Newsmakers

Science  09 Feb 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5813, pp. 745
  1. DEATHS

    CREDIT: DUKE UNIVERSITY NEWS SERVICE

    FOREVER CURIOUS. The title of one of his books, How Animals Work, captures the essence of biologist Knut Schmidt-Nielsen, who died in Durham, North Carolina, on 25 January at the age of 91. Considered the father of comparative physiology and integrative biology, the Duke University researcher endured the heat of the Sahara and the cold of the Arctic to learn how animals thrive in extreme climates.

    He discovered, for example, that moisture-conserving mucus in the nose—not water stored in its hump—helps protect camels against dehydration, and that special glands help seabirds and marine reptiles shed excess salt. His lab was a menagerie, including a misnamed 100-kilogram female ostrich called Pete who was a source for 1-kilo omelets. (Pete helped Schmidt-Nielsen and his colleagues learn how ostriches can run in the heat without sweating.) “Knut invoked in all of us a sense of curiosity about how animals function,” says Barbara Block of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

  2. IN BRIEF

    • Harpal Kumar is the new CEO of Cancer Research UK, a British nonprofit that provides $500 million a year for cancer research. He succeeds chemist Alex Markham.

    • The Prince of Wales has won the Global Environmental Citizen Award from Harvard Medical School for his efforts to promote sustainable farming and environmentally friendly urban development. Prince Charles received the honor last month from actress Meryl Streep and former U.S. vice president Al Gore in New York City.

    • Jeanette Wing of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been named head of the National Science Foundation's $527 million Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate. She replaces Peter Freeman, who has joined a Washington, D.C., consulting firm.

  3. MOVERS

    TRADING CONTINENTS. Jonathan Slack, a British developmental biologist, is coming to the University of Minnesota next month to replace Catherine Verfaillie as head of its Stem Cell Institute. The Minnesota institute has close ties with the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Leuven, Belgium, which Verfaillie now heads.

    Slack, 58, chairs the department of biology and biochemistry at the University of Bath, where he established a Centre for Regenerative Medicine. Describing stem cell research as “the applied science of developmental biology,” Slack says he plans to continue his work both on tail regeneration in the Xenopus tadpole and on reprogramming adult cells, such as liver cells, into pancreatic islet cells to treat diabetes.

  4. AWARDS

    BURNING BRIGHT. Brian Warner had always wanted to be an astronomer. And although circumstances led him into jobs in radio and TV as a news director instead, Warner still managed to spend countless late nights tracking the waxing and waning of asteroid brightness from his backyard observatory north of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Last week, his contributions earned him the American Astronomical Society's first-ever Chambliss Amateur Achievement Medal: a silver medallion and a $1000 honorarium.

    CREDIT: BRIAN WARNER

    Warner, 54, now a computer programmer, has published more than 200 records of varying asteroid brightness using data captured with cheap but ultrasensitive light detectors. A light curve reveals not only the shape and rotation of asteroids but also whether an apparent solitary asteroid is actually a pair. Warner's discovery of numerous pairs in the main asteroid belt has challenged theorists to explain how binary asteroids could form there.

  5. SLICE OF LIFE

    BREAKING THE SILOS. As a postdoc, newly minted Ph.D. physicist Daniel Goldman broke fresh interdisciplinary ground by applying his expertise in complex fluids and granular materials to the study of animal locomotion. But despite the innovativeness of his research—or perhaps because of it—his 6-month search for an academic job posed a challenge. Physics departments said his work wasn't fundamental enough, and biology departments clucked that his work wasn't aimed at basic questions such as how cells work. One interviewer, he says, told him “that I would be working on an island” with few connections on campus.

    CREDIT: DANIEL GOLDMAN

    But his perseverance has paid off. Last month, he won a tenure-track slot in the physics department at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “We expect that he will build a successful program … that will make unique contributions to the study of locomotion biology and biomechanics,” says Mei-Yin Chou, his new department chair.

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