Michael Rossmann, a leader in the use of X-ray crystallography and cry-electron microscopy to solve the structure of viruses, died on 14 May 2019 at the age of 88.
We need celebrity life scientists
At the ASM Microbe 2017 meeting last week in New Orleans, Ed Yong interviewed astronaut Kate Rubins for the keynote address. The large theatre was packed, and overflow crowds watched the event on monitors throughout the New Orleans Convention Center. But I think that a scientist should have interviewed Dr. Rubins.
Rich Condit and I had the good fortune to interview astronaut Astro Kate for TWiV 444 at ASM Microbe 2017. Several hours later, she was on stage with Ed Yong. Itâ€™s clear why ASM wanted Yong speaking with Rubins: he would draw the biggest possible audience. His science writing is outstanding, and his first book, I Contain Multitudes, sold very well. In fact, EdÂ was at ASM Microbe to autograph copies of his book.
In 2016 the keynote speaker at ASM Microbe was Bill Gates, for the same reason: to draw a crowd. He was interviewed by Dr. Richard Besser, formerly of ABC News.
I have nothing against Ed Yong; I think heâ€™s doing a great job communicating science. But I think that a scientist should have interviewed Kate Rubins. Why? Because the public views scientists as the most trustworthy spokepersonsÂ for science (source: ResearchAmerica). Not bloggers, or journalists, or elected officials, but scientists. And I want scientists to showcase their field, especially in front of other scientists.
What living scientist would have been as popular as Ed Yong at ASM 2017? Surely Steven Hawking, or Neil deGrasse Tyson, who are widely known. But they are not microbiologists. The only life scientist who is as well known as Ed Yong and would draw a big crowd might be Richard Dawkins. Bill Nye is not on this list because heâ€™s an engineer, not a scientist, but he would be a huge draw, bigger than Yong. I would not be surprised to see him at a future ASM Microbe meeting.
We need more celebrity life scientists who are loved by millions, who can explain the nuts and bolts of biology, microbiology, biotechnology, cell biology, and more, and who draw huge crowds. Iâ€™m not one of them – my blog and podcasts have many followers, but I would not draw like Ed Yong did at ASM Microbe (our TWiV with astronaut Kate Rubins attracted 50 people). But I believe that my work in science communication shows young scientists that they can appeal to a broad range of science minded people, and perhaps become very popular themselves.
Let the Yong-Rubins keynote be a call to early career life scientists to communicate their science, build their visibility, and become the next Carl Sagan, who reached millions with his television shows and books. Itâ€™s not easy, especially combined with a career in research and teaching. But Sagan and others have shown that it can be done. And hopefully you will one day be a big draw at a keynote address!
Interview with Harmit Malik
Vincent Racaniello interviews Harmit Malik, PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Harmit and his laboratory are interested in a variety of problems that are characterized byÂ evolutionary conflict.
This video is one of 26 video interviews with eminent virologists that are part of the supplemental material for Principles of Virology, 4th Edition, published by ASM Press. Other interviews in this series can be found at this link.
Interview with Karla Kirkegaard
A major new feature of the fourth edition ofÂ Principles of VirologyÂ is the inclusion of 26 video interviews with leading scientists who have made significant contributions to the field of virology.Â For the chapter onÂ Synthesis of RNA from RNA templates, Vincent spokeÂ with Karla Kirkegaard, PhD, of StanfordÂ University School of Medicine,Â about herÂ career and herÂ work on picornaviruses.
Poliovirus on BBC radio
At the end of 1981, the year that I had shown that cloned poliovirus DNA is infectious, BBC Radio asked me to do an interview about the work. The name of the show was Science Now but I can’t recall who was the host. Whoever he was, he didn’t understand what I had done and got the science all wrong. Listen to the interview below and see if you can spot his errors.
For the interview I went to the MIT student radio station where I sat alone behind a wall of glass, with headphones on, before a very large microphone. On the other side of the glass a few disk jockeys were broadcasting a show; the music came through and was picked up by the BBC recorder.
A few weeks after the interview the BBC sent me a tape of the show with a note which read “With the compliments of the British Broadcasting Corporation”. I found the tape recently in a desk drawer and amazingly, the recording was still intact. But I had forgotten how little the radio host knew about viruses.
Download the file (5 min 3.9 MB .mp3)