Newsmakers

Science  24 Feb 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5764, pp. 1097
  1. Pioneers

    CREDIT: S. BUTTS/PEABODY MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

    Cleaning House. Sam Ciurca was a teenager when he found his first fossil sea scorpion. “I saw two eyes staring at me,” he recalls. “That one rock changed the course of everything.” For the next 40 years, Ciurca spent evenings and weekends collecting these extinct arthropods, called eurypterids. A chemist for Kodak in Rochester, New York, Ciurca even found the world's largest eurypterid—1.3 meters long—now on display at the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, New York.

    The collection eventually filled his house and garage. But last fall, the several thousand specimens were moved to Yale University's Peabody Museum. The 65-year-old Ciurca donated most of the fossils, save for a few that earned him a “modest” sum to continue his hobby. Yale's Derek Briggs has brought in postdoc Erik Tetlie (pictured, right) to study the collection. “It's not in drawers hidden away forever,” Ciurca enthuses.

  2. Appointments

    CREDIT: E. BRANSON/NIH

    From MD to NYC. Allen Spiegel is vacating the top job at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to become dean of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City. An endocrinologist with 32 years at the $1.7 billion NIDDK, Spiegel has led the fifth largest National Institutes of Health (NIH) institute since late 1999. An NIH spokesperson on human embryonic stem cell research, which he calls “unequivocally essential,” Spiegel briefed President George W. Bush before the 2001 speech that set limits on the number of federally funded cell lines. “It's a loss that he's leaving,” says Lawrence Soler, vice president for government relations at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in New York City.

    Spiegel takes over next month from Dominick Purpura, whose 22 years make him the longest-serving dean of a U.S. medical school. A priority will be moving clinical findings into practice in the school's north Bronx community. NIDDK Deputy Director Griffin P. Rodgers moves up on an acting basis.

  3. Honors

    Engineers First. Two members of the second-term Bush Administration have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). The selection of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, both appointed since President George W. Bush was reelected in November 2004, has little to do with their current political posts and everything to do with their past scientific accomplishments, says NAE President William Wulf.

    Bodman is a chemical engineer and former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor whose “engineering talents” transformed Boston-based Cabot Corp. from a carbon-black producer to a broader materials company, says Wulf. Griffin, an aerospace engineer, is being honored for space experiments conducted more than 15 years ago. NAE has previously elected individuals with political backgrounds, Wulf notes, including Senator John Sununu (R-NH), a former White House chief of staff under George H. W. Bush, and former NASA administrator Daniel Goldin. For the full list of this year's 85 inductees, visit http://www.nae.edu/.

  4. Deaths

    The Cost of War. Judges, clerics, and soldiers are not the only targets in strife-torn Iraq. At least 60 scientists have been killed in the past 3 years through assassinations, roadside bombings, and random attacks, according to Iraqi researchers living in Jordan.

    That list, says Iraq-born neuroscientist Karim Alkhadi of the University of Houston, Texas, illustrates the mortal danger facing Iraq's academics and the university system they work for. The threat is obscured by the war itself: “It is difficult to ascertain the motives for each killing—if there is any,” says Alkhadi, who left Iraq with his family in 1980. “But there seems to be an anti-intellectual campaign afoot.”

    Alkhadi, whose nephew was among several men recently gunned down in Baghdad, worries that the killings could obliterate the already fractured Iraqi educational system. Among the dead are some of the country's foremost researchers, including Baghdad University nuclear physicist Majeed Hussein Ali; Asaad Salem Shrieda, dean of engineering at Basra University; and Bassem al-Mudares, a chemistry professor at Tikrit University.

  5. Movers

    CREDIT: B. BAHLER/DHS

    A Secure Start. Charles McQueary is stepping down next month after 3 years as the founding head of the science and technology directorate at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). McQueary says he felt DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, who took over last year, “should have the chance to hire his own people” but that he's very proud of what his $1 billion, 380-person office has accomplished, including funding five university-based centers of excellence and supporting more than 300 homeland security scholars and fellows.

    “I thought we'd need to spend more time helping universities set up research programs in the field, but I learned that there is a lot of expertise already in place,” he says. He also expects that the share of his office's budget devoted to basic research, now only 2%, will grow as more academics explore questions that relate to homeland security.

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