Newsmakers

Science  05 May 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5774, pp. 687
  1. BEHIND THE SCENES

    FUEL FOR A CAUSE. Penny by penny, a central California gas station has raised $177,000 for research into a rare and devastating bone disease that afflicts two local teenagers. Last month, Clark Crandall, 54, owner of the Main Street Shell Station in Santa Maria, learned that 6 years of donating a penny for every gallon of gas sold had paid off: Researchers had identified the gene defect behind fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), which immobilizes patients by forcing muscle and connective tissue to turn to bone.

    CREDIT: FRED KAPLAN

    “I was just ecstatic,” says Crandall of the discovery, reported online last week in Nature Genetics (Science, 28 April, p. 514). He's been passing the news on to delighted customers. (The campaign also tripled business, Crandall says, although that was never the goal.) Pictures of the two girls with FOP grace the station, and a billboard displays a tally of money raised.

    Crandall's campaign and others like it have raised more than two-thirds of the money spent in recent years on FOP research, says Fred Kaplan, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania. (This 2001 photo shows him with Crandall [right] and one of the girls.) He spearheaded the 15-year hunt to find the gene with help from scientists worldwide. The money has funded “just about everything,” he notes, from a steady stream of postdocs to DNA sequencing.

  2. PIONEERS

    CREDIT: FABLEVISION/JOSEPH HENRY PRESS

    WOMEN ASCENDANT. As a child, Marta Tienda spent two summers as a migrant laborer picking tomatoes with her family. Now a sociologist at Princeton University, Tienda draws upon that experience to explore why some ethnic and racial groups have a harder time than others in moving up the economic ladder.

    Tienda's rise from poverty is one of 10 stories in a new book series from the National Academies about female scientists. The series, Women's Adventures in Science, is intended to whet the appetites of middle and high school students for scientific careers. The stories convey the glamour and excitement of science and engineering, making it clear how scientists can make a difference.

    Along with the series, the academies have unveiled a Web site (http://www.iwaswondering.org/) with a number of interactive features, including a comic strip dedicated to each scientist. The cartoon above describes the work of Mimi Koehl, a biomechanist at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies how animals move.

  3. DEATHS

    TOUGH AS NAILS. Israeli physicist Yuval Ne'eman, who helped develop the Eightfold Way classification of elementary particles and went on to become a major political figure in his country, died on 27 April at the age of 80.

    Born in Tel Aviv and trained as an engineer, Ne'eman fought in Israel's 1948 War of Independence. He worked in military intelligence—he is the Ne'eman in Fredrick Forsyth's spy thriller The Odessa File—while studying physics under Abdus Salam at Imperial College London before becoming scientific director of the Nahal Soreq Nuclear Research Center, where he forged Israel's first research group in particle physics and helped develop its nuclear arsenal.

    He also established the physics department at Tel Aviv University and served as its president before founding a far-right political party that opposed returning the Sinai to Egypt. He died of complications from a fall.

    CREDIT: OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS/UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, AUSTIN
  4. AWARDS

    ALBANY PRIZE. Seymour Benzer, a neuroscientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, has won the $500,000 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research for his work linking genes to behavior in fruit flies. The research paved the way for the use of fruit flies as a model for studying human neurological diseases.

    CREDIT: CALTECH

    In the 1960s, Benzer and his colleagues showed that mutations in single genes could radically alter behavior in the fruit fly. The findings overturned the prevailing idea that behavior was primarily shaped by the environment. Over the next few decades, Benzer and other researchers identified the genetic bases for differences in courtship, learning, and memory in fruit flies, which launched the field of neurogenetics. Researchers now use fruit fly models to study human illnesses such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and Parkinson's.

    Benzer, 84, was honored last week in a ceremony that also paid tribute to the founder of the award, businessman Morris “Marty” Silverman, who died in January at the age of 93.

  5. AWARDS

    NEW NAS FELLOWS. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has named 72 new members and 18 foreign associates, bringing its domestic membership to 2013. The list is at www.nas.edu/morenews/20060425.html.

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