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Contributors
Contributors
Contributors Stuart Blackman earned his PhD in evolutionary biology from the University of Edinburgh before realizing his scientific interests were too wide for a detailed-oriented career in research. He has been working as a science writer ever since. On page 28, Blackman examines the danger when scientists over-promise results. “I’ve long been interested in the interface between science and politics,” says Blackman. “Pro
Authors of our own misfortune
Authors of our own misfortune
By Richard Gallagher Authors of Our Own Misfortune Don’t make promises you can’t keep—please. That research is presented to the public in this fashion is scandalous. On the 7th of September this year, readers of the British press were presented with some very encouraging news. “Alzheimer’s gene hope for 100,000 Brits,” said The Sun. “The breakthrough, announced yesterday, was called ‘the bi
Mail
Mail
Mail Superfood to the rescue? The development of genetically modified (GM) crops, even for the purpose of saving people from nutrient deficiencies,1 is driven by profit-hungry transnational corporations. Vitamin A deficiency could be much better addressed by promoting polyculture farming with vitamin A–rich green vegetables, especially in urban areas, simultaneously providing many other nutritional benefits. But this approach would not gen
Wounded Cells
Wounded Cells
By Monica Heger Wounded cells A cross-section of traumatically injured muscle tissue containing progenitor cells (green). Muscle fibers (dark) do not contain nuclei (blue). The injured soldier, a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC, was unforgettable. “He was a special forces guy, in the middle of a firefight,” his physician Leon Nesti recalls. “His leg was blown off above the knee. In the middle o
Six degrees of science
Six degrees of science
By Edyta Zielinska Six degrees of science Little did Andy Johnson know that when he started working in Ronald Schwartz’s lab at the National Institutes of Health, he was entering a race against several other investigators all working independently (and secretly) on the same protein. Johnson came to the lab with a mouse model with an apparent immune defect. Using T-cell proliferation assays, Schwartz’s team traced the problem back to the
Drive-thru lab
Drive-thru lab
By Erica Westly Drive-thru lab Dubin-Thaler’s mobile microscopy lab. Courtesy of Ben Dubin-Thaler It’s a cloudy May afternoon in the Bronx, and cell biologist Ben Dubin-Thaler is standing in his cramped 1974 General Motors “Fishbowl” bus with a small group of seventh graders, ready to talk microscopy. “The first slide we’re going to look at is an onion skin,” he says to the group. “Now, w
In the muck
In the muck
By Brendan Borrell In the muck Randall Kerstetter shows off the duckweed collection at the Waksman Institute at Rutgers. Courtesy of Wesley M Jackson Duckweed first appeared in satellite images of Venezuela in 2004 as a mysterious swirl of green on the surface of Lake Maracaibo, doubling in size with each passing day. Maracaibo is one of South America’s largest bodies of water, but with brackish water and few nutrients, it had ne
A tale of two tigers
A tale of two tigers
By Cheryl Lyn Dybas A tale of two tigers Caspian (top) and Siberian (bottom) tigers. Bottom: Jochen Ackermann / wikimedia In reeds tinged red in the Central Asian sun, a tiger once roamed. There, in riparian forests that line rivers like the Vakhsh in the former Soviet country of Tajikistan, the Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) prowled, awaiting the passage of a wild boar or Bukhara deer. Although still a matter of debate
NIH Continues to Support the Best Science through R01s
NIH Continues to Support the Best Science through R01s
By Walter Schaffer and Sally Rockey NIH Continues to Support the Best Science through R01s A response to accusations that the agency is biased against senior scientists The September issue of The Scientist included an opinion piece called “NIH R01s: No Longer the Best Science” by Dr. Les Costello.1 In that article, Dr. Costello expressed concerns about NIH policies2 related to new investigators, suggesting that they offer
Give Young Scientists a Break
Give Young Scientists a Break
By Steven Wiley Give Young Scientists a Break I don’t know if I could have even started my career in today’s funding environment. There is only a rough correlation between the quality of the science in an application and the priority score. There has been much concern about the impact of tight funding on the careers of young scientists. When only a small percentage of grants are approved, even the smallest problem or error w
Promises, Promises
Promises, Promises
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Immune System vs. Cancer
Immune System vs. Cancer
By Mark J. Smyth Immune System vs. Cancer The comeback of an old idea in immunology prompts a rethink of cancer progression and approaches to treatment. Illustrations by Jude Buffum In a photo I often use in presentation slides of my work, I’m standing in nothing but my swim trunks and sunglasses, covered in mud up to my ears. Next to me is my long-time colleague Joe Trapani, in much the same state, with a raccoon-like p
Best Places to Work 2009: Academia
Best Places to Work 2009: Academia
By Victoria Stern Best Places to Work: Academia Scientists at the top-ranked institutions in this year’s survey celebrated their organization’s strong focus on collaboration, team building and unique funding opportunities. Dodd Hall at Princeton University Eleven years ago, Marino Zerial left his job as a group leader at the prestigious European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany and accepted a position as a cell biology
Small Powerhouse
Small Powerhouse
By Victoria Stern Small Powerhouse Princeton University: #1 (US) Princeton University, which jumped to second place in 2008 after not making the list in 2007, took the top spot this year. The Graduate School at Princeton University, established in 1900, has a stellar reputation, boasting 18 National Medal of Science Winners and three recipients of the National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Awards in 2007 and 2008. Although i
Elevating Youth
Elevating Youth
By Victoria Stern Elevating Youth University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center: #4 (US) The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center rocketed from 30th place in 2007 to fourth this year on our list of the best US places to work in academia, perhaps in part for its focus on new investigators. Although opportunities for government funding have been slim in the last year, the university has made a variety of small state-run research grants a
BPTW: Academia Survey Methodology
BPTW: Academia Survey Methodology
ul li { font-family: 'Trebuchet MS', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; } By The Scientist Staff The Scientist Readers' Survey Methodology Best Places to Work in Academia 2009 Related Articles Small Powerhouse Elevating Youth Community Effort A Promise for Young Talent Ranking Tables Top 40 US Academic Institutions Top 15 US Academic Institutions Top 10 International Academic Institutions Respondent Demographics Surv
A Promise for Young Talent
A Promise for Young Talent
By Victoria Stern A Promise for Young Talent University of Groningen: #4 (International) This year, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands made its first appearance on the list of Best Places to Work in Academia, taking fourth place among international institutions. The distinction was a long time in coming. Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen is the second oldest university in the Netherlands. Without the star power of universit
Community Effort
Community Effort
By Victoria Stern Community Effort Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics: #1 (International) The Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, founded in 1998, may be a young organization, but it’s not run like one. The faculty here boasts of the Institute’s easy-to-navigate infrastructure, dedication to team building, strong collaboration among departments, and engaging social opportunities—q
Calm in the STORm
Calm in the STORm
Michael Hall has always gone his own way—a path that has opened up the field of growth regulation.
A Theory Blossoms
A Theory Blossoms
By Bob Grant A Theory Blossoms Researchers unfold a key step in the process that tells plants to flower, findings that could one day benefit agriculture. Fluorescent FT protein in the phloem of an Arabidopsis plant. Courtesy of Laurent Corbesier and George Coupland Few acts of nature seem simpler than flowers blooming on the outstretched tips of a plant’s shoots. But the induction of that seemingly simple process baffled pla
Can it be?
Can it be?
By Jef Akst Can it be? Courtesy of Huei-Ying Chen, Ken Mackie, & Hui-Chen Lu The paper: E. Ryberg et al., “The orphan receptor GPR55 is a novel cannabinoid receptor,” British Journal of Pharmacology, 152:1092–101. (Cited in 99 papers) The finding: Expressing the orphan receptor GPR55 on the membranes of human embryonic kidney cells, biochemist Peter Greasley and his colleagues at AstraZeneca discovered that it b
Hold the centrosomes
Hold the centrosomes
By Bob Grant Hold the centrosomes Dr Geoffrey A. Charters / Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre The paper: R. Basto et al., “Centrosome amplification can initiate tumorigenesis in flies,” Cell, 133:1032–42, 2008. (Cited in 32 papers) The finding: Tumor cells display both chromosomal instability and centrosome amplification, in which they have extra copies of the organelles that orchestrate the movement of microt
Gene Hunters
Gene Hunters
By Victoria Stern Gene hunters The paper: K. Lage et al., “A human phenome-interactome network of protein complexes implicated in genetic disorders,” Nat Biotech, 25: 309–316, 2007. (Cited in 86 papers) The finding: Søren Brunak at the Technical University of Denmark and Kasper Lage, now at the Broad Institute in Boston, developed a computational method to predict which proteins most likely cause a particular disease. By
Sheng Ding: As Cell Fate Would Have It
Sheng Ding: As Cell Fate Would Have It
By Elie Dolgin Sheng Ding: As Cell Fate Would Have It © JEFFREY LAMONT BROWN When Sheng Ding was applying for graduate school, there was only one person he considered working with: chemical biologist Peter Schultz. Ding, trained as a chemist, saw Schultz’s lab at the Scripps Research Institute as the perfect place to apply his knowledge of organic synthesis to biological problems. “I was certainly narrow-minded,” Di
Tailor-Made Mass Spec
Tailor-Made Mass Spec
By Jeffrey M. Perkel Tailor-Made Mass Spec Mass spec tinkerers describe their custom fixes for commercial hardware limitations. Once upon a time, mass spectrometers were open-platform devices that could be tweaked as new applications arose. Today’s mass specs, though, are tightly engineered black boxes: sample in, data out. “As the level of sophistication of software and components has improved, it’s almost impossible to
Team of Rivals
Team of Rivals
By Edyta Zielinska Team of Rivals Enlight Biosciences has a business model that’s compelling enough to coax pharmaceutical companies to do something they rarely do—work together. David Steinberg and Daphne Zohar © 2009 Stanley Rowin In early 2009, the chieftains of several pharmaceutical giants got together to discuss a new kind of biotechnology company. It would be a company guided by pharma to find and develop the
Right your Writing
Right your Writing
By Bob Grant Right your Writing How to sharpen your writing and make your manuscripts more engaging. © Printstock / CSA Images / Corbis When Judith Swan was a PhD student in molecular and cell biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), her research on specialized microtubules in chicken cells went pretty smoothly. But despite expert guidance and advice from her advisor, “when it came time to write, nobody had
First Primate Brain Map, circa 1917
First Primate Brain Map, circa 1917
By Jef Akst First Primate Brain Map, circa 1917 Scale drawing of the left hemisphere of one of Leyton’s and Sherrington’s experiments on a gorilla showing which areas correspond with movements of which parts of the body. Courtesy of the Journal of Experimental Physiology At the turn of the 20th century, British physiologists Charles Scott Sherrington and Albert Sidney Frankau Leyton started poking around in the brains