John Fleischman

John Fleischman

John is ASCB Senior Science Writer and the author among other things of two nonfiction books for older children, "Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science" and "Black & White Airmen," both from Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, Boston.

Monday, 08 September 2014 09:02

Dr. Botstein Buys a Book

It was the one of the very few moments in his life when he was truly speechless, says Malcolm Campbell. He was at the 2013 ASCB spring Council meeting in Washington, DC, seated next to fellow ASCB councilor David Botstein who had just won one of the new $3 million Breakthrough Awards in Life Sciences. Waiting for the meeting to come to order, Campbell, a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina and a leading proponent of research-driven reform in undergraduate biology education, congratulated Botstein on the award. Campbell recalls, "David said, 'I want to give some money to MIT, Cold Spring Harbor, UCSF, and to you.

Back from the undead, the 2014 "Zombie Cellslam," the Public Information Committee's stand-up science slam, is slouching toward Philadelphia where it will take the stage again at an Annual Meeting of the ASCB for the first time in five remarkably peaceful years. No more. The 2014 Zombie Cellslam, so named because it will not die, is set for Monday evening, December 10, at the joint ASCB/IFCB meeting in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It will offer a variety of wit, music, and outrageously amusing competition plus free popcorn and a cash bar.

It is a truth all but universally acknowledged that a eukaryotic cell entering mitosis must be in want of the canonical proteins for mitotic checkpoints. And then there is Giardia intestinalis. A notorious flagellate pathogen, this binucleate protist belongs to one of the major eukaryotic lineages now called the "Excavates." Like all other Excavates, Giardia is weird, says Zacheus Cande of the University of California, Berkeley, but weird in a good way because of its ancient evolutionary divergence from the better-known branch of eukaryotes where everything from humans to yeast hang out.

Microscopic movie moguls have two more weeks to submit their "Tell Your Own Cell Story" proposal to ASCB's Public Information Committee (PIC), which will commission three live cell imaging videos at $1,000 each to be shot on location in the labs of ASCB members. The new deadline is August 15.

Call it "JIF Day," an event both anticipated and dreaded in scientific publishing when Journal Citation Reports, a commercial service of Thomson Reuters "Web of Science," issues its yearly "journal impact factor" (JIF) ratings that purport to rank journals by their research impact. This year Thomson Reuters postponed JIF Day from mid-June to late-July. With the 2014 JIF ranking finally expected this week, the anti-JIF coalition of scientists, journal editors, and scholarly publishers who issued the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) are greeting the delayed JIFs with examples of JIF-less "good practices" for scientific assessment.

The 40 came from all over North America, Europe, and Africa, 24 grad students and 16 postdocs, chosen from the 532 applications the ASCB received from members for a special 12-day "short" course on "Managing Science in the Biotech Industry" at the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) with funding from EMD Millipore. Besides their ASCB connection, what the participants had in common were years of academic training and a curiosity about life in biotech.

When the fledgling ASCB held its big meeting in a down-at-the-heels hotel on the Chicago lakefront in 1961, it was something of a carnival of animals, lab animals. Peter Satir, who is now at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY, was present in Chicago. Fifty three years later when asked about the first scientific program, Satir couldn't help pointing out how many different organisms or parts thereof were being studied.

ASCB's Public Information Committee (PIC), the longtime producer of Celldance, is now a microscopic motion picture producer. For Celldance 2014, PIC will commission three "Tell Your Own Cell Story" videos at $1,000 each to be shot on location in the labs of ASCB members. "In a very modest way, we are looking to underwrite cell biology films that balance an accessible narrative, rock-solid science, and awesome imagery," says PIC Chair Simon Atkinson.

Jerrold Schwaber, an immunologist and cell biologist who pioneered the concept and technique for monoclonal antibodies (hybridomas) died at home in Haddonfield, New Jersey, on June 6. He was 67. Schwaber was a longtime member of the ASCB, joining in 1980 and moving to emeritus status in 2002.

Roll-aboard suitcase in tow, the passenger in the red chinoiserie jacket was coming up the ramp to Terminal C in Dulles International Airport at a determined rate when her eye was caught by a blaze of color on the wall. She stopped to study the image glowing on the wall-mounted light box. Then she read the label. It was an enormous blow-up of mouse cancer cells with actin labeled in green to show the cell-cell adhesion points. And it was strangely beautiful. The passenger continued slowly up the ramp, examining each of the 46 giant images displayed on the light boxes, from Ebola virus to gecko lizard toe hairs to mitotic chromosomes. This airline passenger was one of the 1.25 million expected to pass through the Gateway Gallery at Dulles over the next six months where Life: Magnified, a collaborative project of the ASCB and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) opened with some fanfare yesterday. Life:Magnified was made possible by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority with funding support from the Carl Zeiss Company.

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