ASCB Show Preview: A new universality in cell biology

Engineering, physics, computational modeling and quantitative methods are all part of this year’s ASCB special sessions

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American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)
54th  Annual Meeting
Pennsylvania Convention Center
Dec. 6-10, 2014

PHILADELPHIA—It is not by chance that the American Society for Cell Biology’s 54th ASCB Annual Meeting is co-hosted this year by the International Federation of Cell Biology (IFCB). Indeed not.
“You are a cell biologist, whether you think of yourself that way or not,” notes Wallace Marshall, chair of the Program Committee for the 2014 ASCB Annual Meeting. “Regardless of what field is stamped on your union card, if you care about cell biology, you need to go to the ASCB Annual Meeting, which this year is being held jointly with the International Federation for Cell Biology.”
Cell biology and disease
The field of cell biology is constantly evolving, Marshall notes, “and an important goal of the annual meeting is to track new developments. In recent years, there has been a growing appreciation of the role of cellular dysfunction in diseases. Studies at the interface of medicine and cell biology have shed important light on both fields, and so for the past several years the ASCB Annual Meeting has devoted special attention to highlighting the cell biological basis of disease and medicine.”
“At this year’s ASCB/IFCB meeting, we will continue this trend in two ways,” Marshall observes. “First, we will have a special bench-to-bedside panel discussion on translation of cell biological discoveries to the understanding and treatment of disease. Second, we have included disease experts as organizers of many of the sessions, and these experts will help stimulate thinking about disease connections across the full spectrum of cell biological topics.”
“Another emerging trend in cell biology is the constantly increasing importance of quantitative concepts and approaches,” he adds. “The living cell is an emergent phenomenon, produced by the mutual interaction of huge numbers of molecules. The only way to begin to understand how such a complex system assembles and functions is to harness the same tools and conceptual approaches that have proven useful in engineering and physics.”
In recent years, Marshall notes, the importance of computational modeling and quantitative methods has been emphasized in special sessions, such as ones on mathematical modeling.
“But having one or two special sessions on quantitative thinking also creates a sense that this is a different way of approaching cell biology, perhaps as a supplement to ‘real’ cell biology,” he says. “Indeed, I attended one session on the role of modeling in which it was implied that models are something to be added onto the end of a cell biology paper to increase publishability, much as a piece of parsley may be added as a garnish to a steak dinner. In my humble opinion, this approach is completely backwards and misses the most important value of a model, that it can be used to help design the experiments from the outset of a project.
“So this year, rather than isolating modeling and quantification in their own separate compartment, like toxic enzymes to be sequestered in the lysosome, we decided to let quantitative and physical sciences pervade the entire meeting by appointing quantitative cell biologists to co-chair many of the minisymposium sessions.”
Marshall explains that to balance the tasks of increasing coverage of disease and quantitative biology, while retaining the traditional core topics of cell biology, they assembled a tripartite Program Committee, consisting of a “core” subcommittee (Mohan Balasubramanian, Magdalena Bezanilla, Orna Cohen-Fix, Ana Maria Cuervo, Beatriz Fontoura, Cynthia Jensen, Franck Perez, William Prinz, Lois Weisman, Mark Winey, Richard Youle and Xiaodong Wang); a “cell biology and disease” subcommittee (Helen Blau, Catherine Dulac, Tom Misteli, Gregory Pazour, Jody Rosenblatt and Marino Zerial); and a “physical and quantitative cell biology” subcommittee (Marileen Dogterom, Aki Kusumi, David Odde and Jitu Mayor).
“Keeping all the conference calls between these groups organized was only possible through the tireless efforts of ASCB’s Meeting and Abstracts Manager Alison Harris,” he adds. “Three other participants deserve special mention. ASCB President Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz and Executive Director Stefano Bertuzzi never failed to offer their own insights and perspectives, which we found invaluable as we grappled with difficult decisions about topics and organization. In addition, Cynthia Jensen of the IFCB has been one of the most active participants in all of our conference calls and has played an invaluable role in helping to organize this joint meeting.”
Four reasons to attend ASCB 2014
“First of all,” the ASCB’s program chair emphasizes, “you need to go to the meeting because it is simply the most efficient way to learn about the latest thinking, methods and results in the field. Whether you are an established investigator or someone just starting out, you need to have access to this cutting-edge information.”
“The ASCB Annual Meeting was the first scientific conference I ever attended,” Marshall continues. “I had been in graduate school only a couple of years, and as an electrical engineer who had become interested in living cells, I had the sense that many of my classmates had some outside source of information about cell biology that I didn’t have access to. Gradually it emerged that this magic source of information was the ASCB Annual Meeting. So that year I signed up for the meeting and showed up with my poster. It was like a window onto a whole wider world had been opened. Now I could see the people whose papers I had been reading, hear them discussing their latest results in their own words and even have the chance to talk about my own science with these same individuals when they came to my poster. I haven’t missed a single ASCB Annual Meeting since. I make sure to go every year because I can’t afford to miss it, and neither can you.”
Second, he says, “We are truly blessed in our field to have a single unifying event each year that brings us all together in one place. The tradition of a single, recurring meeting in cell biology that has now been running for 54 years helps to create a group identity. This is particularly important for cell biology, an inherently interdisciplinary field that has historically drawn on methods and concepts from a wide range of disciplines, including molecular biology, cytology, genetics, microscopy and physics.”
Third, he notes, ASCB has a strong tradition of providing mentoring and career support for its members, especially students and postdocs. Again this year, the meeting will include a Professional Development thread comprising a host of activities that can help attendees get jobs or enhance their careers. These activities include a grant writing workshop, scientific career panels, one-on-one CV review, sessions on international training and funding opportunities, career discussion and mentoring roundtables, and much more.
“Finally, the ASCB as a society fights for science funding and helps all of us through its advocacy, outreach and career development activities,” Marshall points out. “The Annual Meeting provides a focal point for regrouping and discussing where these efforts are going. By attending the meeting you have access to workshops and special sessions in a range of important issues and topics. This is the best time and place to make your voice heard in guiding the future of the field and shaping its role in society.”
“On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia”
The subhead above comes to us by way of late, great performer W.C. Fields when he was contemplating his eventual death; also, movies like “Rocky” depict Philadelphia as a gritty, tough city, but this image belies the architectural beauty, cultural diversity and rich history of one of America’s oldest cities.
Within cell biology, Philadelphia has long been a research hub, and that continues to be the case today. In that respect, there are few more appropriate cities for the ASCB/IFCB meeting. But if you are attending, you might want to ensure getting there early, because Saturday starts the meeting with member-organized special interest sessions. These intense sessions feature topics and speakers selected by the people who know cell biology best—the members of ASCB.
That night at 6 p.m., keynote talks from Steven W. Squyres and Robert M. Hazen will offer a panoramic view of reality that spans the history of the cosmos to the origin of life.
Special award talks from Keith Porter Lecturer Michael Sheetz and E.B. Wilson Medalists Bill Brinkley, John Heuser and Peter Satir will cap the program on Sunday and Tuesday evenings. But while these special talks will be exciting and thought-provoking, another important reason to go to a meeting is to learn detailed information that can help you in your own research. And for this purpose you just can’t beat posters. Posters provide the best way to learn the most cutting-edge information from the people actually doing the work and to engage in a back-and-forth discussion that is usually not possible just before, during or after lectures, no matter how interactive the format of some of them. Posters are the heart of any serious meeting, and this has always been particularly true at ASCB.
In recognition of the importance of posters, this year ASCB has carefully structured the meeting schedule to ensure that everyone has plenty of opportunity to view them and meet the presenters. The former concept of the exhibit hall has been transformed into the ASCB Learning Center, and from noon to 3 p.m., Sunday through Tuesday, all meeting activities will take place there. Poster presentations and ePoster talks are scheduled for that time slot. This will also provide an opportunity to interact with the exhibitors, who have been encouraged to provide attendees with a variety of learning experiences, not just “sales pitches.” Visit the exhibits and attend their tech tutorials and tech showcases to learn about the latest advances that help move cell biology forward. Between the posters and exhibits, Marshall insists, you really can learn a lot in the ASCB Learning Center.
Each day the posters are augmented with symposia and minisymposia on a range of topics that span all of cell biology.
Between the special talks, workshops, posters, symposia and minisymposia, think of the ASCB/IFCB meeting as an all-you-can-eat buffet of cell biology for your mind to feast on—after all, Philly is famous for some signature eating options, like cheesesteaks and soft pretzels, among its many other features. But they probably won’t help your career along as well as the ASCB/IFCB fare will.


A new level of international engagement
BETHESDA, Md.—This year ASCB will be hosting its annual meeting in Philadelphia together with the International Federation for Cell Biology, an event that will have a very strong international focus under the leadership of one of ASCB’s greatest champions of international outreach, President Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz. Of special interest this year, points out Executive Director Stefano Bertuzzi, is a special session co-organized by the International Affairs Committee and the Women in Cell Biology Committee that will explore the role and the challenges of women in science in different countries. “This is an event not to be missed by men or women,” Bertuzzi enthuses.
In the recent past, ASCB has strengthened its relationship with several European organizations, such as EMBO, as well as the French Society of Cell Biology, at whose 2013 conference on imaging ASCB sponsored speaker Derek Toomre of Yale University, and the German Society for Cell Biology, at whose annual meeting ASCB sponsorship enabled 2013 Kaluza Prize Winner Tina Han to present the award-winning research she did at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. These are small steps geared, Bertuzzi notes, toward promoting exchanges and engagement among organizations in the same field. ASCB was also a sponsor of the Seventh Congress of the Asia-Pacific Organization for Cell Biology (APOCB), which was held in Singapore in February 2014. The next APOCB meeting will be in India in 2018, and ASCB is planning a higher level of engagement with that event.
“Finally, during the summer Yixian Zheng and I traveled to China,” says Bertuzzi, “where we met with top leaders in cell biology, biophysics and other basic sciences. The economies of East, Southeast and South Asia—including China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan—have been greatly expanding their investments in science, and in 2011 accounted for 34 percent of global research and development investments. These international activities and many others are the concrete implementation of ASCB’s interest in international collaboration.”
Graduate School Fair
PHILADELPHIA—ASCB is holding its annual Graduate School Fair from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in the Grand Hall of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. ASCB invites you to represent your institution (whether U.S. or international) at the Graduate School Fair. The hall will be open at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6, for setup. The tables will be arranged alphabetically by school. Participants will also have two chairs and free WiFi, though no electric or poster boards are available. Also, fair exhibitors may bring laptop presentations, giveaways, brochures, table coverings, etc. It is “quite an informal event,” the organizers emphasize. Cost is $100 per institution.
Brand new for 2014—the ASCB Learning Center
PHILADELPHIA—The exhibit floor as you know it is gone, ASCB states, announcing that “It’s time to interact in a whole new way. Be a part of the newest and most innovative interactive exhibitor community—The ASCB Learning Center,” which will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, through Tuesday, Dec. 9., and will be populated by approximately 1,200 exhibitors. Morning and afternoon refreshment breaks will be provided Sunday through Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and noon to 4 p.m., with a cash bar available.


Keynote speakers will span the origin of life to the cosmos
Underscoring the multidisciplinary focus of this year’s ASCB meeting, keynote speakers Robert M. Hazen and Steven W. Squyres bring career-long research specialties in the origins of life and exploration of space. “Mineral evolution, mineral ecology and the co-evolution of life and rocks” will be the subject of Hazen’s address, while “The habitability of Mars as revealed by the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity” will be discussed by Cornell University’s Squyres. The keynote talks occur on the evening of the meeting’s opening day, Saturday, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m. The event will be followed by an opening night reception and the International Research and Training Exchange Fair.
Robert M. Hazen
Carnegie Institution of Science and Deep Carbon Observatory
Dr. Hazen is a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory and Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University. He received degrees in geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1971 and a Ph.D. at Harvard University in earth science in 1975. After studies as NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at Cambridge University in England, he joined the Carnegie Institution’s research effort.
Hazen is the author of more than 350 articles and 20 books on science, history and music. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he has received the Mineralogical Society of America Award (1982), the American Chemical Society Ipatieff Prize (1986), the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award (1989), the Educational Press Association Award (1992), the Elizabeth Wood Science Writing Award (1998) and the Distinguished Public Service Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America (2009). Hazen’s recent research focuses on the role of minerals in the origin of life, including such processes as mineral-catalyzed organic synthesis and the selective adsorption of organic molecules on mineral surfaces. He has also developed a new approach to mineralogy, called “mineral evolution,” which explores the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere.
In addition to his mineralogical research, he is principal investigator of the Deep Carbon Observatory, which is a 10-year international effort to achieve fundamental advances in understanding the chemical and biological roles of carbon in Earth’s interior.
Some of Hazen’s books, such as The Music Men, Wealth Inexhaustible and Keepers of the Flame—all three co-authored with his wife, Margaret Hindle Hazen—explore ties between technology and culture. The Breakthrough, The New Alchemists, Why Aren’t Black Holes Black, The Diamond Makers and Genesis describe the forefront of scientific research. He has also written widely for popular audiences, including articles in Newsweek, Scientific American, Smithsonian Magazine, New Scientist and The New York Times Magazine. He appears frequently on radio and television programs on science, and he developed two popular video courses: The Joy of Science and The Origins of Life, both produced by The Teaching Company.
In addition to his scientific activities, Hazen is a professional trumpeter. He is presently a member of the National Philharmonic, the Washington Bach Consort and the National Gallery Orchestra.
Steven W. Squyres
James A. Weeks Professor of Physical Sciences
Dr. Squyres’ research focuses on the robotic exploration of planetary surfaces, the history of water on Mars, geophysics and tectonics of icy satellites, tectonics of Venus, planetary gamma-ray and X-ray spectroscopy. Research for which he is best known includes study of the history and distribution of water on Mars and of the possible existence and habitability of a liquid water ocean on Europa.
From 1978 to 1981 he was an associate of the Voyager imaging science team, participating in analysis of imaging data from the encounters with Jupiter and Saturn. He was a radar investigator on the Magellan mission to Venus, a member of the Mars Observer gamma-ray spectrometer flight investigation team and a co-investigator on the Russian Mars 96 mission. Squyres is currently the scientific principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover Project. He is also a co-investigator on the Mars Express mission and on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. He is a member of the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer Flight Investigation Team for the Mars Odyssey mission and a member of the imaging team for the Cassini mission to Saturn.
His scientific publications include “The Athena Mars rover science investigation,” “The Spirit rover’s Athena science investigation at Gusev Crater, Mars,” “In-situ evidence for an ancient aqueous environment at Meridiani Planum, Mars,” “The Opportunity rover’s Athena science investigation at Meridiani Planum, Mars,” “Sedimentary rocks at Meridiani Planum: Origin, diagenesis and implications for life on Mars,” “Rocks of the Columbia Hills,” “Two years at Meridiani Planum: Results from the Opportunity rover,” “Overview of the Opportunity Mars Exploration Rover mission to Meridiani Planum: Eagle Crater to Purgatory Ripple,” “Detection of silica-rich deposits on Mars” and “Exploration of Victoria Crater by the rover Opportunity.”

Future ASCB Annual Meetings
2015 Annual Meeting
Dec. 12-16, 2015
San Diego
2016 Annual Meeting
Dec. 3-7, 2016
San Francisco
2017 Annual Meeting
Dec. 2-6, 2017
2018 Annual Meeting
Dec. 8-12, 2018
San Diego

On the younger side
There are a number of programs geared in whole or in part to students and educators, often with an eye toward graduate and postdoctoral needs. However, the ASCB Annual Meeting also is inclusive of even younger researchers and researchers-to-be.
Undergraduate Program
Saturday, Dec. 6
3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Primarily geared toward undergraduate students and educators, the draw here is “A Hard Day’s Night: Circadian-Regulated Immunity in Drosophila and How to Maximize Your Skill Set While Becoming a Scientist” by speaker Mimi Shirazu-Hisa of Columbia University. In this presentation, Shirasu-Hiza will share some of the lessons she learned (some in the middle of the night) while studying the circadian rhythm of immunity in fruit flies. Many of your strengths can be maximized if you recognize them, she notes. She will also emphasize the importance of listening to your own results, thinking critically, peer-mentoring and learning to put results into a narrative. These skills are not taught in any class but are often crucial for science and successful work-life balance. There will be time for Q&A.
High School Program
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
For high school students, parents and their teachers
The presentation “Explore the World with a Fold-Your-Own Microscope” asks, in part, “What if every person in the world could carry a microscope around in their pocket?” That is one of the ideas behind the Foldscope, a 50-cent print-and-fold paper mass-produced microscope. This year, at the high school program, students will hear from developer Manu Prakash about this technology and then assemble their own Foldscopes so that they can begin exploring the world around them. Students are welcome to bring and investigate their own samples of interest; prepared samples will also be available. ASCB scientists and educators will be on hand to assist students in their investigations. Students will also be able to experience different types of microscopy on specialized Foldscopes, allowing them to learn about different ways that scientists observe samples.

Exhibitor Tech Talks
Sunday, Dec. 7
Sidra Medical and Research Center: A Unique Opportunity to Pursue an International Career
eBiocience, an Affymetrix company: Visualize the Whole Picture – RNA and Protein Expression by Microscopy
EMD Millipore Corporation: The Many Roads to Cell Death – Gaining a Practical Understanding of Apoptosis, Necrosis and Autophagy
Bruker Nano Surfaces: High-Speed Super-Resolution Imaging in 3D Using the Vutara 350
Abcam Inc: Getting the Best Immunohistology Images: Troubleshooting Tips and Tricks
Essen BioScience: Exploring Cell Biology in Time and Space
Bruker Nano Surfaces: Investigating Cell Mechanics with PeakForce QNM
BitPlane: 3D/4D Tools for Time-Lapse and Intracellular Image Analysis within Imaris
Quartzy: Getting Started with Online Lab Management
The National Center for Biotechnology Information: Using Advanced Features and Batch Access with NCBI BLAST Sequence Similarity Search Services
Monday, Dec. 8
EMD Millipore: Dynamic Cell Biology: Trends and Innovative Technologies
Carl Zeiss: Structured Illumination Microscopy – Challenges in the Acquisition and Processing of Image Data
Carl Zeiss: Approaching the Limit: Multiplexed Super-Resolution Microscopy with DNA-PAINT and Exchange-PAINT
Carl Zeiss: LSM 880 and Airyscan – A User’s Perspective
Cell Signaling Technology: Optimized Analysis of Cellular Signaling Events by IF Imaging and Flow Cytometric Assays
GE Healthcare: The New Standard in Western Blotting and The New Amersham 600 Imager Series (CCD-based camera systems)
John Wiley Ph.D., Editor in Chief, BioEssays: Want People to Read Your Paper? Here’s How to Optimize Your Chances…
GE Healthcare: Investigating Biology through Quantitative Imaging and Analysis from GE Healthcare
Abcam Inc: Getting the Best Immunohistology Images: Troubleshooting Tips and Tricks
GE Global Research: MultiOmyx – A New Platform for High-Order In-situ Multiplex Analysis of Biological Samples
Nikon Instruments Inc: Using Quantitative and Superresolution Microscopy to Visualize the Dynamic, 3D Molecular Clutch That Drives Cell Migration
Nikon Instruments Inc: Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy (LSFM): Imaging Faster and Gentler
Abcam Inc.: Getting the Best Immunohistology Images: Troubleshooting Tips and Tricks
Thermo Fisher Scientific: Lipofectamine 3000 and MessengerMAX: New Delivery Solutions for Biologically Relevant Cell Models
Bruker Nano: Confocal Microscopy at the Speed of Life
BioTek: Enabling 3D Cell Culture Technologies
Journal of Histochemistry & Cytochemistry: Coverslips to Covers: A Microscope to Publication Image Primer
Tuesday, Dec. 9
Cellecta Inc: Loss-of-Function Genetic Screens Find Key Genes and Potential Drug Targets
Life Technologies: Quantitative Image Analysis for Complex Cell Models using High Content Analysis Software
Life Technologies: Fluorescence Methods to Learn What Your Cells Are Really Trying to Tell You
EMD Millipore Corp.: Higher-Throughput Tissue Staining Using a Novel Immunohistochemistry Method
EMD Millipore Corp.: Novel Strategies for Extracting and Detecting Membrane-Bound Brain Proteins

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