Keep an eye on science


Editor’s note: This year, the Light has picked a handful of people to watch in the New Year. We’ve selected them for what they’re likely to bring to our community - in this case the scientific community.

Next week we’ll look at people who may play a role in the daily life and businesses in la Jolla.

Entrepreneur Larry Bock is the driving force behind the

San Diego Science Festival

  1. Billed as the largest multicultural, multigenerational, multidisciplinary celebration of science on the West Coast, this inaugural event will take place throughout the entire month of March 2009 and will feature hundreds of events in venues around San Diego County.

Bock was inspired to take on the project because San Diego is on the forefront of scientific research and development and is home to many of top scientific corporations. He took as his model science festivals in other parts of the world that currently draw crowds in the hundreds of thousands.
So far, the San Diego Science Festival has partnered with more than 100 businesses and organizations in the community, among them UCSD and the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Bock’s goal is an event that unites the community, inspires educational dialogue within participating families, and showcases the science and innovation taking place in San Diego.

Phil Bourne, a UCSD professor in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, had applied online video and social networking to the world of science. Bourne is co-founder of


, a Web site that enables researchers (in all fields) to post online videos in which they communicate about their peer-reviewed research and meeting posters.

The goal of the so-called “YouTube of science” is to make the process of science more visible, shareable, and accessible throughout the research cycle. There’s content on the site that appeals to all age groups.

SciVee partners include the National Science Foundation, UCSD’s CalIt2, San Diego Supercomputer Center, and the online journal PloS (Public Library of Science).

Former Johns Hopkins University President William Brody takes over the helm at the Salk Institute for Biological Research in March. Brody brings to his new job as Salk president an impressive background in both medicine and electrical and computer engineering as well as academic leadership of one of the nation’s top universities.

As an administrator Brody led Johns Hopkins for more than 12 years. During his tenure, he oversaw the completion of two major fundraising campaigns that raised $1.52 billion and $3.1 billion, respectively.

Brody’s skills as a fundraiser will be called immediately into action as Salk looks to fund a $250 million expansion plan, approved in October 2008 by the San Diego City Council.

A decade ago, Del Mar resident and real estate developer Ivan Gayler sold his interest in the Del Mar Plaza to become a fulltime conservationist. He founded

Nature and Culture International (NCI)

which, to date, has developed an impressive track record in several Latin American countries including being the driving force that led UNESCO to declare 2.8 million acres of Andean cloud forests, in Ecuador, as a biosphere reserve.

Gayler understands that linking the well being of local communities to conservation efforts is vital for success. With that in mind NCI has developed programs that allow indigenous populations to make a decent living using land in sustainable ways. NCI also has a carbon offset program in which every dollar goes directly toward buying valuable tropical rainforest land. Watch Gayler and NCI continue to come up with innovative ways to conserve nature and improve the quality of life on this planet.

Rhonda F. Rhyne is leading

Athena San Diego

through a significant stage in its growth and development. Previously part of the UCSD Rady School of Management, Athena recently completed its transition to a fully independent and operational 501(c)(3) organization that serves the needs of executive women in the San Diego life sciences, technology, healthcare, and business communities.

Achieving stand-alone status as an organization has been a goal of Athena since its inception in the 1990s as an informal networking group for women members of UCSD CONNECT.

Geneticist J. Craig Venter, has an institute that bears his name with locations in both La Jolla and Rockville, Md.

In 2007, Venter made Time Magazine’s “Top 10 Scientific Discoveries” by publishing his entire genetic sequence - all the DNA in both sets of chromosomes inherited from each of his parents. It was the first such genome ever published of a single person. He made Time’s “Top 10” list again in 2008 for creating the first synthetic bacterial genome.

The next step, which is ongoing at the

J. Craig Venter Institute

, is to attempt to create a living bacterial cell based entirely on the synthetically made genome. Anyone care to make a wager as to whether Venter’s team can do it? Venter is audacious but always worth watching.