Campus Scientists Flock
Research Festival Features Rock, Talk and Walk
By Rich McManus
Photos: Rich McManus
On the Front Page...
Strung this year between the Natcher Bldg. and Masur Auditorium,
the annual Research Festival had elements of both Woodstock (a
rock-and-roll battle of the bands, see sidebar) and Woods Hole as
thousands of intramural researchers crowded three major plenary
sessions and a host of mini-symposia and poster sessions during 4
days of peace, love and sophisticated science.
"The plenary sessions (on gene therapy, transplantation and
imaging) were great," said Dr. Philip Chen, NIH associate director
for intramural affairs, as he hustled off to the instrumentation show
sponsored by the Technical Sales Association that traditionally caps
the festival. This year may have been the first in the festival's
13-year history that vendors outnumbered scientists at NIH; their
wares required two gigantic tents that stole parking from the east
side of the Natcher Bldg. It was easy to determine from a distance
which tents featured the TSA show and which harbored rock
festivals and picnic seating: suited salesfolk huddling over cell
phones and the aroma of free coffee distinguished the former.
NIMH's Kwang-Lae Hoe explains his poster to colleagues during
poster session III on the festival's second scientific day.
"I've enjoyed the festival I think it's a very nice
opportunity to see what different scientists at NIH are doing," said
Dr. Tamar Benyosef, a postdoctoral fellow who is studying skeletal
development in NHGRI's Medical Genetics Branch. Attending her
first festival, she added, "The symposiums are very interesting. I
went to one yesterday on craniofacial and skeletal biology, and will
attend another one today."
Dr. Jean Vautrin (l) of NINDS drew a large and interested crowd to his poster.||
Another rookie attendee who gave the event a thumbs-up was Dr.
Pavel Savitsky, a native of Moscow, Russia, who had been at NIH
all of one week as a Fogarty Center visiting postdoctoral fellow in an
NHLBI laboratory when the festival began. "It's all very good," said
the scientist, who immersed himself in the plenary sessions on
medical imaging and gene therapy.
Janet Hauser (l) and Dr. Joanna Hill of NICHD discuss results.
He was seated near the back of a crowded Natcher main
auditorium, listening to NHLBI's Dr. Elizabeth Nabel review recent
advances in cardiovascular gene therapy. Already crowded once
Nabel took the podium, the session ended up standing-room-only as
NHLBI's Dr. Cynthia Dunbar raced through a dozen years of
advances in stem cell gene therapy, followed by NHGRI's Dr.
Richard Morgan, who summarized a mere decade of efforts to put
genes into T cells using retroviral vectors. Both scientists reported
dramatic improvements in recent years in their fields: Dunbar said
that at a primate transplantation center at 5 Research Court run by
Dr. Robert Donahue, much higher levels of gene transfer are
occurring than just 3 years ago in monkeys; Morgan said efficiencies
in his gene-transfer experiments have reached 30 percent or better
recently, up from around 10 percent earlier this decade.
|Postures of consideration were common at the poster sessions.
NIAAA's Kyu Shik Jeong makes a point.
Proud of their work were authors Wayne G. Butscher and Cynthia M. Haggerty of NCI.
A surprised look crosses Othman Ghribi's face as the visiting
scientist from the University of Virginia's department of pathology
reviews a poster.||
||Savita Dhanvantari of NICHD was an animated explicator of her work.|
|At left, NHLBI's Young Ho Kim explains his work to Taeyoon Kim. In the photo at right, Takeshi Ito of NIMH gestures to explain his work.|
So dense was the transfer of scientific information from the stage
that sign language interpreters were relieved every 15 minutes during
Organized this year principally by two scientific
directors Drs. Jeffrey Trent of NHGRI and Story Landis
of NINDS and Clinical Center director Dr. John Gallin, the
festival established a high standard for future Octoberfests of
intramural research; to surpass it, next year's organizing committee
might have to book the Rolling Stones.
Band Battle Rocks Campus
By Dr. Harrison Wein
In what may have been the most controversial event on the NIH
campus since the announcement of E-biomed, the NIH Directors
were defeated by the visiting band Wild Type in the 1999 NIH
Research Festival's Battle of the Bands. "The outcome was fixed,"
Harold Varmus, director of NIH, said afterward. And he should
know; he was on the judging panel.
"We think it was really disgraceful we placed second," said guitar
player Dr. Francis Collins, whose day job is director of NHGRI. "If it
had been a real contest, we would have won."
Fronting the NIH Directors were (from l) Drs. Stephen Katz of
NIAMS, Richard Klausner of NCI and Francis Collins of NHGRI. |
The event began with plenty of free hot dogs, hamburgers, fries,
cookies and sodas in a tent behind the Natcher Bldg. Deejay Kenny
Curtis of WBIG-FM (Oldies 100) emceed the battle, promising
"some fine entertainment to amaze, or at least amuse you." He went
on to explain the rules of the contest, which included: "Band
members must be awake at all times," and "Under no circumstances
must any band play a rendition of Stairway to Heaven."
The NIH Directors opened the battle with their unique brand of
classic oldies. Collins, Dr. Stephen Katz (director of NIAMS), and
Dr. Rick Klausner (director of NCI) fronted the band, playing guitar and
blending their voices in harmonies that were only intermittently
off-key. Chuck Ellerson, a postdoctoral fellow with NICHD, and
Tracy Rouault, a research scientist with the institute, were on drums
and keyboard, respectively. John O'Shea, a researcher with NIAMS,
played bass guitar to round out the group.
Highlights of the Directors' set included Clone-away, based on the
classic song Runaway, in which the band sang, "I'm walking through
the genes/Don't know what all this means/Wishing I could find the
one/So I can say I'm done...All I do is clone away/I clone, clone,
clone, clone, clone away." The crowd cheered and held candles
throughout the set.
Wild Type, led by NIA investigator Pat "Power Play" Morin and
including several scientists from the Johns Hopkins Oncology
Center, opened its 15-minute set with a hard-driving and popular
Meredith Brooks song bearing a title that can't be printed in a federal
newsletter. The band was tight, and Ellie "Diva" Carson-Walter, a
postdoctoral research fellow, was impressive on lead vocals. While
the judges made their final decisions, all the musicians came on
stage together to perform a collegial version of the Wild Type
original The Grant Writing Blues.
Reviewing the performance were erstwhile rock critics (from l) Dr. Harold Varmus, Tina Suhana and Colleen Hough. Not shown are judges Marianne Henderson and Sandy Cohen.|
In the end, Wild Type was declared winner. Afterward, emcee
Curtis encouraged the audience to drop their inhibitions and dance
on the grass as Wild Type continued to play. "At this point," he said,
"seeing what you've seen the Directors do, I don't think you can
embarrass yourself at all."
The spirit of camaraderie at the event was tangible. "I think the
social gathering at the battle of the bands was very much
appreciated," noted Dr. Philip Chen, NIH associate director for
intramural affairs. Asked who he thought won the contest, he
observed diplomatically, "Wild Type was louder."
"It was fun," added a postdoctoral researcher in the audience. "I
think this was a great idea."
As to his band's defeat, Klausner remained positive. "I'm so excited
we actually placed," he said.
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