Move over Drs. Gurdon and Yamanaka*, there’s a new kid in town. Or at least there will be if our old friend, UC Davis stem cell research Paul Knoepfler, PhD, has anything to do with it.
Paul is not just a respected researcher and an associate professor of cell biology and human anatomy, he’s also an avid blogger and a tireless advocate for stem cell research. As part of his efforts to increase awareness and create a little more excitement about the science – and when was the last time you heard the words ‘science’ and ‘excitement’ in the same sentence – Paul has created a new award for the “Stem Cell Person of the Year.”
The goal of the award is to honor someone who has made a significant contribution to the field of stem cell science. It could be a researcher, a patient advocate, someone from the biotech industry or even a lawyer. The only criteria that matters is that their work has made a real difference in stem cell science in the last year.
Paul says there are lots of other awards out there but most of those are determined by ‘stodgy committees’ and that those nominating systems are old fashioned and usually quite predictable. He says we shouldn’t limit awards to those who wear a lab coat.
“The stem cell field is really transcending the lab,” he says, “and it’s going to clinics and patients and doctors and even into the courts – there’s legal cases – so it’s really a very diverse universe for the stem cell field and I think this award will kind of reflect that diversity.”
Paul, who has a great sense of humor, is not joking about this either. He’s putting up $1,000 of his own money as part of the prize. “It’s kind of fun,” he says, “and it’s something that I’m hoping I can do every year. It would also be a reward for risk taking, creativity, and be breaking with tradition and be something new in that regard.”
Anyone is eligible for the award – except people who work with him in his lab. If you want to find out how to nominate someone all the details are available on the Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog. Paul plans to pick five finalists and interview each of them by phone/Skype. There is also an online component where members of the public can vote for their favorite. The winner will be announced in early January.
* Dr. John Gurdon and Dr. Shinya Yamanaka were awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their pioneering work in stem cell research. But you knew that, right? If not, see our previous blog posts here, here, and here.