Newsmakers

Science  13 Jun 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5882, pp. 1403
  1. THREE Q'S

    CREDIT: TOBY ARMSTRONG

    Going off to college at 19 is not unusual. But Alia Sabur is a materials scientist who starts this week as a professor at Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea. Guinness World Records lists her as the world's youngest university professor, based on her accepting the position a few days shy of her 19th birthday. A New York City native, Sabur graduated at 14 from Stony Brook University in New York and then earned master's and Ph.D. degrees in materials science from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    Q: You're at a point in your career that most people are still chasing in their 30s and 40s. What are your goals?

    I'm interested in the research aspect as well as the teaching aspect [of academia]. One of the advantages of having a Ph.D. is that I can go and learn different subjects without taking classes and worrying about grades. Of all the experiences in my life, doing a Ph.D. is not one I want to repeat. Also, I'm branching out into public speaking to help motivate others, especially young girls, to go into science and technology.

    Q: How will you relate to students who are older than you?

    I'm used to everybody being older than me. Once I start talking, people can tell I know what I'm talking about.

    Q: Why Korea?

    I have never visited Asia. I thought it would be an interesting experience. [Konkuk] has closely related research to what I'm doing, and I thought there would be some potential collaborations with Stony Brook. Their president got his Ph.D. from Stony Brook.

  2. IN THE COURTS

    IN GRATITUDE. A federal court's decision to award Cornell University and an affiliate organization $184 million in a patent infringement lawsuit against Hewlett-Packard (HP) could bring Hwa Torng a windfall of $46 million. The 75-year-old electrical engineer, a former professor at Cornell, plans to give most of it away to help students at community colleges.

    In the early 1980s, Torng invented a technology to enable computer processors to execute multiple instructions at once. Cornell's suit against HP, filed in 2001, claimed that HP used the technology from 1996 to 2006, when the patent expired, without obtaining a license. HP argued that the technology it used was its own, different invention. On 30 May, after less than 7 hours of deliberations, a federal jury in Syracuse, New York, agreed with Cornell.

    HP may still appeal. But whatever the eventual settlement, Torng's share would be 25%. He intends to use most of the money to fund scholarships for students at community colleges. “I have a strong feeling about those kids; many of them come from not-so-well-to-do families,” says Torng, who grew up in Taiwan and immigrated to the United States 52 years ago. Torng's wife also emigrated from Taiwan. “We're just grateful for the opportunities that we've had,” he says.

  3. MOVERS

    NEW FRONTIERS. Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker learned a thing or two about grantmaking when he ran Germany's premier research agency, the DFG, from 1998 to 2006, and more recently the European Research Council. Now the 67-year-old biologist will bring that experience to bear as the new secretary general of the Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO).

    Funded by 36 countries, HFSPO supports work on the complexity of living organisms, a topic that Winnacker says is “close to my heart” and coming into its prime. “Biology is really only now becoming quantitative, and the HFSP is prepared for that,” with its focus on tackling complexity, he says. The program awards grants to international collaborations and provides fellowships for researchers to travel abroad for postdoctoral research or to branch out into new disciplines. Winnacker will take over from Nobelist Torsten Wiesel on 1 January 2009 as the organization marks its 20th year.

  4. THEY SAID IT

    “In response to an inquiry, Mr. Maxim acknowledged that the following people listed as co-authors on several of his publications are ‘fabricated’ names and that he is the ‘single real author': C. Turinici, M. Gheorge, D. Smith, R. Johns, S. Dupue, and D. Antrik. In other cases, Mr. Maxim has not consulted his co-authors and submitted publications without their knowledge.”

    —The IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits in a 6 June note retracting a number of papers by Adrian Maxim, an Austin, Texas-based semiconductor engineer.

  5. SLICE OF LIFE

    CREDIT: DPA

    LOST AND FOUND. Primatologists and hunters are often at odds, but a young German researcher may owe her life to a group of Congolese hunters.

    Esther Carlitz, 23, went missing on 22 May after she and a colleague left their research camp to track a group of bonobos. Carlitz got hungry and decided to make her way back alone to Lui Kotal, a camp inside the Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that belongs to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

    Carlitz wandered for 6 days in the forest without food before coming across a hunters' camp. A search party that had combed the area for nearly 2 weeks finally found her on the morning of 3 June in the company of three of the hunters, tired but otherwise in surprisingly good shape, said Max Planck spokesperson Christina Beck. The hunters “took extremely good care of her,” says Beck.

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