Biochem Blogs

Biochemistry blog, science writing

It is a people business, after all


Clay Clark
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Drs. Tom Baldwin and Miriam Ziegler have been a team for over four decades. As former trainees in the Baldwin/Ziegler lab, Carole Stivers, Zak Campbell, and I felt that it was an appropriate time to reflect on over forty years of science research and education by the Baldwin/Ziegler group.

Tom and Miriam have been a team since they both became interested in bacterial luminescence while training with Woody Hastings at Harvard University, and throughout their careers they incorporated cutting-edge research technologies into their studies of bacterial luciferase. Many times Tom and Miriam recognized how the changing technologies could be used to drive their research program, and the field in general, into new areas of investigation, often times before their colleagues grasped the vision of how the new technologies could advance the field.

Their passion for research and education took them to the University of Illinois and Texas A&M University as faculty, then to the University of Arizona as department head of Biochemistry, then to UC Riverside as Dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Trainees were never left behind or forgotten, as Tom and Miriam continue to provide advice and mentoring even as some of the earlier students reach their time of retirement. They have spent countless hours over the years serving science societies and providing their expertise to help shape national debates on science policy and education.

Baldwin wordle

So, we felt that it was time to bring the group together and celebrate the long careers of Tom and Miriam by holding a symposium to highlight research of former students, Tom’s faculty hires, collaborators and colleagues as a way to emphasize the influence of their training and friendship. Former students and faculty from each institution where Tom and Miriam have worked represented several generations of trainee groups. We were each finally able to meet former students whose dissertations we’d read, to reconnect with students who were in the lab when we were in the lab but with whom we had lost touch over the years, and to hear the stories of the other generations of trainees, both older and younger.

It was striking to see where the former students found their own positions around the US – Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, Maryland, North Dakota, Illinois, Texas, California, Arizona, Virginia, and others – in research I universities, smaller academic institutions, large pharmaceutical companies, biotech start-ups, IT fields, computer programming, and patent law. The group is an excellent example of the variety of careers open to well-trained scientists.

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Cadmium: toxic to mammals, harmless to a bacterium, helpful to an alga

Joe Magliocca

Joe MaglioccaI'm on ScienceSeeker-Microscope

Heavy metal poisoning is a major health concern across the world. Heavy metal ions frequently leak into the environment from industrial waste causing multiple health problems in humans, animals, and other organisms. While there is no universally accepted definition of what elements are heavy metals, the definition I find most useful includes the metal rubidium and all metals heavier than it.  These metals have large atomic masses, and aside from molybdenum (and possibly tungsten), have no essential biological function; they only interfere with other biological functions.

One heavy metal of significant concern is element 48, cadmium. This element is mostly found in nature as an impurity in zinc ore, but small amounts are scattered throughout soil, seawater, coal, and other mineral deposits. It first became known as an environmental and medical hazard when a disease known as “itai-itai” (literally “it hurts-it hurts”) appeared around the city of Toyama, Japan between the Russo-Japanese war and World War II (roughly 1905-1945). This city was a major center for zinc mining, and the cadmium waste from this process was found to be the cause of the disease.

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