Newsmakers

Science  10 Mar 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5766, pp. 1375
  1. Awards

    CREDIT: MICHELINE PELLETIER/GAMMA

    WOMEN IN SCIENCE. Colleagues call Jennifer Graves the “weird animal lady” for her work with kangaroos, wallabies, and platypuses. Now, the comparative genomicist from Australia National University has earned another title: laureate.

    Graves, 64, is one of five women to receive the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award, a $100,000 prize that recognizes women leaders in life sciences or materials sciences. Born in Adelaide, South Australia, Graves earned her Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, but later returned to Australia to study the country's indigenous mammals. Graves's research on the evolution of the Y chromosome suggests that the male chromosome is quickly losing genes and may disappear in several million years.

    Graves hopes the awards will encourage young women to pursue careers in science. “We can't afford to wait for recognition by others,” she notes. “We need to start by each recognizing the value of our own unique insights.” Other Women in Science honorees are Pamela Bjorkman of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Christine Van Broeckhoven of Universiteit Antwerpen in Belgium, Habiba Bouhamed Chaabouni of the University of Tunis El Manar in Tunisia, and Esther Orozco of the Instituto de las Mujeres del Distrito Federal in Mexico. The awards were presented 2 March in Paris.

  2. Movers

    CREDIT: CSIRO

    HONORED CRITIC. One of Australia's most vocal proponents of genetically modified (GM) food crops has been named the government's chief scientist. Plant molecular biologist Jim Peacock, 68, is widely recognized for leading the plant industry division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to international respect during his 25-year stint as head.

    The current president of the Australian Academy of Science, Peacock is no stranger to controversy. Four years after receiving a share of the first Prime Minister's Science Prize in 2000, Miller publicly challenged the administration's overemphasis on “the delivery end of science,” warning that “we should never neglect investment in fundamental science.” Peacock has publicly supported GM food crops, even though all Australian state governments have imposed moratoria on planting them. And despite widespread public opposition to nuclear power, he recently suggested that nuclear plants may be a way to fight global warming.

    “We applaud the appointment,” says Gerard Sutton, vice-chancellor of the University of Wollongong and president of the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee, “and we expect to be able to work with him very effectively.”

  3. Movers

    CREDIT: HANS HERREN/THE MILLENNIUM INSTITUTE

    SMITHSONIAN SHUFFLE. Entomologist Scott Miller, 46, is trading his post as associate director for science at the National Zoo for a more central role in advising the leaders of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He succeeds Steven Monfort, who will step into Miller's zoo job.

    As the new senior program officer for science, Miller (above) will develop institute-wide initiatives in systematics, conservation, and other areas. “Scott brings a wealth of understanding of biology programs throughout the Smithsonian,” says Paula DePriest, director of the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education. Miller will engender partnerships both within the Smithsonian and with outside organizations, DePriest says.

    Miller plans to keep his lab at the National Museum of Natural History and continue field research on moths in Papua New Guinea. Miller also runs the Consortium of the Barcode of Life, a program to characterize all organisms by their DNA.

  4. Three Q's

    CREDIT: BRUNO DEBAS

    Dennis Bartels, the new director of the famed Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco, California, sees no reason why the city can't fuse its youth culture and its high-tech industries to become “the science education capital of the world.” But innovating at a 37-year-old museum known for innovation won't be easy, admits the 43-year-old science educator, currently president of TERC, an education R&D center in Boston.

    Q: What's new in informal science education?

    A: A decade ago, everybody was talking about edutainment as a way to attract young people. But that didn't work out. The real challenge for museums today is to deliver a bona fide educational experience: adult education, teacher training, or whatever else people want.

    Q: How can the Exploratorium do that?

    A: Since 1998, it's been offering a 2-year science program for new teachers in the area that's turned out to be a lifesaver for those with emergency credentials or teaching out of field. And 95% of those teachers are still in the classroom, which is an incredible retention rate.

    Q: Can it be a national force for teacher training?

    A: Yes, we have an Institute for Inquiry that has trained more than 1000 curriculum coordinators, and now it's moved online. And the Center for Informal Learning in Schools has worked with more than 400 teacher educators from museums around the country to share best practices.

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