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Division of Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry (DCPB): 1999 Fall Newsletter

This Newsletter by Section

Message from the Chair

Tim Bradley

This has been an active summer for the SICB officers. Martin Feder, in his capacity as president of SICB, has organized and presided over a strategic planning process designed to direct the growth and progress of the society over the coming decade.

After a period of financial instability, SICB now finds itself in good fiscal health. This is coupled with a renewed commitment by the membership to exploit the burgeoning areas of scientific growth in the society. The strategic planning process was designed to provide ideas for future growth to the Executive Committee and the full membership for discussion. Several members of our division, including myself, Robert Full as chair of the Science Task Force and Harvey Lillywhite as SICB member-at-large, contributed to these discussions. Ideas derived from the meetings will soon be distributed to the full membership. I hope that every member will review the proposed ideas and suggestions and provide input to Martin Feder or me concerning future directions for the society.

Plans are well underway for the SICB Annual Meeting in Atlanta, January 4-8, 2000. The division is sponsoring a number of excellent symposia. I hope to see you all there.

Message from the Program Officer

Michele Wheatly

Many of us are in the process of recovering from altitude sickness following the highly successful Fifth International Congress of Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry in Calgary last month.

Looming on the horizon is the SICB Annual Meeting in Atlanta (January 4-10, 2000) which can be considered either the last meeting of the present millennium or the first meeting of the new millennium, depending upon which school of thought you ascribe to! Either way, it should be a great meeting and you are urged to attend and bring students/postdocs with you. Our division is sponsoring two symposia. The first, "Intermittent Locomotion: Integrating the Physiology, Biomechanics and Behavior of Repeated Activity," has been organized by Randi Weinstein (Arizona) and Bob Full (Berkeley) and co-sponsored by the Division of Animal Behavior and the Division of Vertebrate Morphology. The second, "Osmoregulation: An Integrated Approach," has been organized by David Towle (Lake Forest) and Joan Ferraris (NIH) and co-sponsored by the Division of Comparative Endocrinology, the Division of Invertebrate Zoology and The Crustacean Society. The latter symposium will be listed as a formal tribute to the late Charlotte Mangum. At our divisional business meeting in Atlanta, we will discuss memorializing Charlotte's legacy by naming one symposium in her memory each year.

At the start of April, there was a flurry of activity as all divisional program officers harassed the membership to come up with ideas for symposium proposals for the Chicago meeting in 2001. We obviously did an excellent job since the number of proposals received at the Business Office is in the high teens, which is a record! These proposals are being circulated among the divisional officers for approval. Several of these will be sponsored/co-sponsored by our division. So, it looks like we are in good shape for the Windy City in 2001. Watch this space for an update on the Chicago proposals. Apparently abstract submissions are also up, and the society is considering allowing abstracts to be added in late. So, for those of you who are born procrastinators, you will get a second chance! Check your e-mail.

The millennium is bringing a host of meetings worldwide for those of us interested in comparative physiology (see Message from the Secretary below). But, remember the world tour starts in Atlanta at the SICB Annual Meeting in January 2000. See you there!

Message from the Secretary

Jeannette Doeller

Thanks to Nancy Sanders for her service as DCPB secretary. Thanks also to Wyatt Hoback for his service as DCPB representative to the Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee and to Brian Eads for agreeing to take over the post.

The SICB strategic planning report mentioned by Tim Bradley can be viewed on the Web at http://pondside.uchicago.edu/~feder/SICB/stratplan.html. In it, important society issues are addressed, and any membership feedback on these issues would greatly appreciated. In keeping with one aspect of the strategic planning suggestions, namely enhancing SICB's international presence, here is a list of upcoming meetings, in addition to our own annual meetings, for comparative physiologists and biochemists in the next several years. The opportunities presented by these meetings, such as the excellent 5th ICCPB in Calgary this August 1999, are clearly invaluable. I'm looking forward to seeing you all in Atlanta!

December 20-22, 1999
Physiological Society Meeting
University of Birmingham, UK

March 27-31, 2000
SEB Annual Meeting
Exeter University, UK

June 15-17, 2000
German Zoological Society International Symposium on Animal Physiology
University of Bonn, Germany

July 24-28, 2000
European Society for Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry
Liege, Belgium

July 30- August 3, 2000
SEB, ANZSCPB, APS, CSZ, SICB 2000 Milestones and Goals
Cambridge, UK

September 5-9 2000
European Society of Endocrinology
Faro, Portugal

August 18-24, 2001
Chobe National Park, Botswana

August 26-31, 2001
IUPS XXXIV International Congress of Physiological Sciences
Christchurch, New Zealand

Fall 2002
APS, CSZ, SEB, SICB Comparative Physiology meeting
perhaps San Diego, California
Contact Jim Hicks (University of California, Irvine) jhicks@uci.edu, before December 1, 1999

Southeastern Australia
Contact Russ Baudinette (University of Adelaide) or Peter Frappell (LaTrobe University)

Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee Report

Brian Eads, DCPB Representative to the Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee

As we count down the days until the new millennium, I thought it appropriate to reflect upon the challenges that we students/scientists-in-training will be required to face in the coming years. Specifically, I believe we need to understand the importance of solid communication skills in doing good science. By this I mean not just experimental design, execution and interpretation, but also the wider dialogue that occurs within the scientific community about our work, and perhaps even more importantly, how we engage a wider public audience. Aside from what has been popularized in literature and on television, most of what the lay public understands about science comes either from (usually outdated) formal schooling or newspaper reports. These sources leave a lot to be desired in terms of a deeper understanding of the complexities of the issues at stake. Our job as scientists, then, is to make people (mainly, but not exclusively, students) understand why what we are doing is important and, as much as possible, help them understand the deeper meanings of the facts we are gathering.

Although many people are naturally curious about the world around them, the applicability of scientific findings (from comparative physiology, for instance) to human concerns is usually their first point of reference. For example, the most common reply I hear from people when I tell them I study metabolic quiescence in shrimp is that we should extend these findings to suspend human metabolism for deep space flight. Such attitudes are appropriate to the extent that scientists should be providing useful and timely information to the public, who largely foot the bill for our research. However, it also ignores the human and technical dimensions of our work and encourages a dangerous, or at least short-sighted, approach to science funding that is based purely on utility (which of course begs the questions of what is useful and to whom). Our role as scientists, then, is not purely within the scientific community, but must reach out to encompass the larger social network of which we are a part. We are ambassadors and advocates as much as investigators and instructors.

In this connection, I am heartened by the fact that graduate students are usually given extensive opportunities to interact with their nonscientist peers, specifically through the teaching that most of us do at some point in our graduate careers. The added workload of helping students, although sometimes difficult or demanding, should serve as a reminder of the true value of a scientific education, which is not simply to be able to critique journal articles well, but perhaps more importantly, to evaluate scientific work in its context and share this cogently with the layperson. Although time always feels short during graduate school, and despite the truism that only research confers a degree, for long-term health, graduate education must emphasize the importance of communicating and teaching science as a discipline and method rather than as a body of facts or ideas. Unfortunately, resources for teacher training are scarce, and a commitment to improve ones own abilities must often suffice.

Is graduate school, then, our last best chance to learn how science is done and taught? Hardly. The pursuit of a Ph.D. is only the beginning of learning how to decipher and interpret, communicate and inspire. In closing, thanks to Wyatt Hoback for his service as student rep for DCPB. See you in Atlanta at the turn of the century!

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