Meet some of the people featured in the April 2012 issue of The Scientist.

May 1, 2012
The Scientist Staff

Marc Lewis came by his interest in the neuroscience of addiction honestly. Expelled from his first graduate program for stealing drugs, Lewis kicked his addiction to opiates at the age of 30. He then made a successful bid for a PhD in applied psychology at the University of Toronto and spent more than a decade researching cognition-emotion and personality from a psychologist’s perspective. Lewis switched to neuroscience in 2000, and now investigates the neurobiological systems underlying emotion and emotional development. Lewis considers his new field an “exploding area” for addiction research, as neurochemical processes help explain “how powerful these drives are, why people can’t stop wrecking lives.” Now at the Radboud University in The Netherlands, Lewis’s current project investigates the breakdown of self-control in alcoholics in environments where alcohol is available. Read about the neuroscience of addiction and L­ewis’s own struggles in this month’s Reading Frames.

Vern Schramm started applying computational principles to enzyme chemistry when the programs arrived on magnetic tape or punched cards to be fed through the computer. Schramm’s love of chemistry and enzymology came together during his PhD studies in biochemistry at the Australian National University. A symposium in 1976 introduced him to the idea of modeling an enzyme’s ephemeral transition state using the fact that different isotopes will alter the reaction rate. It took decades for computational tools to catch up, but Schramm and his colleagues at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City have now designed drugs to treat leukemia, gout, and malaria by attacking enzymatic transition states. In his feature article, “Freezing Time,” he describes how these inhibitors can stop an enzyme in its tracks.

Youthful energy made San Francisco “the place to be” in 1968, says Neal Young (far left), who took a summer research fellowship in hematology there after his first year of medical school at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Young joined the NIH Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in 1976 to continue his focus on blood disorders and soon became interested in a rare subtype called aplastic anemia, a bone marrow failure syndrome that affects young people, for whom the outlook then was “dismal.” Rodrigo Calado joined Young in 2003 after finishing his MD and PhD at the University of São Paulo. Combining the observation that telomeres, the protective ends of chromosomes, are shortened in blood cells of aplastic anemia patients with the fact that androgens, sex hormones that include testosterone, upregulate telomerase activity, Young and Calado are collaborating on a clinical trial investigating the use of androgens to treat the condition. Their article reviews what is known about the role of telomeres in disease.