Two NIHers Named to Forbes List of 30 Under 30
BY REBECCA G. BAKER, NIAID
Get ready, world. NIH intramural researchers are coming your way. Forbes Magazine compiles an annual list of 450 innovators under 30 years old—30 people in each of 15 categories—who are not waiting to make their mark. In 2014, two of the 30 promising young stars in the Science and Health Care category came from NIH’s Intramural Research Program: Anna Lau and Gregory Alushin.
Fungal infections are difficult to diagnose and treat and are sometimes deadly, but the NIH Clinical Center’s Anna Lau (who turns 30 in June) is up to the challenge. Even before becoming a staff scientist in the NIH Clinical Center, she played a role in developing diagnostic tests for fungal infections. Her work has culminated in a new NIH database that may help doctors to more accurately identify fungi in patient blood using mass spectrometry. She is “thrilled to … see our NIH Mold Database shared with other clinical institutes worldwide, enabling rapid, simple, and accurate mold identification for patients infected with fungal disease.” (J Clin Microbiol 51:828–834, 2013)
Lau fell in love with microbiology at the University of Sydney (Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia), where she received a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and a Ph.D. degree in medicine. She was “fascinated by this world of organisms that were invisible to the naked eye and were beneficial to humans but could cause destructive and devastating disease at the same time.”
Surprised by the award, Lau said, “I’m truly honored and humbled to have been chosen.”
When she’s not fighting microbes, Lau is gallivanting around the United States with family and friends on their visits from Australia, exploring new restaurants, and cooking at home.
Gregory Alushin (who turns 30 in July), in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), was also surprised and honored to be chosen by Forbes, particularly as a basic scientist. Simple curiosity had driven him into science and inspired him to load up on chemistry courses. He admits that at one point he considered a career in science writing and even ran a graduate-student popular-science magazine. But he ultimately decided that doing research was more exciting than writing about it.
As an undergraduate at Columbia University (New York), he studied the biophysics of how macromolecules interact. As a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, he used cryoelectron microscopy to link changes in microtubule shape with function (Nature 467:805-10, 2010).
He did postdoctoral work in NHLBI for a year and then, in 2013, received an NIH Early Independence Award, which enabled him to set up an independent lab. Now he’s using cutting-edge electron- and light-microscopy techniques to study how cells use the cytoskeleton to sense and respond to the mechanical properties of their surroundings.
Outside the lab, Alushin loves climbing, spending time outdoors, and reading for pleasure: To acclimate to the nation’s capitol, he is reading Robert Caro’s biography of former president Lyndon Johnson (The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1990), which he considers “a real-life version of [television’s] House of Cards.”
Forbes “30 under 30” is a tally of the brightest stars under the age of 30 in 15 fields: Art and Style, Education, Energy and Industry, Finance, Food and Drink, Games, Hollywood and Entertainment, Law and Policy, Marketing and Advertising, Media, Music, Science and Health Care, Social Entrepreneurs, Sports, and Technology. Each list was vetted by three experts in the field. The panel of experts for the Science and Health Care awards were Daniel Kraft, a physician and inventor; George M. Church, a creator of high-throughput DNA sequencing and one of the founders of the field of synthetic biology; and Mikael Dolsten, president of Worldwide Research and Development at Pfizer.
Imagine what more Anna Lau and Gregory Alushin will accomplish by the time they hit 40.