Science  29 Jun 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5833, pp. 1823

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    MAKING CROPS LAST. Philip Nelson was only 15 when he was dubbed “Tomato King” at the Indiana State Fair. He turned the crown into a successful career: Last week, Nelson, 72, won the $250,000 World Food Prize for developing technology that has revolutionized food processing, especially with tomatoes.

    As a food scientist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, Nelson helped reduce the waste at tomato-canning factories like those owned by his father by scaling up a process for sterilizing and packaging juice into small boxes. Today, some 90% of the world's tomato crop is heat-sterilized in thin pipes, then cooled and pumped into sterile 300-gallon (1135-liter) bags for storage or transport at room temperature. Nelson's work also allows Brazilian tankers to ferry millions of gallons of orange juice in their holds and developing countries to export more fruit and vegetable products. The difference between him and other early innovators in the field, says Nelson, “is that I thought big.”

    Nelson still works half time at Purdue, studying new ways to use chlorine dioxide gas to kill pathogens on fresh fruit and vegetables. And he still grows his own tomatoes, although he doesn't can any.


    A BETTER PLANET. A pioneer of environmental law and a leading energy-conservation expert have won this year's Blue Planet prizes, awarded by Japan's Asahi Glass Foundation. Joseph L. Sax, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, receives the honor for helping to establish the idea of citizens' environmental rights, which became the basis of the first environmental act to be passed in the United States. And Amory Lovins, a physicist and co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), wins the prize for his advocacy of renewable energy, including his invention of an ultra-light, fuel-efficient car and the design of an energy-efficient building as RMI's office headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. Each winner receives $400,000.


    SHAW PRIZES. Physicist Peter Goldreich, biochemist Robert Lefkowitz, and mathematicians Robert Langlands and Richard Taylor have won the 2007 Shaw Prizes from the Hong Kong-based Shaw Foundation. Goldreich, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey, is being honored for his contributions to understanding the formation of interstellar masers and other astronomical phenomena. Lefkowitz, a professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, receives the prize for elucidating the role of G-coupled protein receptors in intercellular communication. Langlands, another IAS professor, and Taylor, a professor at Harvard University, win for their contributions to number theory. Goldreich and Lefkowitz win $1 million each; Langlands and Taylor will share $1 million.



    NEW MAN AT SLOAN. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) economist Paul Joskow has received grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for his studies on nuclear power and the future of coal. Now the longtime academic and director of MIT's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research will have the chance to help others when he takes over in January as president of the $1.8 billion foundation.

    Joskow says he's “frustrated” that scientific literacy remains low despite the foundation's ongoing campaign to foster public understanding of science. “The media [are] responsible for a large part of the oversimplification of science that is provided to the public,” he says, also citing the “deficiencies in science education” across the education spectrum. Joskow, 59, will succeed Ralph Gomory, who's stepping down after 18 years at the helm.


    SHORED UP. One of the world's best-known marine sciences labs—the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution (HBOI)—has traded its independence for a welcome infusion of cash. In the next few months, the 35-year-old lab in Fort Pierce, Florida, will hand over its management to Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Boca Raton and in return get an extra $8.5 million a year.


    The new funds should come as a relief to HBOI Director Shirley Pomponi (right), who took the reins of the institution in 2004, just as the founding benefactor J. Seward Johnson was withdrawing support. That prompted concerns about how the lab would fare on its own in meeting its $30-million-a-year budget (Science, 9 July 2004, p. 167). Now, as part of a deal brokered by local State Senator Ken Pruitt, FAU will run the lab and the state government will provide annual operating costs, as well as $44.5 million to shore up and improve the 200-hectare facility, which includes two submersibles, a research ship, and an extensive collection of marine organisms.

    HBOI and the university have worked together for the past decade, with research collaborations and some teaching programs. Now, HBOI will be expanding its undergraduate class offerings and graduate student programs. “We're going to work with Harbor Branch to develop a world-class marine program,” says Gary Perry, FAU dean of science. And as per state protocol, HBOI will change its name to the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.