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ASCB Newsletter - August 2000

Shalala To Receive Public Service Award

U.S.Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala has been named to receive the seventh annual ASCB Public Service Award. Shalala, the longest-serving Cabinet officer in the Clinton Administration, was selected by the Public Policy Committee of the Society in recognition of her deep commitment to federal support of the National Institutes of Health.

Prior ASCB Public Service Award recipients are Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative John Porter (R-IL), Marc Kirschner, Representative George Gekas (R-PA), J. Michael Bishop and Harold Varmus.

The Award will be presented to Shalala by ASCB Public Policy Chair Paul Berg on Sunday evening, December 10, at the ASCB Annual Meeting in San Francisco.


UMass Researcher Tapped for Best MBC Paper

Gregory Pazour of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, first author of the article entitled LC2, the Chlamydomonas Homologue of the t Complex-encoded Protein TCtex2, Is Essential for Outer Dynein Arm Assembly, published in the October 1999 issue of Molecular Biology of the Cell, was named by the MBC Editorial Board as the ninth MBC Paper of the Year Awardee.

Pazour, now a Research Assistant Professor at UMass, will present his work at the minisymposium on Regulation of Cytoskeletal Motors at the ASCB Annual Meeting in San Francisco this December.


Program, Local Arrangements Chairs Named

ASCB President-elect Elaine Fuchs has announced the appointments of chairs for the Society’s Program and Local Arrangements Committees for the 2001 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.: Joan Brugge of Harvard Medical School will serve as Program Chair, and Yixian Zheng of the Carnegie Institution of Washington will serve as Local Arrangements Chair.

Each position is a one-year appointment. The Program Committee oversees the scientific program for the meeting, and the Local Arrangements Committee will organize the ASCB Social, the High School Program and the College Program


Founding the American Society for Cell Biology

By the 1950s an interdisciplinary group of biologists was becoming aware of a new scientific field. It was apparent that the cell was being analyzed in a fashion that was unprecedented. Researchers were trying to distinguish classical cytology from a growing enterprise to integrate structural and functional information about the cell.

The term “cell biology” was still in its infancy. It was emerging from novel research tools and information derived from them. The electron microscope for examining biological specimens revealed fine structures of already known intracellular entities such as mitochondria and the nucleus, as well as previously unknown ones such as intracellular membranes and filaments. At the same time, cell fractionation, combined with biochemical assays, began to fuse knowledge gained by electron microscopy with that of biochemistry to determine function of these structures. The rapidly moving boundary of this work was centering on biophysics and biochemistry.

However, many practitioners of these disciplines had no milieu among existing biological societies where they could congregate to exchange views. There was an urgency to get together, a hesitancy about how to combine so many disciplines, but never a doubt that a separate organization was needed.

Taking cell biology from a research domain to a viable discipline by creating a representative society had its impetus from several existing institutions. The Tissue Culture Association (TCA) was created in 1946 to foster standardized laboratory media as a research tool. The Society of General Physiologists (SGP), also founded in 1946, had a division of comparative physiology that was interested in taking a cellular approach to biological function. The International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), founded in 1939, added a European section in 1947 called Society for Cell Biology founded by T. Caspersson (Denmark), J. Brachet (Belgium), and J. Runnström (Sweden). This society soon began publishing a journal initially entitled Cell Biological Research but quickly changed to Experimental Cell Research. The first issue of The Journal of Biophysical and Biochemical Cytology (JBBC) appeared in January 1955, and changed its name to the Journal of Cell Biology with the January 1962 issue. Its objective was to integrate newer approaches to morphology, such as histochemistry, cytogenetics, cytochemistry, electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction. And, the Cell Biology Study Section of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was formed in 1958 to evaluate grant applications having interdisciplinary approaches; its efforts to form a separate Institute of Cell Biology had just failed. Of some importance to making connections among these institutions, Keith Porter of the Rockefeller Institute was a co-founder of the TCA, a co-founder and editor of the JBBC, and a member of the NIH study section.

Contemplating a society in America devoted to cell biology among these groups was not straightforward. The process meant assuring each group that their own interests and memberships would not be diverted, diluted, or compromised. It took two years, from 1958 to 1960, before the American Society for Cell Biology was formed.

In late 1958, the TCA had reached a crossroads because its main objective to standardize criteria for cell cultures had been met. Its President, Morgan Harris, at the University of California in Berkeley, envisaged a change of venue, based on a “specific field of study (cell biology) rather than a specific technique for dealing with cell systems (tissue culture).” His committee on reorganization included Don Fawcett, who would become the first President of the ASCB. He argued the TCA should be “broadened to include those who are primarily interested in cells no matter what methods they may use to study them.”

A poll of TCA members on a possible reconstruction into “a society with its principal interest in cell biology” included questions on possible change of name, relations with other societies, and the continuity of the TCA in this venture. Replies were mostly favorable. Porter strongly supported the idea that “people interested in cell phenomena — whether known as biophysicists, biochemists, physiologists, morphologists, or cytochemists — should be brought together rather than allowed to wander apart into narrow specialties.” He suggested that if such a society was formed, the JBBC “might feel privileged to be regarded as its official organ.” John Hanks welcomed the expansion of the TCA, finding that its larger purpose “converts the proposition from a shovel to an association of miners [that] would seem wholesome.” Hanks also suggested the name Experimental Cytology for the new society. Harris wanted a society open to all who were interested and hoped the word “‘American’ simply denotes our center of gravity, not boundaries.”

On 6 April 1959, the U.S. National Committee (USNC) of the IUBS resolved that it “considers highly desirable the establishment of a National Society of Cell Biology to act as a National representative of the International Society of Cell Biology.” Due to Porter’s initiatives, the TCA seemed a logical base for the formation of the proposed society. Thus, an announcement was sent to Harris as well as to Elmer Butler at Princeton University and Porter, who were then co-leaders of the NIH Study Section. At this point, Harris and Porter became the driving forces in establishing the new association.

At its annual meeting in April 1959, the TCA approved “a council be set up with representatives within and without the TCA to formulate proposals for the organization of a new Society of Cell Biology.” Harris asked Porter, “as developer of the cell biology program at the NIH, and of course your role as founding father of the TCA,” to serve as Chairman of the organizing council of the society. After some hesitation, Porter accepted in September 1959. He drew up a small list of possible participants representing various fields for this group.

Using funds from a chairman’s grant of the NIH study section, interested biologists met at The Rockefeller Institute in New York. Their two provisional meetings, 9 January 1960 and 28 May 1960, are considered the founding dates of the ASCB. The Society was not formally incorporated in New York State until 31 July 1961, in the names of E.G. Butler, K.R. Porter, G.E. Palade, A.K. Solomon, and P. Weiss.

At the first provisional meeting, Porter convened representatives from the NIH Cell Biology Study Section represented by E.G. Butler, M. Harris, H. Swift; the TCA by M. Harris, D. Fawcett, M. Murray; the IUBS by P. Weiss; other members included H. Herrmann, J. Syverton, K. Porter, H. Ris, H. Stern. In addition, W. McElroy and T. Hayashi represented the SGP; and T. Hayashi, M. Moses, and A.K. Solomon represented three Gordon Conferences on Cell Biology. A conscious effort was made at this and subsequent meetings to have representatives from several disciplines. Of the fifteen scientists present, four were electron microscopists, one biochemist (although four had been invited), and one bacteriologist/immunologist, while others were general biologists interested in intracellular structure. Thirteen of the group voted to form an “American Society for Cell Biology.” The two abstentions were from McElroy and Hayashi. A Provisional Council was established consisting of the thirteen favorable members, with Porter as Chairman and Harris as Secretary. A sub-committee, with A.K. Solomon as Chairman, was instructed to write a constitution and by-laws. Anticipating its first annual meeting, H. Swift was selected as a Program Chairman.

However, the SGP and the TCA were still in a state of flux regarding interests of their members. Correspondence among Harris, McElroy and Porter considered possibilities of a merger in some form, a joining of the SGP and TCA with the nascent ASCB into a new federation, or an sub-affiliation of some sort with the ASCB. Thus, because of doubts about the actual form of organization as perceived by the members of the SGP and TCA, Porter called a second provisional meeting in May 1960, where he continued to press for the formal establishment of the new society.

This second Provisional Council meeting included six more scientists: C. Grobstein, D.E. Green, R. Klein, G.E. Palade, J.H. Taylor, E. Zwilling. At this meeting, it became evident that all the biological societies wanted to preserve their independent status, thus keeping their special interests and avoiding domination by a parent society. But they were not adverse to establishing the new society. Based on these feelings, the Council pushed ahead on organizational matters. The constitution and by-laws were given provisional acceptance. In formulating the first annual meeting, it agreed to accept for this meeting only all contributed papers, listed possible topics for the symposia, refused to publish abstracts for the time being, and postponed the idea of an official journal. They would await views of the new membership. Annual dues were set at $10.00. H. Ris, University of Wisconsin, was appointed Provisional Treasurer and M. Moses, Rockefeller Institute, Provisional Secretary. Finally, an Executive Committee of the Council was appointed: D. Fawcett, D.E. Green, C. Grobstein, M. Harris, G.E. Palade, K.R. Porter, H. Ris, A. Solomon, H. Swift, H. Taylor.

Other events occurred before the first meeting of the ASCB. On 3 June 1960, the USNC of the IUBS commended “the establishment of an American Society of Cell Biology which may serve as the U.S. national counterpart of the section of cell biology of the IUBS.” On 18 July 1960, the ASCB Provisional Council announced its formation as a society and its first meeting to be held in 1961; sent announcements to certain journals; gathered mailing lists from various societies, and sent out 3,000 notices to scientists [see page 3]. By November, about 450 respondents asked for more information, resulting in mailing more detailed notices to describe the society’s purposes, its relationships to other groups, its provisional administrative structure, and a brief version of the constitution and by-laws.

Further strategies were adopted to attract interdisciplinary scientists to the newly formed Society and to prevent it from becoming identified with any one technique or discipline. At the January 1961 Council meeting, the constitution was abridged to read “The purpose of the Society is to promote and develop the field of cell biology” and that membership “shall be open to scientists who share its stated purpose and who have educational and research experience in cell biology or in an allied field.” At the same meeting, which was nearly a year before the first annual meeting, Moses announced that nearly 1200 replies were received to the mailing, including 427 applications for membership. Most applicants were from general biology, with the exception of botany and biophysics. Consequently, the Council voted to send notices to thirty-two other journals, adding fields of botany, genetics, biophysics, radiation biology and chemistry.

At the Chicago meeting in November 1961, three symposia were planned (see page 5). Their topics and speakers reflect the diversity subsumed in the name cell biology:

  • Cell Continuity-Molecular and Genetic Aspects of Replicating Systems, with R. Hotchkiss, H.Ris, T. Sonneborn.
  • Cell DiversificationClonal Diversity and Differentiation, with B. Ephrussi (later replaced by A. Pardee), M. Harris, F.C. Steward.
  • Characteristics of Cell Surfaces-Chemistry and Fine Structure of Membrane Systems; Problems of Transport, with G.E. Palade, H. Passow, P. Mitchell, A.D. McLaren.

The first annual meeting was considered a great success: 844 scientists attended and there were 744 members. In presiding over the business meeting, Porter reminded the Council of “the resolve, whenever possible, of not making decisions that would bind the Society to long-term policy, and as an example the question of a journal” and other society affiliations. He reported results of mailed ballot for the first officers of the ASCB: D.W. Fawcett, Harvard Medical School, as President; M. Moses, Secretary; H. Ris, Treasurer, and A.B. Novikoff, President-Elect. The twelve Council members elected were: K.R. Porter, G.E. Palade [see page 8], A.W. Pollister and R. Hotchkiss for three-year terms; H. Eagle, P. Siekevitz, P. Weiss and H. Herrmann for two-year terms; C. Grobstein, A.J. Dalton, D.M. Prescott and D.E. Green for one-year terms. It was clear that a broad representation of scientists was wanted by the Council and the members. The first president was a leading electron microscopist and the Council included biochemists, physiologists, and general cytologists. Porter previously declined to be nominated for President, citing other responsibilities and stating his work in helping set up the Society was finished. He did serve later, however, becoming its 17th president in 1978-1979.

In 1960, providing an opportunity for communication among investigators from such divergent fields seemed enough to justify the organization of the American Society of Cell Biology. Forty years later, however, these elaborate activities to organize in fact commemorate the creation of cell biology as a discipline in its own right.

Adapted by the authors from a book in preparation, Entering an Unseen World: The Rise of Modern Cell Biology by Carol Moberg and Philip Siekevitz. Siekevitz served on the first ASCB Council and as the Society’s sixth President.

Sources include archives of the American Society of Cell Biology and the Tissue Culture Association, both at the University of Maryland Baltimore Country, and the personal papers of Keith R. Porter at the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado in Boulder.


2000 Late Abstract Submissions

The 2000 ASCB Annual Meeting in San Francisco will include a Special Poster Session on Wednesday, December 13, designed for presentation of posters demonstrating exciting results that were not available for the regular abstract deadline in July. Abstracts for the Special Poster Session must be received by the ASCB office on or before October 16. A subgroup of the Program Committee will select abstracts, and authors will be notified by November 10 of the Committee’s decision. Printing deadlines prevent these abstracts from appearing in the Molecular Biology of the Cell Abstracts Issue. They will be listed in the Program Addendum, which is distributed at the Annual Meeting.


2000 Late Abstract Submissions

The 2000 ASCB Annual Meeting in San Francisco will include a Special Poster Session on Wednesday, December 13, designed for presentation of posters demonstrating exciting results that were not available for the regular abstract deadline in July. Abstracts for the Special Poster Session must be received by the ASCB office on or before October 16. A subgroup of the Program Committee will select abstracts, and authors will be notified by November 10 of the Committee’s decision. Printing deadlines prevent these abstracts from appearing in the Molecular Biology of the Cell Abstracts Issue. They will be listed in the Program Addendum, which is distributed at the Annual Meeting.


Submission of Abstracts for the Special Poster Session (October 16 deadline)

One abstract-equivalent per member is permitted. A member may sponsor an abstract submitted by another member or by a nonmember, but the sponsoring member may not then submit another paper of his/her own. (An exception to this is made for abstracts submitted for the science education abstract codes. Submitters and sponsors of science education abstracts may also submit or sponsor a scientific abstract.) If two members are co-authors, their paper is an abstract-equivalent for one of them and the other may submit another paper if desired. A student member may sponsor his/her abstract only. Students may not sponsor another person’s abstract. Sponsors of submitted abstracts must be sure that all authors listed on the abstract have had a significant role in the research being reported. First-time, partial-year membership is offered to facilitate membership benefits (including sponsorship privilege and registration discount) for those who have never been ASCB members.

Each abstract should contain a sentence stating the study’s objective (unless given in the title); a brief statement of methods, if pertinent; a summary of the results obtained; and a statement of the conclusions. It is not satisfactory to say, “the results will be discussed.” Use a short, specific title. Capitalize initial letters of trade names. Use standard abbreviations for units of measure. Other abbreviations should be spelled out in full at first mention, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. Exceptions: DNA, RNA, etc.

Submission via E-mail
Late abstracts must be submitted via e-mail. Along with the abstract, provide the following information:

  • Contact author information: address, phone, fax, email
  • ASCB member sponsoring the abstract: name, phone, fax (members may sponsor their own abstract)
  • Credit card information for abstract fee ($45) and any equipment fees (as listed in the Call for Abstracts or at www.ascb.org/ascb): cardholder name and address, type of card (MC, Visa, AmEx), card number, expiration date, amount to be charged. NOTE: abstract submission does not constitute meeting registration.

Electronic abstracts may be up to 300 words. Please list separately where boldface, italicized, superscript, subscript, or Greek letters are required.


Grants & Opportunities

PRAT Fellowships for Postdocs at NIH. The Pharmacology Research Associate (PRAT) Program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences sponsors postdoctoral fellows conducting research at the NIH in the pharmacological sciences, including signal transduction, drug metabolism, immunopharmacology, chemistry & drug design, structural biology, endocrinology, neuroscience, clinical pharmacology and other areas. U.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible. Contact: the PRAT Program Assistantat (301) 594-3583.

NIGMS announces that administrative supplements for microarray analysis are available to principal investigators (PIs) of NIGMS-funded research grants (R01, R15, R29, R37, P01, P50, or S06). The purpose of these supplements is to enable PIs to obtain resources for DNA microarray expression analysis that is directly related to the aims of the parent grant. More Information. Deadline: October 2, 2000.


WWW.Cell Biology Education

The ASCB Education Committee calls attention each month to Web sites of educational interest to the cell biology community. The Committee does not endorse nor guarantee the accuracy of the information at any of the listed sites. If you wish to comment on the selections or suggest future inclusions please send a message to Robert Blystone.

This month the column focuses on statistics resources on the Web.

  1. VassarStats: Web Site for Statistical Computation
    This remarkable resource has been developed by Vassar Professor of Psychology Richard Lowry. The initial page opens with ten choices: Probabilities, Distributions, Frequency Data, Proportions, Correlation & Regression, t-Tests, ANOVA, ANCOVA, and other. It is an interactive statistics book that comes with utilities including a calculator and randomizer. An example of its approach to statistics will be illustrated by the section titled: Randomness and the Appearance of Pattern. Below this text, to the left, is a matrix of 4X4=16 cells. When you click the line labeled “Click,” some of these cells will become blue and some with become white. Each time you click the line, any particular one of the 16 cells has a 50% chance of becoming blue and a 50% chance of becoming white. Any pattern that seems to emerge is therefore not the result of design, but derives instead from nothing other than “the merest chance.” Yet, if your eye is anything like mine, you will find “organized” patterns emerging on almost every click. The sequence continues by describing degrees of freedom and providing the numerical background for what is happening. All variety of statistical computation is possible; enter data, and the site will crunch the data and display the results.
  2. Statistics to Use
    This site was developed by Professor of Physics Tom Kirkman at the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University. It is as engaging as the VassarStats site although it presents the subject through the eyes of a physicist rather than a psychologist. The topics covered are extensive and the descriptive text is well illustrated. The section on the display of statistical data is wonderful. Anyone who displays data on a poster would benefit from reading this section. The site is organized to accept data and perform statistical operations on that data.

    Chi-Square Lesson
    Chi-Square is one of the more used statistical techniques in biology. Amar Patel, a math teacher at Fremd High School and an intern in the Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, brings us a highly useful lesson in understanding what chi-square is, when to use it, and how to use it. Engaging graphics and excellent examples brings home the topic well in about thirty minutes of time. The site would serve as a wonderful resource for a lab exercise that was using chi-square for the first time. The lesson was developed to support a high school statistics course.

    HyperStat Online: An Introduction to Statistics
    Rice psychology professor David Lane has developed an NSF funded project called Rice Virtual Lab in Statistics. As part of the lab is HyperStat Online. Its approach is a bit different from the first two sites listed above. It is spartan and very trim. It takes one in and out of topics easily and quickly. It has clear links to other sites on the same topic. It feels a bit more like a book.

    Lessons Index
    The Shodor Educational Foundation, based in Durham, N.C., has taken on various projects involving middle school mathematics. Bob Panoff and his group have created a series of lessons intended to give middle school teachers mathematical resources. One of the four lesson groups is titled Statistics and Probability Concepts. Two of the topics are especially interesting: The relationships between geometry and probability, and the fine points of using bar graphs and histograms. A nice section on normal distribution and the bell curve conclude the lesson resources. If you have students who are weak in quantitative skills when they get to college, this is an excellent place to discover resources to help these students come up to speed.

  3. Statistics and Statistical Graphics Resources
    Michael Friendly, a professor in the Psychology Department of York University, offers this resource. The site is a very long meta-list of Web resources for statistics. The general categories include the following: general statistical resources, statistical associations, york statistics resources, statistics departments and groups, SAS stuff, SPSS and SYSTAT, LispStat, S Plus, Minitab, Mathematica, data visualization & statistical graphics, psychology & psychometrics, online courses, online WWW statistics, data, categorical data analysis, and other statistical/graphics software. Virtually everything out there is linked to this site.
  4. Dead Grandmother
    Rev Mike Adams of the Eastern Connecticut State University Biology Department brings us this statistics-oriented site. Be warned, opening this URL will result in more than a few chuckles. Mike explores the following problem: “A student’s grandmother is far more likely to die suddenly just before the student takes an exam than at any other time of the year.” It is an absolutely hilarious use of statistics. It is also a tour de force in report writing. Anyone who teaches will enjoy this piece.

These sites were checked July 13, 2000. Previous ASCB columns reviewing Educational web sites with the links to the sites may be found online.

—Robert Blystone for the ASCB Education Committee

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