John Shea, Eckard Wimmer Featured in Top Scientific Journals

John Shea

Two Stony Brook University faculty members are being highlighted for their life-long research in two of the top scientific journals.

The February 8 Science article on Anthropology Professor John J. Shea, also a research associate at the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya, focuses on how he is challenging the traditional idea of “behavioral modernity” — used for decades by scientists to describe the behaviors of Homo sapiens — by arguing that scientists should instead study “behavioral variability,” or the number of different ways Homo sapiens have adapted to changing conditions.

Shea is an expert at making, using and analyzing stone tools, and tested his hypothesis that there are differences in behavioral variability between earlier and later Homo sapiens by using stone tool evidence dating to between 250,000 to 6,000 years ago in eastern Africa. His work has been featured in more than a dozen television documentaries and in exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of Natural History. He has conducted archaeological surveys and excavations in Israel, Jordan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya.

Eckard Wimmer

Distinguished Professor Eckard Wimmer, from the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, is featured in the February 5 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for his life-long work on numerous aspects of poliovirus structure, proliferation and pathogenesis, among them the first de-novo chemical-biochemical synthesis of a virus (PV) in the absence of a natural template (2002). The latter caused worldwide attention, praise, ridicule and fierce condemnation. It heralded, however, the beginning of the total synthesis of organisms in the absence of natural templates, a strategy that allows investigating structure and function of an organism’s biology to an extent hitherto impossible. It has led to novel genetics of viruses and to the development of new virus vaccine candidates, among them novel influenza viruses and seed viruses for the development of novel inactivated poliovirus vaccines (IPV). The new polioviruses for the production of IPV is now a collaboration between Stony Brook University and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Wimmer was awarded the Beijerinck Prize in Virology from The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2010); the prestigious Robert Koch Gold Medal from the Robert-Koch-Stiftung Berlin, Germany (2012); a Lifetime Achievement Award from the SUNY Research Foundation (2008); and two Merit Awards from the National Institutes of Health (1988, 1998). He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften Leopoldina von 1652, and the American Academy for Microbiology.

John Shea to Give Darwin Day Lecture February 15
Professor John Shea will present a Darwin Day lecture, “Myths of ‘Modern’ Human Origins: New Perspectives from Africa’s Oldest Humans,” on Friday, February 15, at 7:30 pm in Earth and Space Sciences, Room 001.

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