Newsmakers

Science  13 Jan 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5758, pp. 173
  1. In The Courts

    Saving the evidence.

    A Virginia state forensic serologist who passed away in 1999 is continuing to serve the cause of justice.

    CREDIT: CARL LYNN/AP PHOTO/RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH

    Upon joining the crime lab in 1973, decades before DNA testing became available, Mary Jane Burton instituted the practice of attaching evidence, usually bits of cloth containing bodily fluids, to case files. Last month, outgoing Governor Mark Warner announced that DNA found in the samples had exonerated two men wrongly convicted of sexual assault in 1981 and 1985, bringing the total number of exonerations based on Burton's evidence to five. The most recently exonerated pair had already completed prison terms and requested privacy.

    A review begun last year of some 165,000 case files is focusing on Burton's samples and could net as many as 30 exonerations, estimates Virginia Department of Forensic Science Director Paul Ferrara. He notes that Burton was not thinking about DNA analysis as she collected her samples. “She never mentioned those letters,” he says.

  2. Movers

    Command center.

    The new leader of Berlin's Museum of Natural History has been given complete oversight of the 196-year-old institution—which has run up a tab for $160 million in needed repairs. Paleontologist Reinhold Leinfelder, 48, took up the reins this month as general director, a post that replaces a rotating triumvirate that lacked management experience and often complicated decision-making (Science, 2 July 2004, p. 35).

    CREDIT: SNSB

    The museum has already committed $22 million to renovate part of its exhibition halls, and Leinfelder has helped find an additional $36 million for the east wing, still in ruins from World War II. But he must line up major funding to modernize the infrastructure and conserve valuable specimens.

    Leinfelder, who previously headed a network of museums in Bavaria, says he loves “to show what science does.” In 1999, he secured $1.3 million for the Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie to purchase a fossil of the famous early bird Archaeopteryx.

    Staff members seem glad to have him on board. “It's a new era,” says Matthias Glaubrecht, curator of mollusks at the Berlin museum.

  3. Awards

    Visionaries. The inventors of the electronic eye and a team of educators have received the National Academy of Engineering's highest awards for technological achievement and engineering education.

    Physicists George Smith, 75, and Willard Boyle, 81, share the $500,000 Charles Stark Draper Prize for their invention in 1969 of the charge-coupled device, the chip that captures images in digital cameras, video recorders, telescopes, medical equipment, and other devices. “We knew that that was the thing,” says Smith about the moment of discovery at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Willard calls the award “a great honor.”

    The academy's $500,000 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for engineering education is being given to Jens Jorgensen, 69, retired from the University of Washington, Seattle; John Lamancusa, 49, of Pennsylvania State University, University Park; Lueny Morell, 53, of Hewlett Packard Co. in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico; Allen Soyster, 62, of Northeastern University in Boston; and José Zayas-Castro, 50, of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Starting in 1994, the group developed the Learning Factory, a program in which students and partners from industry tackle real-world design problems. So far, more than 10,000 students and 200 companies have collaborated on more than 1200 projects.

  4. Three Q's

    CREDIT: PEG SKORPINSKI

    As chancellor of two major research institutions—University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Texas, Austin—Robert Berdahl spent more than a decade promoting the value of academic research. So it's hardly a stretch for him to move into the presidency of the 62-member Association of American Universities, a position he accepted last week. The 68-year-old former history professor will take on the 5-year gig this spring, succeeding the retiring Nils Hasselmo.

    Q: So should we say congratulations or condolences?

    A: Oh, definitely congratulations. I don't have to worry about a medical school, or a football team, or raising lots of money. I'm excited.

    Q: A slew of recent reports touting the importance of academic research has raised hopes that the U.S. government will put more money into science. Is this a case of excess exuberance?

    A: People are always going to hope for more than is possible. But we academics aren't the only ones making the case. It's industry leaders and the pundits, too. So I think the time is right.

    Q: If there really is a looming shortage of scientists, won't the free market solve the problem? What can universities do?

    A: Students make their own opportunities. A lot of new industries have been created by new graduates. But they can't do it if they aren't prepared and don't see science as an attractive career. And they can get that training at a university.

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