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These articles by Barbara Fox were prepared for the October 25,
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Shirley Tilghman’s `Fun’ Science
That Shirley Tilghman finds her work exciting
is an understatement. Last week one of her graduate students,
Semenova, confirmed that she had made a very large deletion in
the mouse genome — a technical tour de force with enormous
for studying the functions of genes.
As head of the new Institute of Integrative Genomics at Princeton
Tilghman is charged with focusing on basic research, bringing to the
field not only a state-of-the-art scientific institute but a new
addressing integration and complexity. Her mission is to decipher
"how [genetic] parts fit together to create a functional cell,
a functional organ, a functional organism."
Tilghman is well aware that only lately have women been able to hold
such prestigious positions. Six years ago she warned in a women’s
journal, "I know of few other professions where the excitement
that brought you to the field in the first place is sustained over
so many years. It would be a tragedy to exclude women from all this
Tilghman is on a panel with Elliott Sigal of Bristol-Myers
and John Baumann, a radiation oncologist at the Medical Center
of Princeton, moderated by science writer Richard Preston on
Wednesday, November 1, at 7:30 p.m., at Princeton University’s
Hall. The Medical Center at Princeton is sponsoring the free program,
entitled "Releasing the Genome in the Bottle: The Promise of
for New Medicines." Registration is required: call 609-497-4190.
She will focus on the science of the human genome project, what the
project has done, and what the impact will be on the understanding
of the fundamentals of biology. "Much attention has been given
to its impact on medicine — the ways information will be
into better medicines, better diagnostics, and better therapies. I
will try to give people a better sense of how knowing the `parts list’
will help us write the `instruction manual,’ one of the many metaphors
that describe how the practice of biology is carried out."
Shirley Tilghman attributes her interest in science to a fascination
with numbers and puzzles, an interest in which she was encouraged
by her father. "He never questioned that it would be a wonderful
thing for a girl to be a scientist," she says. She grew up in
Ontario. Canada, where her father was a banker, and was the second
oldest of four sisters. One is now a professor of economics, one
horses, and the eldest lives in a group home for the mentally
She majored in chemistry and graduated with honors from Queen’s
in Ontario in 1968, later earning a PhD in biochemistry from Temple.
She did postdoctoral work at the National Institutes of Health, where
she did groundbreaking work in cloning mammalian genes, and then
at the Institute for Cancer Research in Fox Chase before coming to
Princeton University in 1986.
But right after college she taught school for two years in Sierra
Leone. "It was the ’60s, and I wanted to do something for somebody
else," she says. Working with people for whom English is a second
language, she says, "you learn how to use metaphors and get at
the core of an idea, rather than getting lost in the details."
Communicating her vision to philanthropists is one of
her most important jobs as head of the Institute. "I am absolutely
dependent on Harold Shapiro’s extraordinary rapport with the
she says. "The qualities that make somebody a good teacher also
make an effective fundraiser — the ability to communicate big
ideas, put the initiative in a broad perspective, and to feel
about what you are trying to raise money for. If you believe it, you
can convince others to believe in it."
These "good teacher" traits are not, she insists,
female. "I just don’t think that way. The most important thing
that directors need is a clear vision of what they want to do."
For hiring her fellows, she says, a director needs "very good
taste in science," particularly important for a multidisciplinary
institute. "It is virtually impossible to be an expert in every
area, and I have to depend on my colleagues for peer review."
Tilghman has made have four formal appointments so far and will do
several searches this year and next year. When the building opens
in 2002 she will move to get to capacity — 12 to 15 appointments.
Senior faculty members might bring 12 to 15 staffers with them, while
junior faculty may come alone and build their departments later. The
total in the building, including support staff, post doctorals, and
undergraduates working on senior theses, will be 120 to 150 people.
Her biggest surprise since taking this job is how much of her input
was needed on the new building, designed by architect Rafael
who also designed the Princeton University stadium. The building is
being named for Carl Icahn, the real estate and manufacturing
tycoon and 1957 Princeton graduate, who donated $20 million toward
the building’s construction. It is scheduled to be finished in early
"Essentially, I spent one day a week with the architects for the
last year. One of the most fascinating things is to get an insight
into how a different profession goes about their work," she says.
The design of the laboratories is innovative, she says, because she
rejected the traditional design of cookie cutter labs. "The notion
that one size fits all absolutely does not work for our institution.
We will have chemists and physicists and computer scientists in ratios
we cannot predict today. So we are using completely modular laboratory
furniture including walls that can be disassembled in a matter of
days." The system of metal panels connecting to grids on floor
and ceiling was developed in Silicon Valley for clean rooms. "If
you have a molecular biologist and change to a physicist, you don’t
have to spend six months ripping out and reassembling walls in a
state. It works like Legos, all assembled in little units."
In spite of all the fun Tilghman is having, at 54, she is looking
forward to retirement. "One of the downsides of having a very
demanding professional career AND having a family (she has two
children) is that there are literally hundreds of things that I would
like to do. The notion of dying in my mouse room is not attractive
to me, not at all. I have very strong plans for retiring, certainly
before age 65."
And anyway, the best research is being done by the young. "The
mean age of doing the experiment that wins you a Nobel prize is in
the mid 30s," says Tilghman. "It has been documented that
the most exciting research is being done by people in their 30s."
People like Semenova, who have both skill and good fortune. "She
had taken out a 1/2 million of the 3 billion base pairs in the mouse
genome," says Tilghman, "and did it with new technology that
allows us to manipulate chromosomes in animals as complex as mammals
in order to understand what the functions of the gene are in that
"When Ekaterina designed this experiment, we assumed there were
many genes in this 1/2 million base pair. Now that we have the
we know that there is only one gene in that region. It is very unusual
to have so few genes in such a big amount of information. Now, when
she analyzes the mice that do not have this region, she will be able
to attribute the effect of the deletion," says Tilghman. "It
has changed her whole project — and it is also a technical tour
— Barbara Fox
The trend for manufacturers with industrial products is to turn those
products into something that can be sold in the consumer market, says
Joan Sitarz, director of Market Entry Direct, who keynoted a
federal department of commerce meeting in Reno earlier this month. Her
presentation, "How to Get Your Products in Front of Millions of
Potential Clients" was presented to the National Institute of
Standards and Technology’s annual Manufacturing Extensions Partnership
joint technical working session.
Market Entry Direct, based on George Davison Road, acts as
manufacturers’ representatives to the catalog industry. "We are
national, and we are not industry specific, so we run the gamut from
autos to toys," says Sitarz, who is an alumna of Shippensburg
University, Class of 1981. A former owner of a small apparel
manufacturing company and department store buyer, she has helped
launched new companies and products for Fortune 500 firms and
independent start-ups (609-799-8898, E-mail: email@example.com).
A manufacturer that wants to turn an industrial project into a
consumer product should:
says, but that is not necessarily the best place to be, because
distribution can be difficult. Instead of making one wholesale
shipment, factories have to "drop ship" individually. "Also, websites
go out of business and that could kill you as a small manufacturer,"
says Sitarz, "whereas catalogs buy wholesale and have their
distribution set up to do ones-ies."
Catalogs are an excellent entree to the marketplace, in part because
they buy wholesale and reach millions of potential customers, but also
because catalog owners are very good at database management. "They
know who buys from the catalog and who should be getting the catalog."
"Having your product in a catalog gives you instant credibility and
national exposure and the ability to sell product," says Sitarz.
One caveat: "If you are in catalogs you can’t be out at retail, unless
you are in the high end mom & pop shops."
Will the Web kill catalogs? No, says Sitarz, because the Web is
supplementing catalogs. "Catalogs are now web-present. They are
branded in paper, are spreading to the web, and are now going to
bricks & mortar, where people can see and touch."
"The catalog sale is a very long sale, 18 to 24 months," says Sitarz.
"It is tough market to crack. You have to be tenacious."
Town halls in nearly every municipality are offering
passports now, but the East Brunswick Public Library is going them one
better: taking passport applications on evenings and Saturdays. The
administration office will accept passport application from on
weeknights, Monday to Thursday, from 5 to 9 p.m., and on Saturdays
from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Parking is free at 2 Jean Walling Civic Center, off Ryders Lane. The
library sends the applications to the passport agency office in
Philadelphia, which mails passports directly to applicants. Any U.S.
citizen can apply here; you do not need to be an East Brunswick or New
Jersey resident. Bring old passport, two 2 x 2 passport photos, and
two checks. Those without an old passport must bring items: proof of
citizenship such as a certified birth certificate and identification
such as a valid U.S. driver’s license. For information call
Those who are looking for jobs, or foresee that they will lose their
jobs soon, can sign up for a free three-day workshop hosted by the
Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County. It is
set for Tuesday, October 31 and Thursday and Friday, November 2 and 3,
from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 707 Alexander Road, Suite 102.
Participants will learn about self-assessment, opportunities to
develop skills, resume writing, interviewing, and the whole topic of
looking for jobs. Those who sign up must attend all three days and
preregistration is required. Call 609-987-8100.
Trenton Central High School seeks businesses and agencies to provide
sites for internships for its students who are being organized in
small, career-focused learning communities. "We would also like to
form an advisory board for each small learning community," says
Priscilla M. Dawson, the principal. "The advisory board will
serve as a resource by providing information about the latest trends
in the industry, helping to establish workplace standards for our
students, and assisting in securing resources."
In addition to working with the internship program, other
opportunities to help students might involve providing career
speakers, hosting students on a field trip to a company facility,
providing mentors to students, or providing scholarships. Yet another
way would be to offer slots for a Job Shadow Day set for Friday,
February 2, 2001.
A partnership breakfast will be held on Thursday, November 9, at 7:30
a.m. at the school at 400 Chambers Street. For information call
Mary Burks at 609-989-2425 or Mary White
Or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Counseling Service on Mercer Street, has taken the lead to ask fellow
clergy members to encourage faith communities to sign organ and tissue
sharing donor forms on National Donor Sabbath Weekend, November 10 to
12. Stimpson’s wife has been battling an inherited autoimmune liver
disease and is on a transplant waiting list. For information call the
Sharing Network (www.sharenj.org or 800-SHARE NJ).
sponsoring a Halloween party on Friday, October 27, for 100 teens and
young adult in the Association for Retarded Citizens.
"Yvonne Theater" on Friday, November 10, at a gala performance of "The
Fantasticks." A $250,000 gift from John Spitznagel
children, Yvonne and John Jr., honors Yvonne Alexander
John Spitznagel recently retired as president and CEO of Roberts
Pharmaceutical, a 16-year-old biotech company with 130 employees based
in Eatontown. He is a Rider journalism graduate (Class of 1963) as was
his late wife (Class of 1964), and both were editors of the student
newspaper and wrote theater reviews. This production was chosen
because when the future Spitznagels attended their first play at
McCarter Theater together, the play on the boards on that evening was
"The Fantasticks." The gift has paid for a modern light board and
sound system, new seating and carpeting, enhanced stage curtains, and
a remodeled lobby.
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