News Briefs


Pioneering research wins Pioneer Award

Penn geneticist Sarah A. Tishkoff, one of the world’s leading experts in the gathering and analysis of human genetic data, has been awarded the 2009 National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award. She is one of 18 honorees.

Tishkoff, the David and Lyn Silfen University Associate Professor and a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, holds joint appointments in the Department of Genetics in the School of Medicine and the Department of Biology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Penn. She works primarily in Africa, where she has compiled the world’s most extensive DNA database, representing more than 7,000 Africans from more than 100 ethnic groups.

The NIH Director’s Pioneer Award provides $500,000 in funding per year for five years for investigators of exceptional creativity whose research has the potential to significantly impact broad, important problems in biomedical and behavioral research. Tishkoff plans to use funding from the $2.5 million award to understand how genetics and the environment influence physiologic traits, with focus on traits that play a role in common diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Tishkoff’s research is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Keck Foundation and the Leakey Foundation.


An honor, and a degree   

You can help decide who will receive honorary degrees from Penn at the 2010 Commencement ceremony and at ceremonies in the years to come. The University Council Committee on Honorary Degrees is accepting nominations for consideration. While there is no official deadline, the committee asks that nominations be submitted before Nov. 1.

Candidates should exemplify a deep commitment to educating those who will change the world through innovative scholarship, scientific discovery, artistic creativity and/or societal leadership. Nominations should outline the nominees’ achievements and include as much biographical and other supporting information as possible. The nominees should not know that they are being considered, and it is University policy not to consider standing faculty, trustees, or school and center overseers.

Signed letters of nomination, written on official stationery, should be sent to:  University Council Committee on Honorary Degrees, c/o Office of the University Secretary, 211 College Hall/6303.  They can also be faxed to (215) 898-0103. A list of previous University of Pennsylvania honorary degree recipients can be found at For more information contact Lynne Sniffen at or (215) 573-5047.

Science for the people

Penn has joined a group of leading research universities to launch Futurity,, an online research channel covering the latest discoveries in science, engineering, the environment, health and more. Penn is one of 35 founding partners supporting the site, which offers direct access to research news posted by Penn and other universities.

Combing visual elements and lay explanations of published research reports with links to the research supplemental materials, Futurity provides the public with direct access to information about scientific breakthroughs. The site, designed to encourage interaction, is available in a mobile-friendly version, and visitors can comment on stories and sign up for a daily e-mail updates.

 “The site provides both the casual reader with an interest in science—as well as the seasoned researcher or science journalist—with quick access to a comprehensive and varied body of national research,” says Steven J. Fluharty, vice president for research at Penn.

Traffic buster

In an effort to help Penn faculty and staff learn about the wide array of transportation alternatives available to them, Business Services will be hosting its second annual Commuter Fair from noon to 2 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 19, in the Hall of Flags at Houston Hall.  Visitors will find information on public transportation, biking and bike safety, car and van pooling and other options to driving to and from campus or across town. Representatives from SEPTA, PATCO and New Jersey Transit will be on hand to help individuals plan their routes. Faculty and staff can also meet with staff from Penn Transportation and Parking to learn about special discounts for Penn employees using mass transit. The Fair will be held in conjunction with the Employee Resource Fair.

Boo at the zoo

Hand out treats near the tigers and play games near the monkeys as a volunteer at the Philadelphia Zoo’s annual “Boo at the Zoo” event. Volunteers are needed to help staff the holiday festival, which will take place, rain or shine, on Saturday, Oct. 24, and Sunday, Oct. 25.  Volunteers are encouraged to come in costume to hand out treats and help with crafts and games that will be located throughout the zoo. Shifts are from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Groups are welcome. All volunteers must be at least 16 years old. Register at For more information contact the zoo’s volunteer office at 215-243-5200.

Originally published on October 15, 2009