Both your editorial "Pursuing Scientific Excellence" (C&EN, June 14, page 5) and Michael Heylin's article "Science Is Becoming Truly Worldwide" (page 38) fail to recognize that scientific excellence is proportional neither to the number of papers published nor to the number of Ph.D. degrees conferred. Many papers and theses are far from excellent. Likewise, most patents have little value and are never used.
Actually, scientific excellence usually stems from the creative idea of an individual subsequently carried forward to reality, often by a group of capable supporting scientists, using the tools of science, such as chemistry.
Thus, to enhance the scientific excellence of the U.S., a substantial nationwide emphasis should be placed on releasing the intrinsic, but often muted, creativity of all Americans. This is already being done in a popular chemical engineering course at the University of Washington, Seattle, with quite remarkable results.
G. Graham Allan
An ailing cure
Thank you for an excellent article regarding carbohydrate vaccines (C&EN, Aug. 9, page 31). On page 35, John B. Robbins is quoted as saying that Salmonella typhi is "the best typhoid vaccine that's ever been made ... vaccines don't make much money. The Vi conjugate vaccine is so revolutionary, and typhoid is such a common and serious disease around the world, but no manufacturer in the U.S. or Europe is interested in it." Is this still true? If so, shame on us. What stand will the American Chemical Society take to catalyze implementation of such a vaccine?
Could this be our "Chemists Without Frontiers," à la "Médicins Sans Frontières?" I, for one, would be glad to participate in an endeavor to raise funds to promote these medicines.
Home at Hunter
Thank you for recognizing my alma mater, Hunter College, in the article "On Equal Ground" (C&EN, June 28, page 43). I am a product of the public school system of New York City. As a resident of what is known as "Spanish Harlem," I graduated with honors from P.S. 86, P.S. 99, and Hunter College High School. At Hunter College, I chose to major in physical chemistry with a minor in mathematics and physics. My graduate studies consist of an M.A. in biochemistry from Columbia University and an M.S. in molecular biology from New York University. I completed the requirements for a doctorate in physiology and biochemistry from Rutgers.
My work experience includes employment as a laboratory technician and then research assistant at Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research and later as a research assistant at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. My postdoctoral work was done at Sloan-Kettering and at the Population Council when it was located on the campus of Rockefeller University. I gained teaching experience as a part-time lecturer at Douglass College, the women's division at Rutgers, and then as assistant professor of biology at Seton Hall University. All of this background served me well as a program officer at the National Science Foundation for more than 20 years.
All of the above was accomplished by a person who was "female, minority, and poor." I am indeed grateful for having been a Hunterite.
Prescription for youth
Thanks for the depth and breadth of your cover article "Defying Aging" (C&EN, Aug. 23, page 30). But you neglected the cheapest and most effective antiaging therapy--exercise. Sure, I'm a chemist, and I'd love to see a valid pharmaceutical methodology for prolonging healthy, useful life spans (and I'd love to have invested in the right company), but simple, regular exercise will have that effect. Just walk down to the pharmacy, and then walk back, without buying anything. Maybe I should invest in the ironically appropriately named "health clubs."