News: News Archives
Research into the Nematode's Sense of Touch Wins 2004 Eppendorf/Science Prize
Miriam B. Goodman of Stanford University was awarded the 2004 Eppendorf and Science Prize for Neurobiology at a ceremony held in San Diego 25 October as part of the Society for Neuroscience's Annual Meeting. She was recognized for her research using worms to learn how the sense of touch works on a molecular level.
The Eppendorf and Science Prize in Neurobiology recognizes outstanding neurobiological research by a young scientist, as described in a 1,000-word essay based on research performed within the last three years. The grand prize winner receives $25,000 from Eppendorf, and the winner's essay was published in the 15 October 2004 issue of Science. The two finalist essays have been published at Science Online (see below for links).
In her winning essay, Goodman notes that humans rely heavily on their sense of touch, and that reduced touch sensation is common in people with diabetes and is a leading factor in lower-extremity amputation. However, scientists know very little about the molecular basis of touch, mainly because studying the sensory nerve cells that detect touch are deeply embedded under the skin and are very small, making it extremely difficult to study them. Goodman's essay explains her research on the nematode worm's sense of touch. Known as Caenorhabditis elegans, the worm's entire cellular anatomy of its nervous system is known. Scientists hope to apply their knowledge about the nematode's sense of touch to larger and more complex animals.
Goodman was unable to attend the award ceremony because she is pregnant and her baby was due the week of the ceremony. She sent a video message thanking all of the participants and apologizing for an absence that she blamed on her "ongoing experiment in genetics," which drew a laugh from the audience. Accepting the award on her behalf was Shawn Lockery, Goodman's advisor at the University of Oregon. "Miriam," he noted, "is dauntless, always thinking about the current 'unsolvable' problem."
Last year's winner, Michael Ehlers of Duke University, spoke at the ceremony about the research currently being done in his lab and the effect winning the prize has had. "Receipt of this award has been a very significant thing for me," he said. "It has brought a lot of attention to the work that goes on in my lab, but also an enormous amount of attention to neuroscience in general."
Katrina Kelner, deputy editor for life sciences at Science, was a presenter. "Managing the process of the selection of papers for this prize is one of my favorite things to do in my job," she said. Submissions are judged based not only on the significance of the work and excellence of the research, but also on their ability to communicate this research effectively.
Goodman grew up in Lexington, Mass., and Bethesda, Md., writing scientific software in research labs at the NIH as a high school student. She earned a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Brown University in 1986. After being awarded her Ph. D. in 1995 from The University of Chicago, she pursued postdoctoral work in C. elegans neurophysiology and genetics at the University of Oregon and Columbia University. Currently, Goodman is an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. Work in her laboratory focuses on delineating the molecular events that give rise to the sense of touch.
The 2004 finalists are:
Kang Shen, for his essay "Synaptic Matchmakers: Molecular Mechanisms of Synaptic Specificity." Shen studied clinical medicine at Tongji Medical University of China. After graduating in 1994, he joined the graduate program at Duke University. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1999, he pursued postdoctoral work in Cornelia Bargmann's lab at the University of California San Francisco. Shen started his own lab at Stanford University in 2003, focusing on deciphering the molecular code that neurons use to connect to the right partners as the brain develops.
Qin Shen, for her essay "Preventing Aging In Neural Stem Cells: Regulating Asymmetric Versus Symmetric Cell Divisions." Shen earned her Bachelor's degree in Pharmacology from Shanghai Medical University in 1991. In 1996, she entered the graduate program in neuroscience at Albany Medical College in New York. Her Ph.D. project, completed in 2001, focused on asymmetric cell division and the generation of cell diversity in the embryonic murine cerebral cortex. She is now a postdoctoral fellow in Sally Temple's laboratory working on mechanisms regulating neural stem cell self-renewal and cell fate choices, including interactions between neural stem cells and endothelial niche cells.
Eppendorf AG, headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, is a leading global supplier of systems and research tools for the biotechnology industry. With more than 1,700 employees worldwide, Eppendorf AG achieved sales revenues of more than 270 million euros in 2003, with earnings before interest and taxes of approximately 36 million euros. AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science.
28 October 2004