Monday, December 21, 2009

Men for All Seasons

We agree with The - one individual stands out as the most accomplished scientists of 2009.

Unless you have been living under a rock this year, you probably know that Francis Collins, MD, PhD, was appointed director of the National Institutes of Health in August.

The geneticist accepted the position after 15 years at the helm of the National Human Genome Research Institute, during which time he helped finish the Human Genome Project ahead of schedule and under budget. Since taking control of the NIH, Collins has been pushing an agenda focused on personalized medicine and stem cell research, backing the efforts by approving 40 new human embryonic stem cell lines as eligible for federal funding. Dr. Collins has also found time to be a much more public figure than previous NIH directors, taking time out to rock with Aerosmith's Joe Perry and joke around with Stephen Colbert.

While directing the National Human Genome Research Institute, he formed a rock band called 'The Directors" with other NIH scientists.  They frequently dueled with a rock band from Johns Hopkins University, led by esteemed cancer researcher Bert Vogelstein who once said, "Anyone who likes to play with toys has got to like science because scientists have the world's best toys."

Bart Gordon comes in as a close second in our opinion.

As Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, the 13th term Democrat from Tennessee played a key role in ensuring science got a major boost from stimulus funding.

Bart Gordon also authored bills to further nanotechnology research and commercialization (H.R. 554, passed February 11), require that the President create a national water strategy (H.R. 1145, passed April 23), and improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs (H.R. 1709, passed June 8).

Gordon also helped allocate $400 million in stimulus funding to start the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency -- Energy, which funds high risk, high reward energy research. Although the Congressman announced he won't be running for re-election next year, science sure was lucky to have him around in 2009.