Notebook

A `Best-Kept' Secret Broadening Experience Women's Work Robotiquette What's In A Name?l For Returning Scholars Bigger, Better Shrimp Several attendees at--and one recipient of--the 1993 John Scott Awards, presented annually by the Board of City Trusts of the city of Philadelphia (see People, page 22), voiced concern over the lack of publicity for the award. At one point during his acceptance speech, honoree Richard E. Smalley, Gene and Norman Hackerman Professor of Chemistry at Rice Univers

The Scientist Staff
Dec 12, 1993
  • A `Best-Kept' Secret
  • Broadening Experience
  • Women's Work
  • Robotiquette
  • What's In A Name?l
  • For Returning Scholars
  • Bigger, Better Shrimp
    Several attendees at--and one recipient of--the 1993 John Scott Awards, presented annually by the Board of City Trusts of the city of Philadelphia (see People, page 22), voiced concern over the lack of publicity for the award. At one point during his acceptance speech, honoree Richard E. Smalley, Gene and Norman Hackerman Professor of Chemistry at Rice University, remarked, "This is the only time I've received an award, or heard of one, when all efforts made to get a list of previous awardees have failed." Lewis Padulo, president and CEO of Philadelphia's University City Science Center, shared Smalley's sentiment, calling the Scott Award "one of the best-kept secrets in Philadelphia, maybe in American science." Padulo also urged his colleagues in the Philadelphia science community to "put our thinking caps on" and "see if there's some way we can't get more attention and recognition for this outstanding advisory committee that gives the Scott Award and works so hard to pick these good people."


    The Princeton, N.J.-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offers post-resident physicians an opportunity for two years of graduate-level study and research in non-biological sciences important to medical-care systems through its Clinical Scholars Program. The program covers such disciplines as biostatistics, medical information sciences, anthropology, the social sciences, law, ethics, and the humanities. Applications, including on-site interviews with participating institutions, must be completed between January 1 and April 1. For information, contact program assistant Sheila Libassi, Clinical Scholars Program, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, P.O. Box 2316, Princeton, N.J. 08543; (609) 243-5919.


    Just in time for the holidays (or the spring semester), the National Women's History Project has come out with another in its series of educational materials, this time for children in grades four through eight. Science is Women's Work: Photos and Biographies of American Women in the Sciences is a 56-page booklet profiling the lives and work of 26 prominent women scientists of the past and present, representing 18 fields of science or mathematics, each of whom had to overcome social biases to rise in their profession. Among the scientists featured are 19th- century astronomer Maria Mitchell (1818-1889), nuclear physicist and National Medal of Science winner Chien-Shiung Wu (born 1912), and Nobel Prize-winning pharmacologist Gertrude B. Elion (born 1918). For information, contact the National Women's History Project, 7738 Bell Rd., Dept. P, Windsor, Calif. 95492; (707) 838-6000.


    Some day, University of Rochester graduate student Ray Rimey hopes his robot will impress scientists with its ability to scan a scene and independently zero in on the most important information--a difficult problem in artificial intelligence. But for now, Rimey's robot should at least give a thrill to etiquette aficionados. The device can survey a table and, by way of visual clues like the nature of the place settings, analyze and draw conclusions such as whether the table is set for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; whether a dinner is formal or informal; how many guests are coming; and even whether the table is messy or the guests have begun eating. Rimey programmed his robot--whose research and development earned him his Ph.D. in computer science--using decision theory and mathematical constructs known as Bayes Nets. A key advantage to his robot is that it doesn't bother itself with needless details, selectively taking note of the most pertinent information before it. Although this process might make sticklers like Miss Manners balk, Rochester computer science professor Christopher Brown applauds it as one that surmounts a problem for artificial intelligence scientists. "Most computer vision work develops methods of image processing, but when it comes to which methods the computer should do in what order--well, that's usually programmed into the application," says Brown, Rimey's adviser. "Rimey has built a general framework for using prior knowledge and information discovered along the way to choose the best method to apply next."


    Given the multitude of scientific and political challenges that the space station Freedom project has had to overcome to remain viable, a newly encountered dilemma--NASA's plan to rename the station--seems rather minor, but not to a grass-roots organization having to deal with it. The Space Station Freedom Fighters, a Houston-based volunteer lobbying organization, will probably have to change its name when the project's new moniker is announced at the end of the year; and that has a few members worried. "We'll have to wait and see what the new name will be," says volunteer Cynthia Griffin. "The station is being temporarily called the `Alpha Station,' but we don't want to be called the `Alpha Bits.' " The organization is soliciting name suggestions to pass along to NASA. To suggest a name or for information, contact the Space Station Freedom Fighters, 16582 Space Center Blvd., Houston, Texas 77058; (718) 488-4075. Fax: (713) 488- 7903.


    The Association for Women Geoscientists Foundation has announced that it will award at least two Chrysalis Scholarships to women geoscience master's or Ph.D. candidates to cover expenses associated with finishing their theses. The $750 scholarships are for candidates who have returned two school after an interruption of their education of at least one year, and may be used for anything necessary to assist in finishing the thesis. Applications and related materials are due by March 1. For information, contact the Chrysalis Scholarship, Association for Women Geophysicists Foundation, Macalester College Geology Department, 1600 Grand Ave., St. Paul, Minn. 55105-1899; (612) 696-6448. Fax: (612) 696-6183.


    A biologist at the University of Connecticut has put some more jumbo into jumbo shrimp by developing a method of introducing a reproductive hormone into the feed of shrimp, to produce a larger, tastier variety in commercial hatcheries. The process has earned Hans Laufer, a professor of molecular and cell biology, and the university a U.S. patent and, they hope, some commercial success down the road. Laufer and colleagues discovered methyl farnesoate, a hormone that stimulates reproduction and growth in crustaceans, in 1987, and later synthesized the hormone through biotechnology and added it to shrimp feed. Laufer's patent is for his work with Penaeus vannamei, a Pacific white shrimp.