Scientist To Watch (old)
Mike Axtell: The curious gardener
Edyta Zielinska | Apr 1, 2009
Credit: Photo by Bob Skalkowski / Photography" /> Credit: Photo by Bob Skalkowski / Photography As a postdoc at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, MA, Mike Axtell would often come into the lab carrying bits of plants he had clipped from bushes by the sides of the busy roads. He would dump them on his desk and begin to prepare them for microRNA sequencing, hoping to determine wh
Ed Boyden: The brain engineer
Alla Katsnelson | Mar 1, 2009
Credit: © Matt Kalinowski Photography" /> Credit: © Matt Kalinowski Photography At the end of his junior year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998, Ed Boyden was hanging out with friends in the basement of the famed Media Lab, trying to figure out what to do for the summer. "We saw this competition online and thought, hey, that's cool," recalls Boyden of the first International Underwater
Michelle Chang: A catalyst for change
Jennifer Evans | Feb 1, 2009
Credit: © Eric Millette" /> Credit: © Eric Millette As a child, Michelle Chang would sit listlessly in a University of California, San Diego, lab while her mother, a geneticist, ran experiments. As hours ticked by on the lab clock, the young Chang made a decision: she would not grow up to be a researcher. But after only a handful of introductory science classes her freshman year at UCSD, Chang became so excited about
Leonard Foster: A quantitative quality
Elie Dolgin | Jan 1, 2009
Credit: © Robert Karpa" /> Credit: © Robert Karpa When he was a child growing up in northern British Columbia, Leonard Foster's great aunt spread natural willow extract over her garden to promote plant root growth; when Foster and his three younger siblings came down with sore throats, his mother served hot tea spiked with a resinous mixture, called propolis, which is made by honey bees. These traditional customs seemed to work. But Foster wasn't entirely convinced. Star
Michael Laub: The systems savant
Megan Scudellari | Dec 1, 2008
Credit: © Matt Kalinowski Photography" /> Credit: © Matt Kalinowski Photography When Michael Laub arrived at Stanford University in 1997, genomics was in its infancy, with many DNA technologies just being developed. So when he wanted to study cell cycle gene expression in Caulobacter crescentus, he decided to build his own DNA microarray. But the equipment he needed to make primers for the array was booked
Doris Tsao: A real visionary
Alla Katsnelson | Nov 1, 2008
Credit: © Eric Shambroom Photography" /> Credit: © Eric Shambroom Photography As a child, Doris Tsao spent long hours musing on the mechanics and philosophy of vision with her father, who owns a company that designs artificial vision systems. "He made vision seem like the greatest scientific problem," she says. By the time Tsao was 11 or 12, she'd been hit by "the realization that your sense of vision is created by your brain" - and
Patricia Wittkopp: Fresh eyes on flies
Bob Grant | Oct 1, 2008
Credit: ® Roy Ritchie" /> Credit: ® Roy Ritchie By the end of high school, Patricia Wittkopp was so over fruit flies. They had sparked her passion for genetics, but as she shopped around for an undergraduate research project at the University of Michigan, Wittkopp wanted more. "I remember thinking to myself, 'We already did a fruit fly lab in high school, and I want to do something else'," she says.
John Rawls: Raising a new model system
Kelly Rae Chi | Sep 1, 2008
Credit: © Alex Maness Photography" /> Credit: © Alex Maness Photography In John Rawls' basement lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, thousands of spotted and striped zebrafish swim in their shoe box-sized tanks. Some of the eggs the fish lay Rawls will make sterile after fertilization - each time creating a new chance to examine the relationship between gut microbes and
Pieter Dorrestein: Small molecules, big goals
Andrea Gawrylewski | Aug 1, 2008
Credit: © Max Dolberg" /> Credit: © Max Dolberg Pieter Dorrestein went to Northern Arizona University primarily for the rocks. The rocky landscape made it the obvious choice for an aspiring geologist, and the rock climbing was just as appealing. In 1997, as a sophomore, Dorrestein heard that chemist John MacDonald was looking for a climbing partner. Once they'd paired up, the two hit it off and Dorrestein became fascinated with MacDonald's work in molecula
Martin Burke: The smart synthesizer
Elie Dolgin | Jul 1, 2008
Credit: © Nick Burchell" /> Credit: © Nick Burchell In November 1998, Martin Burke was on his first clinical rotation in the MD/PhD program at Harvard Medical School when he met a 22-year-old cystic fibrosis patient who was taking 17 different medications. Knowing that a single missing chloride channel causes the disease, it bothered Burke that the treatment comprised such a large cocktai
Peter Reddien: Making heads or tails of it
Bob Grant | Jun 1, 2008
Credit: © laura barisonzi photography" /> Credit: © laura barisonzi photography For his 33rd birthday last year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology geneticist Peter Reddien received a special gift from his students: a t-shirt imprinted with a picture of a six-headed flatworm. Reddien and his postdoc, Christian Petersen, had recently created the altered planarian, Schmidtea mediterranea,
Howard Hang: An immunologist's chemist
Andrea Gawrylewski | May 1, 2008
Credit: © 2008 Landon Nordeman" /> Credit: © 2008 Landon Nordeman As a high school student trying to pick a college, Howard Hang was more interested in where he would be able to catch the best waves than academic programs. A native Californian, Hang looked at many of the University of California schools, finally choosing UC, Santa Cruz, which clearly had the best surf. It wasn't long before his surfboard was
Ken-ichi Noma: For the love of yeast
Bob Grant | Apr 1, 2008
Credit: © Jason varney | Varneyphoto.com" /> Credit: © Jason varney | Varneyphoto.com Ken-ichi Noma, a geneticist at The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, stands at a bench in his lab and squirts a sample of Saccharomyces pombe onto a microscope slide. He adjusts the microscope focus knobs, and an image of green, globular cells wavers on the monitor attached to his microscope. "How are you doing?" he asks the cells.
Zemer Gitai: Modeling life's architecture
Andrea Gawrylewski | Mar 1, 2008
Credit: Dustin Fenstermacher / Wonderful Machine" /> Credit: Dustin Fenstermacher / Wonderful Machine Zemer Gitai likes to say of his thus far short, but fruitful, science career that he is devolving. Since he studied cancer in mice as an undergraduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he has been transitioning his work to increasingly simpler biologic systems. For now, he has settled on bacteria. As a PhD student at the University of California, San Fra
Eran Segal: Computing expression
Jonathan Scheff | Feb 1, 2008
Credit: Photo: Ahikam Seri" /> Credit: Photo: Ahikam Seri Eran Segal followed a meandering route to the field of computational biology. He began by earning a bachelor's degree in computer science from Tel-Aviv University in 1998, and went on to study in Stanford University's computer science department under Daphne Koller. He also studied genetics at Stanford, where he began to explore how probabilistic models can answer biologic questions. As a graduate student Segal focused on
Amy Wagers: Setting the record straight
Kerry Grens | Jan 1, 2008
Credit: © Leah Fasten Photography" /> Credit: © Leah Fasten Photography As a postdoc in Irving Weissman's laboratory at Stanford University, Amy Wagers earned a reputation for putting other people's findings to the test. In 2002 Wagers published evidence contrary to claims that bone marrow-derived stem cells could transdifferentiate into brain, muscle, and other tissues.1 In 2004, she found that hematopoietic stem cells could not repair damaged myocardium,2 despite other ev
Sean Crosson: Bacteria in LOV
Bob Grant | Dec 1, 2007
Credit: © 2007 Chris Lake Photography" /> Credit: © 2007 Chris Lake Photography Earlier this year, University of Chicago assistant professor Sean Crosson donned a cowboy hat and rode a giant foam bacterium across a stage as part of a student research presentation. The audience broke into laughter. While exploring the "hidden biology" of undescribed signaling pathways in the bacteria, Caulobacter crescentus, Crosson's group manages to share quite a few laughs, and the la
Jennifer Elisseeff: Bringing cartilage to light
Edyta Zielinska | Nov 1, 2007
Credit: BILL CRAMER / WONDERFUL MACHINE INC." /> Credit: BILL CRAMER / WONDERFUL MACHINE INC. In Jennifer Elisseeff's small tissue-culture room at Johns Hopkins University, she points to an eraser-sized pellet of two-layered hydrogel floating in culture medium. She explains how the cells, encapsulated within juxtaposed layers of gel, exchange signals to help them grow. Knowing what those signals are could help her design a hydrogel that would regenerate diseased tissue. As a teen
Dee Denver: Shaking up mutation
Kerry Grens | Oct 1, 2007
Credit: © Lincoln Barbour PHOTOGRAPHY" /> Credit: © Lincoln Barbour PHOTOGRAPHY Though it's been decades since he was a kid turning over rocks in St. Joseph, Missouri, Dee Denver, now assistant professor in the zoology department at Oregon State University, still enjoys looking at nematodes. "It's beautiful," he says, watching through a microscope in his laboratory as a tiny worm makes sinusoidal tracks through a plate of Escherichia coli. It's no coincidence that the a
Henrik Kaessmann: Grand-scale genetics
Andrea Gawrylewski | Sep 1, 2007
Credit: © SEAN MACLEOD PHOTOGRAPHY" /> Credit: © SEAN MACLEOD PHOTOGRAPHY Henrik Kaessmann is not a trained bioinformaticist. He acquired his computational skills after his PhD, on the road to uncovering the subtleties of gene origin and function, with many of his projects operating on a grand scale. Over the short evolution of his career, however, he has become one of the world's foremost bioinformatics researchers. Kaessmann's first large-scale project was during his