In Memoriam: Dr. Bob Cotter

Dr. Bob Cotter, professor of Pharmacology and Biophysics, passed away suddenly on the evening of NovemBS bs-md-ob-robert-cotterber 12. Faculty and students from the Pharmacology and Biophysics departments gathered the following day to remember his career and his larger-than-life presence in the department, and on the nineteenth, a meeting of the Washington/Baltimore Mass Spectrometry Discussion Group, which Dr. Cotter was to have hosted, was held instead as a memorial symposium in his honor.

Dr. Cotter spent the bulk of his academic life at Hopkins. After graduating from the College of the Holy Cross, he completed his doctoral research in the Chemistry department at Homewood. Following a brief stint as a faculty member at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, he returned to Hopkins as a research associate and advanced over the years to full professorship. Research over the course of his career substantially advanced the field of time-of-flight mass spectrometry, and garnered him honors from the American Society for Mass Spectrometry and the American Chemical Society. In December of 2008, on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday, the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry dedicated an issue to him.

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December Lab Spotlight – Raben Lab

Lab Stats

PI Name: Dan Raben

Number of Years in BCMB: 26
Model System(s): mammalian cell culture, in vivo mouse/rat brains
Research Area: Physiological roles of signaling lipids and the enzymes that generate them.

Dan Raben, in his office.

Dan Raben, in his office.

Lab Personnel:
Hana Goldschmidt – PhD Candidate, BCMB program
Becky Tu-Sekine, PhD – Research Associate (Former BCMB Student)
Elizabeth Petro – PhD Candidate, Biological Chemistry program

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Peter Devreotes’ BCMB Friday Seminar

Our latest BCMB Friday Seminar, held on 9 November 2012, was by Peter Devreotes , a BCMB faculty member. He spoke about his lab’s contribution to the field of cell migration. After a wonderful introduction by BCMB student Chris Mitchell, the seminar began with a historical overview of chemotaxis, which is an essential part of human development.


Dr. Devreotes speaking about cell migration.

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Science News

Insights into cellular traffic jams:  Biophysicists at UMass Amherst have shed further light on dynamic conditions in a cell using quantum dots (Qdots) and a custom fluorescent microscope. The team set out to better understand active motor transport of large organelles over long distances in a crowded cellular environment. In their model, they used Qdots attached to kinesin motors and show that cellular cargos associate new motors to overcome traffic jams along microtubules.  The paper by Ross J, et. al. is in the current edition of PNAS® and can be found in online here

Flu vaccine enters the modern era: The USFDA approved the first cell culture based seasonal flu vaccine. Vaccines have been made historically in chicken-egg based systems largely due to its widely accepted safety and efficacy. Growing demands and greater incidences of ‘flu emergencies’ like the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 have led to adopting alternative methods of vaccine production. The vaccine Flucelvax, made by Novartis, is already approved in the European Union and is made in canine kidney epithelial cells. The US is the single largest market for seasonal flu vaccines. The US department of Health hopes to tackle any future flu pandemics by this new process of faster vaccine production.

2 strikes and you’re out: the NIH has decided to stick to its rule that allows only one resubmission of a grant if the first proposal was rejected. This peer reviewed policy, instituted in 2009, is unpopular within the scientific community which argued that in an era of low funding, this rule made many worthy projects ineligible for consideration and curbed the learning curve for grant writing among junior scientists. This led to a 2011 petition signed by more than 2300 scientists asking the NIH to revert back to allowing a second resubmission of a grant that has been previously rejected.

Martian Carbon: The NASA Mars Curiosity Rover has fully analyzed its first Martian soil sample and found carbon, water, sulfur and chlorine-containing substances. The team of scientists working on the analysis are not sure about the origin of Martian organic compounds yet suspecting it could also be of meteorite origin.

Year End Lists: Nature Medicine® released a list of high profile drug approvals and failures for 2012. The list can be found here:

Recent Job Postings – December

Medical Writer – Oncology

MedErgy, Philadelphia PA Area

Job Description

MedErgy, a scientifically-focused communications agency, is currently seeking an Oncology Medical Writer to join our energetic team of professionals in Yardley, PA.  The core responsibility for this position is guiding the development of content with the highest level of technical accuracy for various accounts. This position must report onsite to our Bucks County, Pennsylvania office.

Qualifications include:

  • Experience in the oncology area is required; publication planning experience is a plus
  • Advanced life sciences degree required; MD, PhD, or PharmD
  • Medical writing experience, including abstracts, posters, oral presentations, publication plans, is a plus
  • Working knowledge of good publication practice, CMPP preferred
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Desire to work in a collaborative team setting
  • Ability to thrive under challenging deadlines and in an energetic environment

MedErgy offers colleagues a competitive salary and benefits package including medical, dental, vision, ST/LT disability, life, 401(k) and tuition reimbursement.

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HHMI At Hopkins: First-Hand Faculty Experiences

This article is the second of a three-part series on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  Part I, published in November, talked about the history of HHMI.  This second article focuses on HHMI at Johns Hopkins and the experiences of the faculty participating in the HHMI Investigator program.

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine has long participated in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator program, and has accumulated quite a few faculty members who hold HHMI investigatorships.  BCMB News wanted to hear their stories, so we went looking for some entertaining anecdotes and sage advice.

HHMI Investigator Alex Kolodkin, Department of Neuroscience

Alex Kolodkin, Dept. of Neuroscience

Johns Hopkins has 12 HHMI faculty that are in the BCMB program, spread across several departments.  The areas of research that HHMI focuses on are genetics, cell biology, immunology, neuroscience, and structural biology; Hopkins has faculty that encompass all of those areas.  Many of the Hopkins HHMI investigators commented on how they felt fortunate to be involved with the institute, and have resources available for not only their labs, but also for their research community.  “I think it raises the general level of science in any one place,” says HHMI investigator Alex Kolodkin.

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