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Tracking near-Earth objects


Working at NASA headquarters
Baruch Blumberg Physician
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Another thing that I did while I was in NASA, the… the…  the administrator of NASA, that’s the head officer of NASA, Dan Goldin, asked me to be his senior advisor for… for biology and asked me to come to work in NASA headquarters. Now, NASA headquarters is unlike any other part of NASA. It's right near Capitol Hill; a good deal of what they have to do, I mean a lot of the central planning is done there, of course, there are a lot of top level scientists, but also they very much have their eyes on commerce and on the White House because that's where the money comes from, and they have to be able to convince the people's representatives that we should do these projects and they want to know about the details. So a lot of the attention is focused on things like press releases and… and interviews with congressional staff and so forth. So it was a very strange environment for me, different environment, and in NASA, people who are kind of career NASA people, they usually planned on spending a year or two at headquarters because otherwise, it's important for advancement, but putting that aside, it gives you… it gives you an idea about how the place runs. So, you know, my colleagues at Ames, they'd say, ‘Oh, you're going to headquarters’. Now, one thing you have to remember, in Washington perception is reality. That's true everywhere, it turns out, but it's very true in Washington. So your perception is the big thing and while I was there I sort of didn't like it. First of all there was, you know, I had to get up and park in a parking… or if I'd take the underground there, the metro, you park in an underground parking garage which was really claustrophobic, and then you're up in an office all day and you had to wear a shirt and tie and, you know, it was… I had a great office with… given that building, you know, with a big conference table and… and paintings of rockets shooting off, I had a NASA flag and an American flag, it was kind of middle level administration, and I was in the compound where the… where the administrator was. And… so it was kind of fun, you know, but… but on a day-to-day basis, there was so much baloney and it was… it was actually hard to get anything done. I mean, I had all kinds of plans for what I would do, and some of which happened, but at Ames, you know, if something you wanted to happen, it happened, but there, if I came with an idea, before I'd even articulated it, somebody was in to tell me why I couldn't do it, you know, so I was really… I really wasn't accustomed to that. But, on the other hand, in retrospect, it was a very rich experience and I liked working with Dan. Mainly… he was a somewhat controversial figure because he was very strong-minded and didn't shirk controversy, but I thought him very effective and what I liked about him is you never knew what he was going to do next. So I remember once I was walking down… I wanted to ask him about something, and he saw me, you know, walking down the hall towards his office. He said, ‘Barry, do you want to go on a shuttle launch?’ I said, ‘Sure, when is it going to be?’ He said, ‘I'm on the way to the elevator’. So, you know, and fortunately I had been some place, so I had a suitcase with me, I didn’t need very much in any case, so, you know, I said, ‘I'll see you down in the parking’. So we get in the… we go to the parking lot, there was a NASA van that took you to the national airport, where there's a… the FAA maintains these crackerjack airplanes, they were old but beautiful, and they have a G5, well they had a G4 actually, a Gulfstream 4 executive aircraft, and you pop in that and you fly, you know, 500 miles an hour, 40,000 feet, you land on the skid strip at Kennedy in two hours, the station director comes and picks you up and you, you know, the police escort you over to the launch site. But the launches were fantastic. First of all, they're very patriotic some of them are, you know, you get, I mean, they are, you know, when you see the achievement that we're capable of and that we do routinely, I mean I find it very moving, very stirring. It's a great accomplishment of the country, I mean our science all together, but space science tends to be rather spectacular so it's a lot better than hanging around in a biochemistry lab without windows.


American research physician Baruch Blumberg (1925-2011) was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1976 along with D Carleton Gajdusek for their work on the origins and spread of infectious viral diseases that led to the discovery of the hepatitis B virus. Blumberg’s work covered many areas including clinical research, epidemiology, virology, genetics and anthropology.

Listeners: Rebecca Blanchard

Dr Rebecca Blanchard is Director of Clinical Pharmacology at Merck & Co., Inc. in Upper Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. Her education includes a BSc in Pharmacy from Albany College of Pharmacy and a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. While at Utah, she studied in the laboratories of Dr Raymond Galinsky and Dr Michael Franklin with an emphasis on drug metabolism pathways. After receiving her PhD, Dr Blanchard completed postdoctoral studies with Dr Richard Weinshilboum at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on human pharmacogenetics. While at Mayo, she cloned the human sulfotransferase gene SULT1A1 and identified and functionally characterized common genetic polymorphisms in the SULT1A1 gene. From 1998 to 2004 Dr Blanchard was an Assistant Professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. In 2005 she joined the Clinical Pharmacology Department at Merck & Co., Inc. where her work today continues in the early and late development of several novel drugs. At Merck, she has contributed as Clinical Pharmacology Representative on CGRP, Renin, Losartan, Lurasidone and TRPV1 programs and serves as chair of the TRPV1 development team. Dr Blanchard is also Co-chair of the Neurology Pharmacogenomics Working Group at Merck. Nationally, she has served the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics on the Strategic Task Force and the Board of Directors. Dr Blanchard has also served on NIH study sections, and several Foundation Scientific Advisory Boards.

Tags: NASA, Dan Goldin

Duration: 5 minutes, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 28 September 2009