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NINDS's Lauter Retires after 42-Year Government Career

By Shannon E. Garnett

After 42 years of government service, 41 at NIH, Carl J. Lauter, a biochemist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, has turned in his lab coat. He recently retired.

"I have always been fortunate in working in labs with friendly, cooperative people, and have learned much in return for my niche of time and service to the progress of scientific research," he said.

Lauter began his career in 1955 as chemist in the Division of Chemistry at the National Bureau of Standards. In 1956, he joined NIH as a biochemist in the Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Metabolism, National Heart Institute (now NHLBI), where he assisted in research on the composition and dietary responses of mammalian serum lipoproteins.

Carl J. Lauter

In 1960, Lauter moved to the Laboratory of Neurochemistry, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Blindness (now NINDS) -- where he has remained for 38 years. Working with Dr. Roscoe Brady and the late Dr. Eberhard Trams, Lauter became independently involved in a collaborative research project on the lipid components of mammalian tissues. His project specifically dealt with the development of techniques for isolating and elucidating gangliosides in the brain.

"Carl Lauter is an extraordinarily talented and down-to-earth biochemist," said Brady, chief of the Developmental Metabolic Neurology Branch, NINDS. "While he was in my laboratory, one of his main functions was to develop useful laboratory confirmations of experiments conceived by my coworker Dr. Trams, a gifted scientist with far-ranging ideas. Many of Trams' innovations were reduced to useful science by Lauter. Together, they published many valuable contributions."

In 1968, on a leave of absence from NIH, Lauter went to the University of Oslo, Norway, where he worked as a postgraduate research fellow and a graduate research assistant, studying protein synthesis. Although he returned to the DMNB 17 months later, he continued to pursue independent studies, traveling to the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., to study protein synthesis and ectonucleotidase enzyme activity using sea urchin eggs and embryos.

"I feel a special kinship with Carl dating from my first days as a staff fellow at the NIH in the 1970's. His work was always characterized by precision and careful controls," said Dr. Norman Salem, Jr., acting NIAAA scientific director, who worked alongside Lauter for many years. "He has been a real resource within the NINDS and has continued to train postdocs as well as perform his biochemical duties in a most expert manner. Many of us will miss his presence in the lab but wish him great happiness in his retirement."

Lauter spent the last 13 years in the myelin and brain development section of NINDS's Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, working with postdoctoral fellows and the laboratory chief, Dr. Richard H. Quarles, on research involving myelin composition and molecular structure.

"The most notable aspect of Carl's role as an NIH scientist over the years has been the very careful and conscientious manner in which he approaches all aspects of his job, whether it is actually doing experiments or maintaining the laboratory," said Quarles. "In the past dozen years or so that he has worked directly with me, I have become very dependent on him for the smooth operation of my lab, and he will be greatly missed."

Lauter coauthored 30 published articles. He holds memberships in several professional organizations including the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, where he served as president of the Washington section in 1994.

Throughout his years at NIH, Lauter has witnessed many changes on the campus. "I remember when the area in back of Building 10 was an 18-hole municipal golf course," he recalled. "I used to watch the golfers as I sat in the cafeteria in the evenings."

He said what he will miss most about NIH is "the opportunity to feel like a part of a team -- as small as my part might be -- that is accomplishing a research project for the betterment of life, to mingle with people in all aspects of research who are willing to talk at any level of understanding, and in general to associate with the friendly lab personnel in our daily work area."

In retirement Lauter, who is married with two adult children, plans to travel with his wife Astrid, work in his garden, and continue working as a volunteer with the Chesapeake chapter of the National Ataxia Foundation, where he currently serves as president.

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