Newsmakers

Science  19 Dec 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5909, pp. 1765
  1. FACE OFFS

    Montagnier, Chermann, and Barré-Sinoussi in a 1984 photo.CREDIT: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

    NO THANKS. Robert Gallo isn't the only one who feels he was passed over for this year's Nobel Prize for discovering the AIDS virus (Science, 10 October, p. 174). Instead of accepting an invitation from his former colleagues Luc Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi to accompany them to Stockholm to pick up their award, French virologist Jean-Claude Chermann hosted a lunch for journalists in Paris to explain why he should have shared in the glory.

    Chermann, now the scientific director of a French biotech, was a lab leader at the Pasteur Institute and Barré-Sinoussi's boss when they isolated the virus in 1983; Montagnier headed the division. Chermann “taught Barré-Sinoussi everything she knew” and was instrumental in the discovery, says Bernard Le Grelle, a financial consultant who has set up a support committee for his slighted friend.

    Some scientists agree. “I don't understand how you can give the prize to her but not to him,” says Dutch virologist Jaap Goudsmit, who was in close contact with the Pasteur group at the time. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who received Chermann at the Elysée Palace on 28 October, has also hailed him as a “co-discoverer.” But as Le Grelle discovered during two teleconferences with Stockholm, the Nobel Committee never changes its mind.

  2. MOVERS

    A HUMBLE START. The Institute of Science and Technology (IST) Austria has named a computer scientist with global work experience as its first president. Thomas Henzinger of the école Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland will take the helm of the new graduate school on the outskirts of Vienna in September 2009.

    Henzinger, 46, grew up in Austria but spent most of his career in the United States before joining EPFL in 2004. Henzinger says IST will start small, with about a dozen faculty appointments, “so we shouldn't have any illusions of immediate grandeur.” But the ability to have “a biologist sitting next to a computer scientist next to a physicist” should encourage creative collaborations, he says.

    The presidential search was initially a source of embarrassment for the school after its first announced choice, neuroscientist Tobias Bonhoeffer, decided not to accept the job, citing personal reasons (Science, 25 July, p. 471). Henzinger sees the job as an opportunity he couldn't pass up: “The institute is really starting from scratch. Such things happen once in a lifetime, if ever.”

  3. DEATHS

    MEMORABLE. He was one of the most famous figures in neuroscience, yet few people knew his name. Henry Gustav Molaison, better known as the patient H.M., died 2 December in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, at age 82.

    CREDIT: SOURCE: FAMILY OF HENRY GUSTAV MOLAISON

    In 1953, Molaison had much of the medial temporal lobes of his brain removed to relieve severe epilepsy. The experimental procedure rendered him unable to form new memories but left older memories intact. As a cooperative subject for more than half a century, he helped researchers unravel the neural basis of memory, says neuroscientist Suzanne Corkin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who began working with him in 1962 as a graduate student. One key insight was that different kinds of memory depend on different parts of the brain. “He was a very nice man, … soft-spoken, polite, and he had a good sense of humor,” says Corkin, whose almost daily interactions with Molaison led him to believe they had met in high school.

    H.M.'s contributions to science won't end with his death. Researchers led by Jacopo Annese of the University of California, San Diego, have already begun work to preserve his donated brain and create an interactive 3D reconstruction. Annese hopes it will be available online by next summer.

  4. RISING STARS

    BEGINNER'S LUCK. An undergraduate astronomy project over spring break at Leiden University in the Netherlands has produced otherworldly results for Francis Vuijsje, Meta de Hoon, and Remco van der Burg (left to right in photo).

    CREDIT: LEIDEN UNIVERSITY

    Their assignment was to develop a search algorithm to detect periodic dimmings in a database of stellar brightness measurements. But when they tested the algorithm by linking PCs in vacant faculty offices for enhanced computing power, they discovered what appeared to be an extrasolar planet.

    Their work was confirmed later in the year by the European Very Large Telescope in Chile, which revealed the planet to be five times as massive as Jupiter and orbiting the hottest star ever found to have planets (arxiv.org/abs/0812.0599). “I never thought they would actually find something,” says Ignas Snellen, the students' adviser.

    The students have christened the planet ReMeFra after their first names, although its official designation is OGLE2-TR-L9b. It's unclear whether the students will pursue careers in the field of exoplanets. Says Vuijsje: “Astronomy has so many interesting topics.”

Log in to view full text