Newsmakers

Science  04 Apr 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5872, pp. 29
1. COLLECTIONS

THERMOMETER KINGS. As a child, Joel Myers was entranced by the meter-tall “Prestone Antifreeze” thermometer across the street from his Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, home. Now, he owns the world's largest collection of thermometers, and he's looking for a place to house them.

Myers, 68, earned a Ph.D. in meteorology and founded AccuWeather, a $100 million company in State College, Pennsylvania, that provides weather forecasts to media outlets. That made him the logical person for Richard Porter to seek out when the retired science teacher decided to sell his collection of 4000-plus thermometers, including an earring thermometer from a 1650 whaling ship. “It's been a labor of love,” says Porter, 79, who dedicated his collection to his daughter, a teacher's aide who died in 1990, to honor girls who pursue careers in science. Myers bought the lot for about$20,000 and plans to combine it with his own collection of 300 antique barometers. He hopes the instruments will inspire weather and history buffs.

James Galloway and Harold Mooney have won the $200,000 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, administered by the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Galloway, a researcher at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, wins the honor for pioneering work describing how nitrogen affects the environment. Mooney, an environmental biologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, is being recognized for helping to make ecological studies a global discipline by starting or helping to launch efforts such as the Global Invasive Species Programme and the Global Biodiversity Assessment. 3. MOVERS HEAVYWEIGHT HIRE. Mark Yudof, a law professor who has led the University of Texas (UT) since 2002, was last week named president of the University of California (UC). Yudof takes over the 10-campus system from physicist Robert Dynes, who last year announced his decision to step down following a series of controversial decisions including the approval of questionable salaries and perks for some top-level UC employees. Yudof, 63, was president of the University of Minnesota for 5 years before taking charge of the UT system. In his new position, Yudof will receive a compensation package of$828,000, nearly twice as much as what Dynes was making but close to Yudof's current UT salary of $790,000. “He's expensive but worth it,” Richard Blum, president of the UC Board of Regents, told the San Jose Mercury News. Yudof starts this summer; Dynes will return to being a professor at UC San Diego. 4. RISING STARS BEATING BACTERIA. Timothy Lu's new approach to eradicating biofilms has won him this year's$30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for innovation.

Biofilms are layers of bacteria embedded in a protective matrix that makes them 1000 times more resistant to antibiotics than free-living bacteria. As a Ph.D. student in the lab of Boston University biomedical engineer James Collins, Lu engineered a bacteriophage to help eliminate the films, which contaminate food-processing equipment, pipes, and medical implants. Ordinary phages destroy bacteria but can't penetrate the biofilm matrix. Lu's modified phage forces infected bacteria to manufacture an extra enzyme that breaks down the matrix as well.

Collins calls Lu, now in medical school, an “exceptionally creative entrepreneurial young scientist” and notes that Lu's work represents one of the first practical applications to arise from the new field of synthetic biology. Lu plans to use his prize money to help commercialize the engineered viruses.

5. THREE Q'S

Black seas, glowing icebergs, and moody skies now dominate the rotunda at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. Science talked with California-based photographer Camille Seaman about her exhibit, “The Last Iceberg,” based on several trips to the Arctic and Antarctica since 2003.

Q: What do you want your audience to experience?

It's very important that people feel what I felt when I was there: a sense of awe, of isolation, and a bit of sadness but also profound beauty. I want them to understand that our planet is beautiful, that the process of living can be really beautiful.

Q: How has climate change influenced the way you look at icebergs?

When I was in the Arctic in 2003, the ice was really significant. I went back on the same ship in 2006 to the same area, and there was nothing. I understood just how much we stand to lose and the importance of a visual record.

Q: Is there one iceberg that was most memorable?

The worst situation was at Grand Pinnacle [Greenland]. It was so cold, and I was the only one out on deck. I used a beautiful German camera, but it's completely metal, and it's not friendly to load. I literally almost lost my fingertips. I learned the hard way that was not the right camera.