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Joshua E. Neimark Memorial Travel Assistance Award winners

Three newly named beneficiaries of the Joshua E. Neimark Memorial Travel Assistance Endowment are investigating an unusual program to spark young children's interest in insects, an effort to fine-tune DNA analysis, and a strategy that might someday suggest a way to lower the cost of a key HIV medication.

The award recipients will receive partial financial support to attend America's largest general scientific conference, the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 18-22 February in San Diego, Calif. (See

All three recipients Michele A. Korb, a new faculty member in the Department of Teacher Education at California State University, East Bay; Kim Har Wong, a University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) graduate student; and Timothy D. Panosian, a Vanderbilt University graduate student submitted posters selected to be presented at the AAAS Annual Meeting.

Korb's poster presentation highlights a science teaching strategy called "Bugscope" and its use in classrooms from kindergarten through fifth grade. Through the Bugscope program, students and teachers can use an advanced electron microscope, or ESEM (environmental scanning electron microscope) to study insects and arachnids, Korb explained. Classrooms mail insects to the Bugscope program coordinators, then log onto an Internet browser to examine their prepared specimens by remotely operating the ESEM.

"I wanted to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting to strengthen my contacts with a well-connected community of scientists and educators who are convening for the common goal of increasing science literacy," Korb said. "The meeting will allow me to share information related to preparing future elementary science teachers, and to explore new ideas that may inform positive changes in my teaching and research habits."

Panosian's poster presentation describing a novel, biosynthetic pathway to produce the HIV medication didanosine is entitled "Engineering a new pathway for didanosine synthesis through the structural and biochemical characterization of the Bacillus cereus phsphopentomutase." Didanosine, also known by the trade names Videx and Videx EC, helps to inhibit HIV replication and therefore is routinely prescribed as part of an antiretroviral therapy regimen.

While pursuing a graduate degree within Vanderbilt's Department of Pharmacology, Panosian wrote in applying for Neimark Travel Assistance: "I have been afforded ample intellectual freedom and have enjoyed learning the intricacies of how one makes a drug, and how X-ray crystallography can be used as a tool to facilitate this design process."

Vanderbilt faculty member Dr. Tina M. Iverson reported that Mr. Panosian is an "outstanding graduate student" who also is "interested in the intersection between scientific research and public policy." Toward that end, she reported, he has participated in campus governance activities, and he also provided "an extensively researched presentation on the economic benefits of biomedical research" in a meeting with U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.).

During his stay in San Diego, Panosian will take part in a workshop on communicating science, an event organized by AAAS and the National Science Foundation to help scientists and engineers more effectively engage reporters, policy-makers, and the public.

Ms. Wong, the third Neimark Travel Assistance recipient, will describe her efforts to determine the integrity of DNA samples using a simple analysis method or "assay" that can be applied to tissues undergoing programmed cell death, even with many samples running in parallel. "Her early results define the limits and boundaries" of applying certain fluorescent dyes (PicoGreen) to ensure the integrity of DNA being investigated, UMB faculty member Kenneth L. Campbell explained.


Contact: Molly McElroy
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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