Newsmakers

Science  29 Aug 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5893, pp. 1141
  1. IN THE FIELD

    CREDIT: (TOP AND INSET) ©ROTHAMSTED RESEARCH VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS UNIT

    A BARGAIN. Instead of digging in the dirt, British entomologist Richard Harrington has found a new species of aphid for $37 on eBay. The amber-encased specimen, estimated to be between 35 million and 50 million years old, is believed to be from the amber-rich region around Kaliningrad, a Russian city on the Baltic Sea.

    Harrington, who studies the agricultural pests at Rothamsted Research institute in Hertfordshire outside London, wanted to name it Mindarus ebayi. But Danish paleo aphid expert Ole Heie, who identified it as a new species, decided to name it after Harrington.

    The aphid is now at the Natural History Museum in London, and Harrington says “I'll certainly keep my eyes open” for other opportunities on eBay.

  2. MOVERS

    TO INNOVATE. Psychiatrist Husseini Manji, an expert on bipolar disorder, is quitting the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for a high-flying position at Johnson & Johnson. He'll be based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, overseeing drug development for both neurological and psychiatric disorders as global vice president for central nervous system and pain disorders.

    CREDIT: NIMH

    Manji, 49, has been at NIMH for the past 15 years, leading the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Program, the largest program of its kind in the world. The decision to leave was “very, very difficult,” he says. “I still think that the NIH [National Institutes of Health] is the best place in the world to do ‘pure research.'”

    But, says Manji, “I really believe that the time is right to develop truly innovative treatments” for devastating diseases such as schizophrenia, and he thinks a company is the best setting for that. Johnson & Johnson, he says, “assured me about their commitment to … innovative treatments and not ‘me too’ drugs.… Basically, they share my views that focusing on signs and symptoms isn't good enough.”

  3. IN THE COURTS

    STAY MUM. Three undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge have learned firsthand about the potential legal pitfalls of doing computer security research.

    As part of a class project, Zack Anderson, Alessandro Chiesa, and R. J. Ryan discovered flaws in the fare-collection system of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). The students had to cancel a planned presentation this month at the DefCon hackers conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, after a federal district judge granted the MBTA's request for a temporary restraining order. Last week, another judge in the same court ended the restraint, in effect allowing the students to discuss the work.

    But the students no longer plan to present the paper anywhere. Both sides say they hope to meet to discuss the security flaws. “So much time and effort has been spent on this whole legal battle … when really the MBTA should have been focusing its effort on fixing the system,” Anderson says.

  4. IN PRINT

    AN UNLIKELY COLLABORATION. In 2006, Finnish science journalist Jani Kaaro was following a story about an established link between migraines and holes in the heart. A clinical trial in which doctors closed the holes to try to ease migraines had just failed. Even after he was done covering the work for a Helsinki newspaper, Kaaro remained obsessed with the topic.

    Switching from journalist to researcher mode, he scoured the literature and developed a theory: The migraines were driven not by the heart defect but by a brain abnormality sharing the same embryonic origin as the hole in the heart. For help testing it, Kaaro, who never completed high school, reached out to migraine researcher Nouchine Hadjikhani of Harvard Medical School and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. At first, she says, “I was very skeptical. Who is this person, and what are they talking about?”

    CREDIT: TIINA MAZET

    But Hadjikhani was impressed by Kaaro's meticulously documented references and rationale. Examining brain scans from 39 migraine patients and 26 controls, she found that the pineal gland, a structure that normally sits along the midline of the brain, tended to be skewed to one side or the other in those with migraines—as Kaaro had predicted. The finding, which could provide a new handle on migraines, was published this week in NeuroReport, with Kaaro as first author. “It's as good an idea as any,” says neurologist Stewart Tepper of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, who thinks the theory is worth exploring.

  5. TWO CULTURES

    CREDIT: BRIAN NARELLE/UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS

    This cartoon, by California-based animator Brian Narelle, is one of 12 cartoons on the politicization of science that grace a new calendar from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The works were chosen from among hundreds submitted for UCS's annual scientific integrity cartoon contest. To see all the cartoons, visit http://www.ucsusa.org/.

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