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ASCB Newsletter - November 2001

Biology, Public Health of Bioterrorism Expert

Annual Meeting Panel to Discuss Role of Cell Biologists
National Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts will moderate a special ASCB Annual Meeting symposium on How Can Biomedical Research Contribute to the Fight Against Terrorism? The Symposium will be held on Sunday, December 9, at 12:00 noon in Room 31 of the Washington Convention Center.

Other participants include Matthew Meselson of Harvard Medical School, R. John Collier of Harvard University, and Tara O’Toole of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Questions from the floor will be encouraged.


Ubiquitin Meeting Slated for Colorado

The first ASCB summer meeting will be held on August 1214, 2002, at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. The conference, Nontraditional Functions of Ubiquitin and Ubiquitin-like Proteins will be open to 200 registrants, and is being organized by Linda Hicke and Cecile Pickart.


New Registration Procedures for Annual Meeting

Society leadership has implemented new registation procedures for the ASCB Annual Meeting to ensure the safety and convenience of participants.

Anyone entering the Washington Convention Center will be required to be registered or to register upon entrance. Symposia, Minisymposia, Special Interest Subgroups, Award Lectures, panels, the exhibit/poster hall, tutorials, exhibitor showcases, and special events will be monitored to allow entrance to only registered participants.

ASCB management has worked closely with city and Federal authorities to ensure the safety and success of the Annual Meeting. More information is available online.


Children Become Focus for Many Scientists

There is probably no biologist gene. If you ask most biologists how they found their calling, you’ll hear the classic case for nurture. Parents do matter, especially parents who favor a child’s curiosity, but usually biologists tell you about a key teacher— grade school through college—who fanned a spark or made sense of what had been nonsense. Sometimes, it was an experience—a summer program, a day in a real laboratory, or a science fair project. Somewhere along the line, someone or something made a difference, which is the idea behind a quiet national movement to get biomedical grad students and postdocs involved in K-12 outreach science education.

For Jon Matsui, it was a summer lab program for high school students at the University of Oregon in Eugene that turned him toward biology and eventually toward neuroscience research. When he came to St. Louis to interview for graduate school at Washington University, a flyer in the information packet caught his eye. It invited graduate students to volunteer for the Young Scientists Program (YSP) to work with kids in the St. Louis Public Schools. A summer on-campus lab program for city students was a major part of the program where grad students, postdocs, and even PIs serve as one-on-one lab mentors. To Matsui, that looked like an opportunity for payback. For the last three years, Matsui has co-directed the grad student-run YSP.

Green, along with two undergraduate students and a research assistant, designed and executed “DNA Detectives.” The participants acted as detectives who analyzed DNA evidence that was collected from a crime scene and from several suspects, in order to determine “Who Did It?” During the 4-hour activity, the girls were able to learn data analysis techniques, in addition to gaining hands-on experience with current DNA applications.

Personally, I had a great time working with the girls. My participation in the GROW Workshop was important for me as I continue to remain involved in science education at the K-12 level. In order to increase the numbers of students who pursue careers in science and math, I believe that we, as research scientists and educators, must spark interests in these fields very early in the education process. Programs such as GROW provide participants with successful science experiences that will hopefully foster their interests in scientific careers. Additionally, as a GROW instructor, the girls were able to see a woman in a role that they might aspire to fill.

During this activity [above right], the girls participated in “The DNA Dance.” For the dance, the young ladies were assigned to be either A’s, C’s, T’s or G’s. They are lined up as DNA strands within a double helix, where only the A’s can “pair” with T’s, and the C’s can ”pair” with G’s.

Kimberly Cooper remembers a female biology teacher in high school who encouraged her, but long before that it was her dad, she says, who turned her toward science. Growing up on a farm in Texas, Cooper worked alongside him, administering medication to cattle and discussing animal health. Neither of them seemed to notice that these were not traditional female pursuits. Cooper says with great pride that this upbringing made her a supremely selfconfident tom boy. Her formal education eventually moved her interests from large animals to microscopic cells. Two years ago when she entered the graduate program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute-University of Washington, Cooper volunteered to assist her PI, Cecilia Moens, during a one-day science outreach session for middle school girls. That’s the age when many girls who’ve shown talent in math and science wilt under peer pressure. Cooper set up a UV dissecting scope where the girls could sort out mutations in fluorescent-tagged cranial motor neurons from transgenic zebra fish embryos. She says, “a few of the girls reminded me a lot of me of when I was a kid: ‘I’m going to do this and you’re not going to tell me otherwise.’ But then there were those girls who needed that role modeling a bit more. They tended to be really interested in the science but a little bit shyer and quieter. “We were trying to go around the room and make sure the shyer girls didn’t get pushed out,” says Cooper, she is now active in the joint “U” and “Hutch” program called the Science Education Partnership.

For as long as she could remember, Carolyn Ott was going to be a medical doctor. Then as a freshman at the University of Nebraska, she was placed in a plant biochemistry lab and told to pursue her own research in a program funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Four years later, she could scarcely remember not wanting to be an academic doing research and teaching. Now a biochemistry graduate student in the laboratory of Vish Lingappa, Ott joined the University of California, San Francisco’s Science & Health Education Project to work with kids from city schools. Partly, Ott wanted to hone her teaching skills: UCSF has no undergraduates and the teaching requirement for grad students is minimal. She also wanted to lure an unlikely population into her research lab. San Francisco certainly gave her that opportunity.

Cynthia Fuhrman is a grad student at UCSF who participates in a special SEP program called “Links.” She was teamed with Curtis Chinn, a biology teacher at San Francisco’s public Galileo High School where he taught Advanced Placement Biology. The summer before, Fuhrman and Chinn trained in SEP’s special scientists and teachers workshop at UCSF. Afterward Chinn spent much of the summer shadowing Fuhrman in the lab, gaining perspective on her day-today life as a bench researcher. In the fall, she began biweekly schedule of visiting Chinn’s AP Bio class, making special presentations to tie the required course work to the latest developments in experimental biology:

My enthusiasm for science seemed to rub off on the students. One student said, ‘I gained more insight from Cynthia, about how our knowledge is applied in the real world. It makes us realize that what we’re learning is relevant to laboratory studies.’ Another science teacher from Galileo came into the classroom during one of these lectures to fill a fish tank. He took a seat and joined the class for the rest of the lecture. He asked questions along with the students, enthralled, apparently, with the stories I told, for he forgot about the fish tank. Ten minutes later, there was a large hiss followed by the screams of students: the tank had overflowed and the hose jumped out to spray water all over the classroom.

Perhaps my favorite part of the Links program was working with the students on their labs. As they worked, I walked around the classroom, asking students to explain what they were doing. Certainly AP Biology students could follow instructions to complete the labs, but I found that they needed prodding to really think about the science going on. At each step, I would ask individuals questions like, ‘What color is the solution?’ ‘Why is it brown?’ ‘What do you think that goopy stuff is?’ ‘What chemical reaction should be going on right now?… Based on your observations, what do you think it is?’ ‘You actually use that goopy stuff everyday to do _____.’ I remember being a student in high school (and even college!), following the protocol and thinking only of the obvious results. I enjoyed challenging the students to make observations throughout the experiments, and to really think about what was going on. And when the proper results did not come at the end of the day, I asked them why.

The SEP may be the granddaddy of all grad student outreach programs, started in l987 by Bruce Alberts who was then on the faculty member of UCSF and is now the President of the National Academy of Sciences. Alberts got started when he tried to figure out a way to donate surplus lab equipment to public school science teachers. Since then, the SEP has evolved into a complex and highly successful program of UCSF and the San Francisco Unified School District. The district has 60,000 “linguistically and culturally diverse students” and SEP is active in 90% of the district’s 100 schools. SEP takes portable labs to schools, brings classes to campus, runs summer lab sessions, and works extensively to help train science teachers. It’s funded by the University of California, USCF, the school district, the State of California, and HHMI, but volunteer grad students carry the classroom programs.

That’s how Caroline Ott found herself with another SEP grad student and two classroom teachers at the Ida Wells Continuation High School, trying to demonstrate electrophoresis. This is the real world, not “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” The Wells students are older drop-outs who are back in school as they struggle with legal, family and health challenges. Ott says it was difficult to engage them but she’d made some progress before inviting a small group from Wells to visit her UCSF lab. They shied away. A few days later Ott or ganized the attendance of students at a local American Chemical Society event where a contestant from the “Survivor” TV show, a chemist, made an appearance. “One of the things I really like about SEP is that it’s not just to recruit and train young scientists but to train everyone about what science really is,” Ott says. “You’re not necessarily looking for the amazing talents.”

Getting research professionals into K12 outreach programs is a broad but extremely diverse movement, if you can call it a movement at all. Programs range from the highly organized to the highly improvised. At Washington University, the YSP started in 1991 with money from medical school alumnae. It picked up a HHMI outreach grant in 1993 and a renewal in 1998. It has a faculty advisor, Thomas Woolsey, but still relies on volunteers. At the University of Washington, grad students can fulfill part of their TA obligation by teaching in the SEP. At the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, postdocs offer to teach workshops for high school kids at the Dolan DNA Education Center one day a week as part of their regular work schedule. Some programs pay grad student organizers. Others pay for training days. Most programs pay only in personal satisfaction. Some programs have sophisticated teaching materials, portable lab modules, and free use of university facilities. Others are run out of the goodness and spare equipment of a researcher ’s heart. Nearly everyone involved says that on good days, they feel that they are making a difference for some kid. On good days, they see themselves again, imagining a life in science for the first time.


K-12 Outreach Lunch Scheduled for Annual Meeting

To provide an opportunity for ASCB’s membership to learn more about the rewarding experiences that our ASCB students, postdoctorates and faculty have had in contributing to these and other K-12 science outreach movements across the nation, ASCB President Elaine Fuchs has convened a special K-12 Education Lunch during the ASCB Annual Meeting, on Tuesday, December 11, from 12:00 noon to 2:00 PM in the Washington Convention Center. The lunch is entitled “Educating Our Future Cell Biologists.” Two internationally recognized leaders in science and in K-12 science education outreach programs, Bruce Alberts and Maxine Singer, will speak at the Lunch.

Seating for the round-table discussions that will follow are by interest group. Table leaders will include ASCB students, postdocs and faculty experienced in K12 outreach programs, as well as those teachers and cell biologists who elected to make a career change into K-12 outreach. These discussions are intended not only to seek common threads and develop new ideas, but also to involve those ASCB members who are on the fringes. Here’s a chance to simply learn more about what is being done to interface cell biology and K-12 education. For more information, go to www.ascb.org. To attend the Lunch, go to the Event Ticket Counter in the lobby of the Washington Convention Center. It should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience!


Grants & Opportunities

Royal Society USA Research Fellowships. The program brings postdoctorates from U.S. universities to spend up to three years in British universities to establish long-term links between research centers in respective countries.

Bayer/NSF Award. The Bayer Corporation and National Science Foundation invite teams of 3-4 6th– 8th graders to identify a problem facing their community and a proposed solution using science and technology. The top three teams will receive $36,000 in savings bonds and one team will be awarded a $25,000 grant to implement their idea in the community. Contact (800) 291-6020, ext. 3121.

Ford Foundation Fellowships. Predoctoral, dissertation and postdoctoral fellowships from the Ford Foundation, administered by the National Research Council. Deadlines: Predoctoral Fellowships— November 19, Disseration Fellowships—December 3, Postdoctoral Fellowships—January 7.

HHMI Undergraduate Science Education Grants. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute announces 20 $1 million awards to scientists who transmit the excitement and values of scientific research to undergraduate education.



The ASCB is grateful to those below who have recently given gifts to support Society activities:

Daphne Blumberg
Stephen Cala
Graciela Candelas
Shu Chien
Stanley Cohn
Silvia Corvera
Grace Donnelly
Thelma Dunnebacke-Dixon
Donna Fernandez
Leslie Gold
Laura Mays Hoopes
Mary Johnson
Sumiko Kimura
Gordon Laurie
Molly Mastrangelo
Elizabeth Neufeld
Richard Rutz

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