Vanderbilt University neuroscientist Kenneth Catania first got acquainted with the star-nosed mole as a volunteer research assistant at the National Zoo during his undergrad years at the University of Maryland. Although his graduate work took him in the direction of electro-reception—the ability of animals to detect electric stimuli—Catania felt pulled by the many still-unsolved mysteries surrounding the star-nosed mole. The animal’s weird behaviors include its ability to sniff and smell underwater and its world-record eating speed (managing to locate and eat food in only 120 milliseconds!)—just a couple of Catania’s favorite star-nosed mole facts. While his research also probes the sensory abilities other unique creatures, such as aquatic snakes bearing tentacles that detect prey, water shrews with impressive predatory abilities, and naked mole-rats with their vibration-sensing whiskers, the star-nosed mole keeps him on his toes. “Around every corner there’s some really interesting surprise,” he says. Read about his research on the amazing tactile organ for which the mole is named in "A Nose for Touch."
John Coates was riding the highs and lows of life as a Wall Street trader when a chance encounter on a plane changed his life. He sat next to Linda Wilbrecht, who was doing a PhD in neuroscience at Rockefeller University. She invited him to visit and see what they were up to, Coates says. “Within 20 minutes of being in that lab I was completely hooked,” he says. Deep down he realized that his calling was to be an experimental scientist, and this serendipitous meeting made him think about studying the biology of the rollercoaster emotions he had experienced himself and witnessed among other Wall Street traders. He strongly suspected that hormonal influences underpinned the irrational exuberance and pessimism of traders, and decided it was a hypothesis worth testing, trading the financial world for the University of Cambridge in 2004. Read Coates’s thoughts about Wall Street, neuroscience, and the importance of storytelling for biology on "A Story Biological." You can also find an excerpt from his new book, The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, on our website.
Lisa Modica returns to The Scientist team this month as the magazine’s new Art Director. She was previously a production assistant and associate art director at the magazine. Her primary motivation for coming back, she says, is the editorial staff, who “really care and are so dedicated to putting out an excellent magazine.” Modica originally trained as a retail merchandiser, but much prefers the challenges of graphic design, which she has now done for 12 years. She slots together each article “like a puzzle,” aiming to make The Scientist a “fun read” for researchers by creating layouts that not only communicate hard-core science but are also visually engaging and entertaining. She plans to keep up The Scientist’s award-winning reputation with innovative infographics and artwork that helps articles jump off the page.