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News Tip


January 7, 2002

For more information on these science news and feature story tips, please contact the public information officer at the end of each item at (703) 292-8070. Editor: Josh Chamot

Recycled Proteins May Lead to Cellular Drug Delivery System

A team of researchers at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg has uncovered a new function of the Golgi apparatus, a subcellular structure that prepares proteins for export from the cell. The discovery may have implications for medication delivery and pharmaceutical development.

Researchers were surprised to learn that the Golgi is constantly being assembled and disassembled. The disassembled Golgi proteins are then reused within the cell.

This fundamental discovery could open possibilities for attaching drugs to Golgi proteins and using the disassembly process to deliver precise amounts of medications to specific locations within a cell. Another possible outcome is that the Golgi apparatus could be used to develop cell secretions used by the pharmaceutical industry.

"These recycled proteins are portals to the inside of a cell. These portals could be very useful," according to biochemist Brian Storrie, who made this discovery along with chemical engineer Kimberly Forsten Williams and biochemists Suzanne Miles and Heather McManus. The findings were reported in the November 12, 2001 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology.
[Andrea Dietrich]

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More Than 41,000 Received Doctoral Degrees in 2000

For the seventh year in a row, more than 41,000 people received Ph.D.s at the nation's universities, according to Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities: Summary Report 2000, a report based on data from the annual Survey of Earned Doctorates, sponsored by NSF, NIH, ED, NEH, USDA, and NASA.

The newest report showed continued growth in the percentage of doctorates going to women and minorities, although the groups were not evenly represented in all fields. Of 41,368 Ph.D.'s awarded, 18,121 (nearly 44 percent) went to women. In 1990, 36 percent of all Ph.Ds went to women. Women represented the majority of doctoral degrees conferred in the life sciences but were underrepresented in fields such as physics and engineering. Sixteen percent of all year 2000 doctorates to U.S. citizens were awarded to Hispanics, Asians, African Americans, or American Indians, compared with 10 percent in 1990.

About 11,600 doctorates - nearly 30 percent of the total - went to non-U.S. citizens. The largest number of non-U.S. citizens to receive Ph.Ds in 2000 were from the People's Republic of China (2,594), followed by Korea (1,048), India (985), Taiwan (936), and Canada (514).
[William Harms]

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Project at NSF Center Wins Student Science Contest

Two New York high school seniors took team honors in the prestigious Siemens-Westinghouse Science and Technology Competition with a materials science project. Sponsored by the NSF, Shira Billet and Dora Sosnowik of the Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls in Hewlett Bay Park, N.Y. won the award for designing an instrument to determine the viscosity, or fluidity, of nanometer sized films, a problem of great importance to materials researchers. The students will share $100,000 in college scholarship money for their work.

Ultra-thin films are used in all microelectronics - as lubricants for products such as computer disks or bone implants - and in the emerging field of nanomachines. The new instrument relies on combining the thin film with an incompatible liquid. Just like oil and water, the two substances begin to separate in patches, or holes, that grow over time. By measuring the size of the microscopic holes as they grow, the students developed a measure of the film's viscosity.

The students performed their research at the NSF Materials Research Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, under the tutelage of center director Miriam Rafailovich. [Amber Jones]

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NSF Launches On-Line Industry R&D Information Retrieval System

Forty-five years of NSF historical data on industrial research and development is now available on-line. The expansive new Industrial Research and Development System (IRIS) provides statistics on industrial R&D performance across a broad range of criteria in more than 2,500 statistical tables, and links to an on-line historical data interface. The data "can be used to assess trends in U.S. R&D performance from a variety of perspectives," says a recent Data Brief from NSF's Division of Science Resources Statistics.

The IRIS system also provides a glossary of terms, help files and links to related NSF publications in R&D.

Access to IRIS is gained through a welcome screen that allows observers to browse tables by survey year or topic, or through a "search for data tables" option. [Bill Noxon]

For IRIS on-line, see:



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