Newsmakers

Science  20 Jul 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5836, pp. 303
  1. BEHIND THE SCENES

    CREDIT: TRUDY SEVERSON

    IN THE HINTERLAND. How often does a hog farmer turned government bureaucrat become the toast of a state, all for the greater glory of science? It happened last week in South Dakota, when the National Science Foundation (NSF) chose the Homestake Mine in Lead as the site for a proposed $500 million Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory.

    Observers say that Dave Snyder (above), the 62-year-old head of South Dakota's Science and Technology Authority, and his staff worked tirelessly after NSF announced an open site competition in 2004. Last year, Snyder negotiated a deal with the mine's previous owner, Barrick Gold Corporation, for state ownership of the site. “It was a turning point in the project when the state appointed him,” says Patrick Garver, executive vice president and general counsel for Barrick. The project also benefited from a $70 million donation from philanthropist T. Denny Sanford.

    “Dave has worked miracles,” says Kevin Lesko, a physicist from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who leads the Homestake scientific collaboration. Snyder says that his role has been simply “to connect the dots.” He has a few more to go: The science team must complete a conceptual design, and the NSF has to find the money for the project in a future budget.

  2. AWARDS

    PREDICTIVE POWER. Theoretical physicists Makoto Kobayashi of the Japanese accelerator laboratory KEK in Tsukuba and Toshihide Maskawa of Kyoto University have won the European Physical Society's High Energy and Particle Physics Prize for one of the more inspired guesses in the history of science.

    In 1973, physicists had only recently discovered that protons and neutrons consist of particles called up quarks and down quarks. A third such particle, the strange quark, was known, and a fourth, the charm quark, predicted. But even before the notion of a quark was entirely accepted, Kobayashi and Maskawa argued that the existence of two more of them would explain a slight asymmetry between matter and antimatter called CP violation, which had been observed in 1964.

    Physicists eventually identified six types of quarks, and Kobayashi and Maskawa's theory precisely describes CP violation seen in accelerator experiments. Kudos to them both, says Helen Quinn, a theorist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. “It was a brilliant step to make, but not a difficult one—once you asked the right question,” she says.

  3. MOVERS

    CREDIT: JON CHASE/HARVARD NEWS OFFICE

    CHANGE AT HARVARD. Ending a 9-month search, the Harvard Medical School last week picked a new dean from within its ranks: obesity expert Jeffrey Flier. Flier, 58, joined the Harvard faculty in 1978 after studying insulin's role in metabolism and disease at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. His recent focus has been on how the hormone leptin affects the brain, appetite, and obesity. Flier also has been involved in efforts to make science a bigger part of the undergraduate curriculum. He starts his new job on 1 September.

  4. IN THE COURTS

    SPOTTING INFIDELITY. A Michigan state forensic scientist who analyzed DNA samples from her husband's underwear after suspecting him of cheating on her is in hot water for having used government equipment to conduct her investigation.

    Ann Chamberlain-Gordon found another female's DNA in the samples and submitted her finding as evidence in a 7 March divorce hearing in Ingham. But after her husband's lawyer informed authorities about the test, the Michigan State Police (MSP), which runs the Lansing lab where Chamberlain-Gordon works, initiated an investigation into whether she had broken department rules. The Lansing State Journal quoted her as testifying in a 25 May hearing that she had done the analysis on her own time using chemicals that were slated for disposal.

    An MSP spokesperson says the department is investigating the matter.

  5. INSIDE GOVERNMENT

    CREDIT: OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

    BROADENING OUT. Mark Abbott says a career of exploring the mysteries of ocean life has prepared him to run the $745 million Geosciences Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF). “My experience has always been ecological, looking at interactions of natural systems,” says the professor of biological oceanography at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis. Now he'll be helping to orchestrate the interactions of an entire scientific community.

    Beginning on 1 October, Abbott will be taking on big-science programs involving the solid Earth, deep-sea observing networks, and ocean drilling, another step in the continued broadening of his expertise. His dissertation examined the ecology of Lake Tahoe, but he later tackled satellite observation of ocean biology. And he now oversees what he calls “the whole gamut of earth science” as the dean of OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. He'll also be relinquishing his post on NSF's oversight body, the National Science Board.

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