Science  27 Oct 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5799, pp. 591

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    ONE-WAY STREET. “I tried my damnedest to get out of doing this,” grumbled noted architect Frank Gehry as he began his talk at this year's meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) held in Atlanta, Georgia, this month. By the end of the event, it wasn't clear whether the remark had been made in jest.


    Gehry's lecture, the second installment in SfN's Dialogues between Neuroscience and Society series, described the creative process behind several of his landmark buildings. That was followed by an onstage conversation with Fred Gage, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute in San Diego, California. Gage said scientists would like to investigate how built environments affect brain function and asked Gehry whether he would want to know what they find out. “No, I don't,” he replied, explaining that such knowledge might impose unwanted rules on architects.

    Although Gehry's appearance wasn't as controversial as last year's lecture by the Dalai Lama (Science, 18 November 2005, p. 1104), his talk elicited mixed reviews. Several neuroscientists said they had wanted to hear more about what brain researchers and architects might learn from each other. But others found plenty of food for thought. “I had several conversations with colleagues trying to muse about what kind of processing goes on within [his] brain,” says SfN President David Van Essen of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Next year's talk is by PalmPilot inventor Jeff Hawkins (Science, 6 October, p. 76).


    BABY STEPS. The youngest institute among the National Institutes of Health has picked an NIH insider to lead its fledgling intramural research program.

    As the first scientific director of the 6-year-old National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), Richard Leapman will guide the expansion of what is currently a $4 million program to a proposed $8 million in 2007. “I hope we can have a big impact without having a big budget,” he says, noting that the program will focus on nanomedicine and an ongoing initiative titled Imaging from Molecules to Cells.


    The program will also assume some or all projects currently run by NIH's Division of Bioengineering and Physical Science, which Leapman has supervised since 1999 as acting director. NIBIB offers a much better fit for that portfolio, says Donna Dean, who served as the institute's temporary head before Roderic Pettigrew took over in 2002.


    NEW PNAS EDITOR. Randy Schekman, a cell biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, is the new editor-in-chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He replaces Nicholas Cozzarelli, who died of lymphoma in March after 12 years at the helm.


    IN LIMBO. Loling Song, a Chinese-born cell biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, has received a $750,000 grant from the U.S. National Cancer Institute. But she can't spend it because the award can only be made to U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and her application for the requisite green card, filed in April 2004, is still pending.

    Faced with the prospect of losing the grant unless she gets resident status by 30 November, Song this month sued the Department of Homeland Security, which handles such applications, and the FBI, which does the required background checks. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, charges that the government's delay is disrupting Song's “medical research on breast cancer, an issue of national interest.”

    “It's hard to believe that it takes the U.S. government 2 years to do a background check on an individual,” says attorney Maureen O'Sullivan about her client, who is a Dutch citizen who came to the United States in 2004. FBI spokesperson Bill Carter says that 95% of security checks are done within a week but that some require communicating with other agencies as well as foreign governments. The government has 60 days to respond to the suit.



    FROZEN FOREVER. When physicist Kenneth Libbrecht of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena mails out Christmas cards this year, the envelope will also contain a personal touch: stamps bearing pictures of snowflakes that he took himself. Libbrecht, who studies ice-crystal formation, began photographing snowflakes 5 years ago, and in 2003 he co-authored A Field Guide to Snowflakes. It drew the attention of the U.S. Postal Service, which this month issued a set of four snowflake stamps, each with a face value of 39 cents. How many did Libbrecht buy? “A hundred or so,” he says. “People seem to like them.”