German neuroscientist Tobias Bonhoeffer has been selected as the first president of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria. The graduate institute, scheduled to open next year in Klosterneuburg, northwest of Vienna, has been promised $860 million over 10 years in state funding. Bonhoeffer, who studies the cellular basis of learning and memory, is currently a director at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, Germany.
Q: What got you interested in this job?
Over the last couple of years, I've been interested in making an impact on a bigger scale. It's an opportunity where one can really shape something. And Vienna is a very nice city.
Q: The institute's supporters initially said they were hoping for an “Austrian MIT.” Do you see MIT as the best model for IST Austria?
We want an MIT, but only in terms of quality, not in terms of breadth. It is not possible to create an MIT from scratch. One will have to think hard and strategically about disciplines where we can be world-class and make a difference and those where it would be hard to compete. … I would like to give Austria something to be proud of—as proud as they are of the men's downhill ski team.
Q: Will you be able to do any science?
I would like to be able to organize things in such a way that I would not need to leave science completely. I also have to think about the future. I'm 48, so even if I were to stay for 12 years, I won't be retiring. And I don't want to have to start from scratch at 60.
FOR THE PLANET. A 1952 Princeton alum has donated $100 million to the university for a research center to address energy and the environment.
Gerhard Andlinger, who grew up in Austria, is the chair of a global investment company that in recent years has invested in clean and renewable energy companies. The gift is intended to support research aimed at finding technological solutions to environmental problems. It will also fund the construction of a 10,219-square-meter engineering laboratory, basic geoscience research, and positions for faculty focused on environmental policy issues.
“My hope in establishing this center is to focus [Princeton's strengths] on finding ‘clean-tech’ solutions to the most important problems facing our society today,” says Andlinger, according to a Princeton press release. “The work of the center will help create a better world for our children and grandchildren, which I see as a personal as well as institutional responsibility.”
ON A QUEST. John Templeton, the U.S.-born philanthropist who supported research into what he called “spiritual realities,” died 8 July at his home in the Bahamas. He was 95.
The foundation he established in 1987 provides about $60 million annually in grants for conferences and research on the origin and benefits of religion, the mechanisms behind concepts such as forgiveness and love, and other topics ranging from consciousness to cosmology. The $1.1 billion foundation also administers an annual $1.4 million prize that has honored the work of several scientists.
Some researchers have criticized Templeton's efforts to promote a convergence of science and religion; for example, University of Oxford biologist and avowed atheist Richard Dawkins calls the Templeton prize a “Faustian bargain.” But many have welcomed Templeton's funding of these topics. “Whether or not we share [Templeton's] vision that religion and science will be reconciled, we must agree with him [that] they cannot continue to ignore each other,” says William Bainbridge, a sociologist in the computing directorate at the U.S. National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, who has reviewed grant proposals for the foundation.
The former science director of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has filed a lawsuit accusing the agency of having violated the separation of church and state by adopting a “neutral” position on creationism. Christina Comer, who was fired from her job in November 2007 after forwarding an e-mail announcing a talk by a critic of the intelligent design movement (Science, 14 December 2007, p. 1703), is demanding that she be reinstated. The suit, filed 1 July in the U.S. District Court in Austin, argues that TEA's policy of neutrality is “not neutral at all, because it has the purpose or effect of inviting dispute about an issue—teaching creationism as science in public schools—that is forbidden by the Establishment Clause.”
BACK TO ROOTS. Another star stem cell researcher is on the move—but this time not to California. John Gearhart, on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, since 1980, will head the University of Pennsylvania's new Institute for Regenerative Medicine, formed last November. Gearhart has done pioneering work with human pluripotent stem cells and is a high-profile advocate for loosening the Bush Administration's restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research.
The move will be a homecoming for Gearhart, who was raised in an orphanage in Philadelphia after the death of his coal miner father. Gearhart's wife, geneticist Shannon Fisher, will also join the Penn faculty. Ralph Brinster and Jonathan Epstein have been interim co-directors of the institute.