom build your tools, researchers at this year’s top institutions are getting creative at work.


Capsule Reviews

Capsule Reviews

Solar, The Dark X, The Sky's Dark Labyrinth, Spiral


Balancing Biases

How cognitive prejudices can influence research decisions, and how the pitfalls of human nature can be avoided.



Meet some of the people featured in the July 2011 issue of The Scientist.

Critic at Large

Desperately Seeking Radioisotopes

New strategies are needed to address the current and future shortages of radioisotopes that threaten medical research and treatment.


New New Things

Why we love our jobs—there’s never a dull moment.


The First X-ray, 1895

The discovery of a new and mysterious form of radiation in the late 19th century led to a revolution in medical imaging.


OPSINS: Tools of the trade

The optogenetic toolset is composed of genetically encoded molecules that, when targeted to specific neurons in the brain, enable the electrical activity of those neurons to be driven or silenced by light. 

Exosome Basics

Exosomes are small membrane vesicles secreted by most cell types. Internal vesicles form by the inward budding of cellular compartments known as multivesicular endosomes (MVE). 

Lab Tools

How Green Is My Lab?

Doing science sustainably

Modus Operandi

Smashing Crystals

A powerful new X-ray–generating laser is imaging smaller crystals than ever before.


Scientist to Watch

“This is my trophy,” says biologist Michael Edidin, walking across his office at Johns Hopkins University to pick up two oversized clock hands, once part of the stately clock tower that still stands on the Baltimore campus. 

Trading Pelts for Pestilence

When European explorers and fishermen began to frequent Canada’s shores in the 16th century, they brought with them a plethora of tools and trinkets, including knives, axes, kettles, and blankets. 

C-ing with the Lights Out

I the dark Arctic shallows one research finds heterotrophic marine bacteria doing a surprising amount of carbon fixing.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Eleanor Simpson on how dopamine helps rats learn and may lead humans to addiction.



Studying the earliest events in visual development, Carla Shatz has learned the importance of looking at one’s data with open eyes—and an open mind.

Reading Frames

A Scar Nobly Got

The story of the US government’s efforts to stamp out smallpox in the early 20th century offers insights into the science and practice of mass vaccination.

Scientist to Watch

Harmit Malik: Viral Historian

Member, Division of Basic Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington. Age: 38


Best in Academia, 2011

Meet some of the finalists of this year's Best Places to Work in Academia survey. 

Speaking of Science

Speaking of Science

July 2011's selection of notable quotes

The Literature

The Ninefold Ring

Editor’s Choice in Structural Biology

Probiotic Protection

Editor’s choice in microbiology

Thymus Finder

Editor’s Choice in Immunology

Thought Experiment

The Scientist’s Amanuensis

A virtual lab—where all sorts of parameters are monitored and recorded—promises researchers a higher degree of reproducibility.


Optogenetics: A Light Switch for Neurons

This animation illustrates optogenetics—a radical new technology for controlling brain activity with light. 

Learning Addiction

Eleanor Simpson, a neuroscientist at Columbia University Medical Center, discusses a recent Nature paper that probes dopamine's role in helping animals make positive associations to stimuli that herald pleasurable outcomes (such as the handing out of food).

Meet the Crystal Smasher

Take a tour of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), whose ultra-powerful X-ray beam is being used to solve the structures of proteins that are notoriously hard to crystallize.

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