Newsmakers

Science  28 Mar 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5871, pp. 1743
  1. POLITICS

    CREDIT: DEREK REICH

    RAISING HACKLES. During her many years surveying brown bears in Montana and surrounding states, Katherine Kendall has stood her ground in the face of growling grizzlies. The 56-year-old U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) biologist has demonstrated the same steeliness against Arizona Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who has repeatedly cited Kendall's $5 million project in a campaign to eliminate what he regards as wasteful earmarking by Congress.

    Kendall's large-scale DNA analysis of bear hair, which was first added to the USGS budget in 2003, provides a nonintrusive way to do a census of the bear population in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, with an eye toward determining the best way to manage the species. But McCain has ridiculed it as useful only for investigating bear paternity suits and dumpster crimes.

    “It's not a comfortable feeling to have that kind of spotlighting in an unfavorable light,” Kendall says about the salvos McCain launched during recent speeches in South Carolina and in a November 2007 television campaign commercial. “We were very careful about making every penny count.” Kendall hopes to publish the results sometime this year.

  2. MOVERS

    GENE SEEKER. A Nigeria-born genetic epidemiologist who has led studies on why some ethnic groups suffer higher rates of certain diseases has been chosen to head a new $1.7 million Center for Genomics and Health Disparities at the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Charles Rotimi, 50, had been directing a human genome center at Howard University in Washington, D.C., one of the country's leading minority-serving institutions.

    SOURCE: MAGGIE BARTLETT/NHGRI

    Rotimi is working on the first genome-wide association study of an African-American population, looking for DNA involved in diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. He plans to continue studies of diabetes in West Africa and China and join with Duke University scientists to study genetic differences in responses to drugs. He says moving to the NIH campus will allow him to expand collaborations and do high-risk research without the constant pressure to obtain outside grants. Rotimi brought along five workers from his lab at Howard and expects to build a total staff of 10 to 12.

    Marine biologist John Burris has been named president of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, an $800 million foundation in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, that supports biomedical research. Burris, who directed the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, during the '90s, has served as president of Beloit College in Wisconsin since 2000. He starts his new job in July, succeeding Enriqueta Bond.

  3. ON CAMPUS

    FELLED, NOT. Brian Karpes was shot five times by the gunman who killed five students and wounded 18 others during last month's shooting at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in DeKalb. But the geology graduate student survived—and so did his plans to present a poster at this month's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference outside of Houston, Texas.

    SOURCE: BRIAN KARPES

    Karpes, 27, was sitting in on a 150-student oceanography class as a teaching assistant when the shooter began firing a shotgun and three handguns from the auditorium stage. Karpes was hit in the head, twice in his left side, and once each in his right hand and left biceps. He spent a week in the hospital. Despite a broken writing hand, Karpes was able to assemble a poster based on his cataloging of impact craters around the equatorial region of Saturn's plume-spouting moon Enceladus. And after doctors said he couldn't travel, an NIU professor agreed to carry the poster to Houston. It was the only one among hundreds at the meeting to be signed by dozens of well-wishers.

  4. THREE Q'S

    Helmut Schwarz, 64, a molecular chemist at the Technical University of Berlin, took over as president of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn in January. The foundation awards hundreds of fellowships each year to researchers from around the world to work in Germany. This year, it will begin a program to lure foreign scientists to German universities with 10 5-year, €5 million professorship awards.

    Q: What can the foundation do to be more effective?

    Q: What can the foundation do to be more effective?

    It is clear that our competition has increased, and other organizations pay much better than we do. It will be important to significantly raise the amount we award fellows [for example, $40,000 per year for postdoctoral fellows] so that we can make sure that no one chooses to go somewhere else based on money.

    Q: What do you hope the Humboldt Professorships will achieve?

    The award is something new: It's for a person plus an institution. A person must be nominated by the potential host university. The Max Planck Society recruits 30% of its top researchers from abroad, and we want to make it possible for a university to recruit top talent, too. But the universities have to make sure that when the 5 years are through, it is possible for the person to stay.

    Q: You have said that the professorships should go to researchers who are playmakers. What do you mean by that?

    In recent years, we have become a bit provincial at German universities. We want the Humboldt professors to set something in motion that has an infectious effect on the whole university.

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