"ALEster" is the pseudonym of a self–described postdoc in molecular biology who wants to build a highly portable cell biology lab, including cell culture incubator, laminar flow hood, and fluorescence microscope, that you could take everywhere you go. It occupies 15 square inches (.381 square meters) of floor space. ALEster is an AFOL, that is, an Adult Fan of LEGO, so his pocket lab was designed with LEGO bricks, complete with PI, Professor Umami, and postdoctoral fellows, the red-haired imaging expert Lory Rhodamine, and the thickly bespectacled biochemist Sam Emsa. The result is detailed, accurate, and a marvel. ALEster submitted his lab design to the official LEGO Ideas site last winter in hopes of attracting 10,000 endorsements, becoming an official LEGO idea set, and inspiring a new generation of bench jockeys.
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.
Sometimes in science it pays to turn over a new leaf or an old laboratory animal. Stephen M. King at the University of Connecticut Health Center recently turned over planarian Schmidtea mediterranea, the nonparasitic flatworm justly renowned for its incredible regenerative powers, and saw on its underside a new way into a old problem. King, who is an ASCB member, believes that planaria could be an alternate model system for studying ciliary motility and its associated diseases now known as ciliopathies.
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.