Message from the Chair
John P. Wourms
Amongst the pleasures and chores that coincide with the beginning of the academic year,
there is the need to compose the chair's message. This is my last one, for chair-elect
Scott Gilbert will be taking over at the 1999 SICB Annual Meeting in Denver (Jan. 6-10).
My duties have been made much easier by the hard work and dedication our program officer,
Billie Swalla and our secretary, Charles Ellis. Many thanks to both of you! The challenge
of the future is to insure the continued viability of our division. In this respect, one
can phrase the following question: How do we bring a distinctive integrative and
comparative approach to the study of developmental and cell biology?
By now, the abstracts have long since been submitted and preparations should be well
underway for the meeting. I urge all members within 500 miles of Denver to attend with
their graduate and advanced undergraduate students. It is imperative that we involve more
students in the meeting. Denver is a truly fine site. In addition, there will be a meeting
of the Julia B. Platt Club just prior to the Annual Meeting. The club provides a forum for
those interested in evolutionary morphology and development.
An outstanding program has been prepared for the Annual Meeting. Our division is
cosponsoring a symposium titled "Evolutionary Origin of Feathers." In addition,
there are at least five symposia that should be of interest to cell and developmental
biologists: "Endocrine Disrupting Contaminants: From Gene to Ecosystems,"
"Organismal, Ecological and Evolutionary Significance of Heat Shock Proteins and the
Heat Shock Response," "Evolution of Starfishes: Morphology, Molecules,
Development and Paleobiology," "Function and Evolution of the Vertebrate
Axis," and "Comparative Vertebrate Reproduction: Neuroendocrinology, Behavior
and Life History Aspects." There will be a number of contributed paper sessions
sponsored by our division and also several interdivisional sessions, one of which is
"Reproduction and Life Cycles." The SICB Annual Meeting provides an unique
opportunity for individuals interested in cell developmental biology not only to exchange
ideas with colleagues in their own field, but also to be enriched by dialogue with
colleagues from other fields. It is through the latter aspect that the integrative and
comparative approach can be attained.
Please plan to attend the annual business meeting of the division. As I noted in the
Spring 1998 newsletter, attendance at the last meeting was poor. Participation of the
membership in the affairs of the division is essential for its continued well-being.
Established members should look upon their participation as an investment in the next
generation of scholars and a debt of honor to their own mentors. Those members just
embarking on their careers will find participation a means of becoming acquainted with a
broad circle of colleagues. A major item of business will be the search for candidates for
the position of program officer. Billie Swalla had accepted our request to remain in
office for an additional year. It is rather obvious that the position of program officer
is of considerable importance. The program officer plays a vital role in organizing
symposia, workshops and refresher courses and in planning our contributed paper and
Next year's Annual Meeting will be in Atlanta, Jan. 4-8, 2000. Atlanta is readily
accessible by plane, train and auto, so plan to be there. It is not too early to begin
organizing a symposium, workshop or refresher course for the Atlanta meeting. We have
members whose research would form the basis of symposia or workshops that would be of
considerable interest to our participating members. I encourage interested parties to
contact Billie Swalla, who can advise on organization and planning and help with the
details of funding any formal divisional program. Although organizing a symposium is hard
work, it is also very rewarding. The fields of developmental and cell biology are in a
state of flux. Much is happening. Share your excitement and insights by organizing a
symposium or workshop.
The only news to report regarding divisional business is that the results of the
election for secretary came in from the SICB Business Office, and I was elected to
continue in this position for the next three years.
Last year I was astonished at the small number of ballots cast in the contested
election for chair-elect, and this year I found it ironic that an uncontested election
actually had a slightly higher turnout. As an optimist, I can hope that this is a sign of
increased interest in DDCB affairs rather than a random artifact of small sample sizes.
As John Wourms points out in his message, Billie Swalla is continuing for one last year
as program officer. In the spring, we will hold the election for her successor. It is not
too early for members to begin thinking about nominations, or volunteering to be nominated
for this most important position. While Scott Gilbert, our incoming chair, will not be
appointing a Nominating Committee until the meeting in January, you should feel free to
communicate nominations or personal interest for the position to Scott or me. The strength
of our program offerings is in the balance. The program officer is also one of the few who
has a voice in trying to minimize schedule conflicts between sessions at the Annual
Meeting. Please help us find someone who can follow Billie's excellent example.
I look forward to seeing many of you at the 1999 SICB Annual Meeting in Denver (Jan.
6-10). In the meantime, I would welcome any news items for the Spring 1999 newsletter or
suggestions for ways in which our communication can be made more valuable.