Heading to New Orleans in Seat 9C

red ferrariThe ASCB meeting is a finely tuned machine.
Photo Credit: Peter Zoon
While December is a special time for many around the world, the month has added significance for cell biologists—it's the time of their main gathering, the ASCB Annual Meeting, which will start this year on Saturday in New Orleans! Right now I find myself taking part in this annual migration so while this crowded miniscule airplane makes its way towards the Gulf, let me pull in my elbows in Seat 9-C and put down a few notes on a very busy season—they must have designed these seats for morula-sized people, by the way.


ASCB Kaluza Prize Reflects ASCB’s Concern that Young Scientists Are Now a Vulnerable Population

lab equipment 2010The ASCB Kaluza Prize recognizes significant research
achievement by early career scientists who still pursue
excellence amidst economic uncertainties and
political shortsightedness. ASCB Photo.
In the midst of the frantic preparations here at the national office for the Annual Meeting and the ASCB Council, plus end-of-year budgeting and all the rest just around the corner, I want to pause to salute the winners of the ASCB Kaluza Prize supported by Beckman Coulter for outstanding graduate student research. The news of the ASCB Kaluza winner and nine additional ASCB Beckman Coulter Distinguished Graduate Student Achievement travel awards broke today in the ASCB Post. It is a significant moment for our Society as we have made the training of young scientists a priority.


Round Trip from Stockholm to ASCB

Schmidt Schekman and Rothman 2010With Stockholm still in the future, Randy Schekman (third from left)
with fellow 2013 Nobel winner, Jim Rothman (far right), shared the ASCB's
highest scientific honor, the E. B. Wilson Medal, with Stuart Kornfeld
(first on left) from ASCB former president Sandy Schmid at the 2010
ASCB Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. ASCB photo.
This week I attended an insightful seminar by the newly announced Nobel Laureate and former ASCB President Randy Schekman. Months ago, Schekman had agreed to speak at this routine NIH seminar to be held in an obscure conference room in a nondescript government building. However, after the invitation went out, something happened in Stockholm, which transformed the Schekman talk into a major event. Well over a thousand excited scientists turned out.


Within the Genome: All One and All Different

On  a recent hot Sunday afternoon, my eight-year-old son, Davide, and I left “the girls” (mom and four-year-old daughter) at home to embark on a field trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History on the National Mall in Washington, DC. We were going to visit a science exhibit celebrating the 10th anniversary of the human genome sequencing.1,2 It turned out to be one of my best Sundays in quite a while!


A Night at the Federal Budgetary Opera

We have not seen a "normal" federal budget process in Washington in years. Instead we have substituted what could be the perfect libretto for a grand opera featuring tenors, baritones and sopranos, singing arias of high drama that soar through crisis after crisis with last second rescues, magic “continuing” resolutions that last forever, and a “curse” in which the federal government is doomed to wander from one near shutdown to the next. One element in this libretto that had not changed until this year was the timing of the President’s budget, which even in these normal/abnormal times was presented to Congress the first week of February.  The presidential budget is considered the statement of the Executive Branch about where it will put emphasis in the upcoming year. The President’s budget is known inside the Beltway as dead on arrival, since Congress is quick to remind the President of the United States that the Legislative Branch, not the President, holds the purse strings. Members of Congress have started orchestrating their own budget, returned to their own priorities, and featuring an entertaining legislative minuet.


Happy Gastrulation Day, Everyone!

The Italian poet, Giovanni Pascoli, once said that inside all adults, there is a child, il fanciullino, who is responsible for putting each of us in contact with the world through imagination and sensitivity. My fanciullino was on steroids when I recently met at a school with second graders to talk about biology! There is nothing so satisfying as explaining biology to children. They have that uncanny curiosity that can light a fire under any adult's lukewarm curiosity.


The Researcher Who Never Was: Sequestration Blues-Part Two

I woke up in New Orleans on March 1, the first day of the so-called sequestration. Like most Americans who found themselves outside the Washington Beltway on "S-Day," I woke up to no news and few visible differences. Yet I could feel great political and economic wheels grinding away at the base of American research science. S-Day forced me to think about the future for the most vulnerable in science, students and early-career researchers.


Staple a green card to every STEM diploma?

It was a freezing morning in Washington, DC, when President Obama was sworn in last month in a ceremony that is always a powerful moment in our democracy. But for researchers the fact that the President's inaugural speech featured science so prominently soon brought a warm tingle to their toes. Elections can often end without decisive action. Indeed this last American election did not change the balance of power in any of the government branches, and only marginally altered the majorities in Congress. Yet the post-election flurry of bipartisan activity on immigration reform has been a pleasant surprise, especially because it involves scientists.

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