Right now as the payline at NIAID is the 10th percentile… us microbiologists don’t have a lot to celebrate. Every single paper and grant submission is a hard slog, multiple re-submissions, and no light at the end of the tunnel. It is truly a test of perseverance that we, as a community, have not seen in years- and it is wearing down many a fine microbiologist. Morale is low…. in some cases very, very low.
This morning we got something to celebrate- with the announcement that Stanley Falkow is the winner of one of the Lasker-Koshland Awards for this year. You should read about the remarkable accomplishments of this man, and members of his laboratory, in microbiology, including the discovery of plasmids, the mechanism of transposition, mechanisms of antibiotic resistance, and many, many seminal advances in the study of pathogenic microbes. A wonderful tribute written by one of his former trainee’s will appear in the next issue of Cell (which I will link to when it becomes publicly available).
Speaking of his trainees though- at the last meeting I attended … you know-three initials .. held in non-air conditioned New Hampshire Boarding School where there is no cell phone reception… I was struck by the number of really excellent scientists in that room that were trained in his laboratory, or were trained by former members of his laboratory. The number of scientific ‘children’ and ‘grandchildren’ who are working to move the field forward is really quite amazing. So many times this business is adversarial, with ugly politics, excessive competitiveness, and we have very little good to say about each other- that makes it all the more important that at moments like this we step back and celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of this excellent microbiologist- as the community that we are.
So- a toast to you Stanley- I am one of your scientific ‘grandchildren’ and although we have never met in person – your insights into microbiology, pathogenic microbiology, infectious diseases, and teaching & mentoring have informed my career and my thinking about pathogenic microbiology in ways too numerous to count…(and I often quote you to my students… ‘It may be shit to you… but it’s my bread and butter!!’)