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06/04/2010

STS Alumnus Helps Make Biology Education Resources more Accessible

Ron Vale started investigating the circadian rhythm of plants in his basement as a sophomore in high school. Thankfully, due to the help of a guidance counselor and professors at UCLA, he was able to move his work out of the basement and complete his project in the university’s plant department. Thanks to this work, he earned a spot as one of the 1976 Science Talent Search Finalists and went to Washington, D.C. to compete. “It was an eye-opening experience for me to be in this amazing environment with all these other kids who were interested in Science,” he says, and the experience convinced him that science was a great career to pursue.


Since then, he has become the Vice-Chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California in San Francisco. Through his involvement in the program, Ron felt especially privileged to have the opportunity to attend multiple seminars and he wanted more people to have those same opportunities. He says seminars integrate “how the person thinks about the project in a way that papers don’t capture.” So he created iBioSeminars.org which now has around 50 seminars that have been downloaded 1.4 million times on computers all over the world.


Additionally, after living in India for nine months on sabbatical, he became more aware of the fact that many Indians do not return to their home country after they leave to study biology abroad, and, therefore, do not bring back that knowledge. So Ron initiated a program called the Young Investigator Meetings to recruit young people to return to India and to create a forum for Indian biologists to share knowledge. The meetings involve junior and senior faculty, people doing post doctorates, and even Indian leaders in government. They meet to not only discuss new biological discoveries, but also the best practices in scientific research. Indiabioscience.org is the website associated with this program and it serves as a central hub to bring Indian biologists together and supply them with information.


Ron explained that he is interested in helping people through these programs because his success now wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t met the right people along the way who wanted to help him. He feels lucky to have gotten the assistance he needed and, through these programs, he hopes to “pass the good fortune on to other people.”

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