It was in San Diego and nearly 40 years ago but Randy Schekman still vividly remembers his first ASCB Annual Meeting. George Palade, fresh from Stockholm where he had just received his 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was there to speak about the innovations in electron microscopy and cell fractionation that earned him the prize. Schekman has no better word for the experience than "thrilling."

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Sydney Brenner is, of course, the Nobel Prize winner who brought us Caenorhabditis elegans, the lab model organism. That should make Brenner "a man who needs no introduction" except in cell biology where historical amnesia is as common as Pipetman. As Brenner himself noted last year in Science, "I once remarked that all graduate students in biology divide history into two epochs: the past two years and everything else before that, where Archimedes, Newton, Darwin, Mendel—even Watson and Crick—inhabit a time-compressed universe as uneasy contemporaries." 

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The ASCB Kaluza Prize supported by Beckman Coulter is named for the German mathematician Theodor Kaluza (1885-1954), who is the namesake of Beckman Coulter's flow cytometry software system. The posthumous reputation of Kaluza, who was not a biologist but a German mathematician, has been on the rise in recent years, and the eponymous honor of a $5,000 cash prize for scientific achievement for an ASCB graduate student is only the latest feather.

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Big discoveries can turn up in unexpected places, such as neurons of the Pacific electric ray, Torpedo californica. That was the start of Richard H. Scheller's path to the 2013 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, which he received last week. Along with Thomas C. Südhof of Stanford University, Scheller won for their independent investigations into the regulatory mechanisms of neurotransmitter release.

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Renato J. Aguilera, Professor at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and chair of the ASCBs Minorities Affairs Committee, will receive the SACNAS 2013 Distinguished Research Mentor Award. SACNAS was founded in 1973 as the Society for the Advancement of Chicano & Native Americans in Science. An ASCB member since 1990, Aguilera directs the Biology Graduate program at UTEP, which has grown to include more than 50 PhD students, half from underrepresented minorities in science. Aguilera also directs the NIH funded Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement and a National Science Foundation S-STEM grant, which have funded the training of more than 100 undergraduates. More than half of those trainees have continued on to graduate programs. Aguilera himself decided to pursue a career in research with encouragement from SACNAS founding member Eppie Rael.

Published in ASCB Post
Tuesday, 20 August 2013 00:00

Dance Your Molecular Model

David Odde may be the first scientist whose lab meetings include a dance company. Four years ago Odde, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota and ASCB member, started collaborating with Black Label Movement (BLM); a Twin Cities-based dance theater. Together they use dance to simulate molecular processes.

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There are more legendary places in science—Newton's apple tree or the bathtub of Archimedes—but of the real ones, there could be few more famous or harder to find than Thomas Hunt Morgan's Fly Room at Columbia University. This is the room where in 1910 Morgan and his students discovered "white" or w, the first sex-linked mutation in Drosophila melanogaster. Here began the modern era of quantitative biology and genetics. For a limited time, you can visit an uncanny version of the Fly Room itself, but only if you hurry to Brooklyn, NY.

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Sunday, 23 June 2013 20:00

Science Sequestered, Hope Delayed

Two months ago, Professor Frederick Sachs from SUNY Buffalo came to visit me. We talked about the science going on in our labs and what we hoped to accomplish. Then he told me about his own funding problems, problems caused entirely by the sequester, which now threatened his lab's incredibly promising work. I have been thinking ever since about Fred, his lab's work, and the lost opportunities they represent.
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Shirley M. Tilghman, President of Princeton University, has been elected by the members of the American Society for Cell Biology to serve as Society President in 2015.

Published in ASCB Post
Monday, 08 April 2013 20:00

Primary Sources

Those with a million or two in loose change might want to sign up for a paddle this week at Christie's in New York for the auction of a 60-year-old, seven-page, handwritten, and illustrated letter from a father to his 12-year-old son away at boarding school.

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