Each year, three medals to honour extraordinary research achievements in cell and developmental biology are awarded at the joint conference of the British Societies for Cell Biology (BSCB) and Developmental Biology (BSDB). Here on the Node, Eva has recently posted an interview with Carlos Carmona-Fontaine, to whom this year’s Beddington medal was awarded, for his PhD work in Roberto Mayor’s lab at UCL in London. Carlos’ talk on collective migration of neural crest cells was highly entertaining; Eva’s interview gives an impression of the entertainment value – I highly recommend having a look!
The BSCB’s Hooke Medal honours a person who has made an outstanding contribution to UK cell biology within the first 10 years of establishing his or her own lab. 2011’s recipient is Alex Gould (NIMR, London, UK). Together with his team, Alex determined the scheduling mechanism that terminates proliferation of neuroblasts in the Drosophila central nervous system at the end of development. Their second big discovery was uncovering the function of Drosophila hepatocyte-like cells, called oenocytes, which regulate fat metabolism in the fly. In his lecture he mainly presented their most recent research on organ sparing during nutrient restriction: Starvation of fly larvae slows tissue growth, except in the brain. Sparing of the brain is a phenomenon that is also known to occur in mammals. The Gould lab carefully characterised brain sparing in starved fly larvae and identified the molecular mechanism responsible for sparing growth of the central nervous system.
Finally, the BSDB’s Waddington Medal is awarded for outstanding research performance as well as services to the developmental biology community. The awardee is announced only at the meeting; this year it was Chris Wylie (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, USA). His first comment when coming on stage was, “I feel like a dinosaur that’s just been dug out!” Yet, far from resembling a fossil, Chris gave a lucid seminar that described the broad sweep of his research career, which has been largely dedicated to understanding primordial germ cells, the embryonic precursors of gametes. Chris highlighted how the direction of his research has been heavily influenced by the arrival of technological advances over the years. Chris himself has made a major contribution to these advances, being the first to use morpholinos to knock down zygotic genes in the early Xenopus embryo. More recently he has developed an interest in post-natal development of vertebrae and presented some exciting new data on growth and differentiation of intervertebral discs after birth, making a strong case for this kind of research to tackle post-natal disorders.
Chris did not miss the opportunity to give some advice to younger scientists. In his opinion, we should be cautious about believing too strongly in any accepted dogma, since he has seen even the most well established models overturned. He also advises collaboration and, if possible, to find the “perfect partner” – a reference to his long-standing scientific collaboration with his wife, Janet Heasman. Finally, Chris believes we should never follow old scientists’ advice as they grew up in a completely different era – in his case an era when supervisors would allow their PhD students to publish single author papers! Instead, Wylie believes one can benefit from observing the careers of successful senior scientists and copying their methods.
Maurange C, Cheng L, & Gould AP (2008). Temporal transcription factors and their targets schedule the end of neural proliferation in Drosophila. Cell, 133 (5), 891-902 PMID: 18510932
Gutierrez E, Wiggins D, Fielding B, & Gould AP (2007). Specialized hepatocyte-like cells regulate Drosophila lipid metabolism. Nature, 445 (7125), 275-80 PMID: 17136098
Heasman J, Kofron M, & Wylie C (2000). Beta-catenin signaling activity dissected in the early Xenopus embryo: a novel antisense approach. Developmental biology, 222 (1), 124-34 PMID: 10885751