Terra Sigillata

We here at the Terra Sig World Headquarters have been inundated with traffic directed by search engines following our post the other day directing readers to the NPR story on Douglas Prasher. Prasher, as is now widely known, is the former Woods Hole science who cloned the cDNA for green fluorescent protein (GFP) that enabled the work leading to this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry to at least two of the three laureates. Prasher is currently driving a courtesy shuttle for Bill Penney Toyota in Huntsville, AL, for $10 (USD) per hour. Prasher had been working for NASA in Huntsville until his funding ended.

(A great many thanks to Jennifer C who apparently works with Prasher and says, “I really hope someone heard his story and will offer him an amazing job. He has never been anything but great to all of us that work with him.”)

An even greater uptick in search hits yesterday led us to believe that something else has happened – that something else was additional coverage of Prasher’s story on the celebrity news and gossip program, self-described as “America’s Newsmagazine,” Inside Edition, on their Tues 14 October broadcast. Currently, the video is not yet available but there is the text of the story and a few nice still photos.

Prasher is amazingly upbeat, at least in media accounts, and even witty given his situation:

As for Douglas Prasher, even though he didn’t win the Nobel Prize, he’s looking on the bright side. “If I was a part of it, and I’d have to go to Stockholm and get all dressed up…I hate getting dressed up,” says the unassuming man behind the wheel of a shuttle van.

I’ve seen a public solicitations to Prasher to apply for research positions at places like the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Jonathan Eisen (UC Davis evolutionary biologist, Academic Editor-in-Chief) has also been keeping tabs on the Prasher situation at his Tree of Life blog linking to us and several other blogs, and suggesting that folks at the HudsonAlpha institute in Huntsville might pay a call to Dr Prasher.

I honestly hope that things are in the works for Dr Prasher to be offered numerous positions and that he has the opportunity to do whatever he pleases, in science or not. By all accounts I have read, he seems like a wonderful gentleman who exemplifies all that is good about the scientific ethic (although taking a serious hit, like many others, in the current economic state of the system.).

We have had substantial layoffs in my part of the US from all varieties of companies in the technology-based industries, not just academic or industrial biomedical research. For some, the chance to pursue something different, has actually been satisfying. My own recent employment travails had me very, very close to doing something outside of the lab or academia and I think I would have enjoyed these one or two of these other options.

I trust that Dr Prasher will be in a position to choose the option he finds most rewarding.

See Inside Edition, “The Genius Behind the Wheel,” 14 October 2008.