Newsmakers

Science  30 Mar 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5820, pp. 1775
  1. AWARDS

    CREDIT: CHERYL SYLIVANT

    ABEL PRIZE. Srinivasa Varadhan, a probability-theory researcher at New York University (NYU) in New York City, has won the 2007 Abel Prize for mathematics. The $975,000 award—bestowed by the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters—credits the 67-year-old Varadhan for “greatly expand[ing] our ability to use computers to simulate and analyze the occurrence of rare events.”

    Varadhan, who was born in Madras, India, earned a Ph.D. from the Indian Statistical Institute and since 1966 has taught at NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. His research on probability theory has the potential to benefit disciplines such as quantum field theory and traffic engineering.

    Fittingly, in the manner of a random event, the prize announcement last week caught Varadhan by surprise. “It's still like a dream,” he told Science. “A lot of people deserve it, but so few can get it.”

  2. MOVERS

    CROSSING BOUNDARIES. Neurobiologist Carla Shatz is returning to her roots. This summer, she will step down as chair of Harvard's neurobiology department and return to California to lead the Bio-X program at Stanford, where she held her first faculty position from 1978 to 1991. “I'm thrilled,” says Shatz. “Stanford is really on a roll with an experiment I want to participate in.”

    CREDIT: STANFORD UNIVERSITY

    Bio-X is an attempt to foster interdisciplinary research in biomedicine. Its flagship building, the James H. Clark Center, has already proved to be fertile ground for interdisciplinary collaborations among its 600 researchers—including 38 faculty members—drawn from 25 departments, Shatz says, and she hopes to encourage more participation from others on campus.

    Shatz was the first woman to earn a doctorate in neurobiology from Harvard, in 1976, and in 2000, the first woman to chair Harvard's neurobiology department. It hasn't escaped her notice that only five Clark Center faculty members are women. “I want to do something about that.”

  3. MOVERS

    SAILING. Having guided the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility through difficult times, laboratory director Christoph Leemann plans to step down once his replacement is chosen. Leemann, 68, plans to spend more time sailing, including racing a monohull Hobie 33. Last year, Leemann had to batten down the financial hatches at the lab in Newport News, Virginia, to deal with a budget cut from $86 million to $78 million. But the future looks brighter, as the Department of Energy's (DOE's) science budget grows and researchers make progress on an accelerator upgrade. “One should always leave at the top of one's game,” Leemann says. Leemann assembled a top-notch scientific and technical staff, says Dennis Kovar, who directs DOE's nuclear physics program: “He's been a joy to work with.”

    CREDIT: GREG ADAMS/JEFFERSON LAB
  4. ON CAMPUS

    BLURRED IMAGE. A U.S. journal and an Indian panel have lined up on opposite sides in a case of alleged plagiarism involving a young Indian researcher whose degree hangs in the balance.

    Early last year, an anonymous e-mail claimed that a 2005 paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) co-authored by Hema Rangaswami, then a Ph.D. student at the National Centre for Cell Science in Pune, India, contained images that appeared in an earlier JBC paper by the same authors. Last month, JBC withdrew the paper. Shelagh Ferguson-Miller, chair of JBC's publications committee, says a computer-assisted analysis found that two control blots were identical to images that had been labeled differently in a 2004 publication. “To us, it seemed there had been deliberate misrepresentation,” she says. The paper examines signaling pathways involved in the development of skin cancer.

    CREDIT: SOURCE: HEMA RANGASWAMI

    Five months before the retraction, however, a scientific panel set up by the Indian government to investigate the charge found no evidence of image duplication or misconduct. Govindarajan Padmanabhan, a biologist at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, who headed the Indian panel, says the panelists grilled the researchers and examined original data.

    Rangaswami received a provisional degree last year and now works as a postdoc at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Her supervisor, UCSD cancer biologist Renate Pilz, says she has reviewed Rangaswami's work and believes the JBC paper is valid. Right now, Rangaswami has more on her mind besides completing her defense: This month, she gave birth to her first child.

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