Category Archives: Uncategorized

REPOST: Henry (Hank) Yamamura, 1940-2008

On the first day of class at UofA its a good time to re-commemorate one of the true giants in the history of pharmacology. Almost 2 years ago today Hank Yamamura passed away after a fight with lung cancer. Today, 2 PhD students started in our department funded by the Hank Yamamura Fellowship. The fellowship is a terrific way to remember a great scientist dedicated to understanding how drugs interact with receptors, training the next generation of scientists and mentoring junior faculty. He is one of my scientific heros and a dear friend and mentor. Here is what I had to say about Hank the day after he passed away.

Pharmacology has lost another giant. Hank Yamamura died last night after a long battle with cancer. It is hard to imagine that there is a pharmacologist alive today that is not familiar with the work of Dr. Yamamura. He is the author of nearly 500 papers, countless books and book chapters and a mentor to a generation of pharmacologists. Hank did his PhD at University of Washington and then headed to Sol Snyder’s lab for postdoctoral work. Hank played a major role in the original descriptions of muscarinic pharmacology while working with Snyder. In 1975 he moved to the University of Arizona where he eventual became a Regent’s Professor in the Department of Pharmacology. At the University of Arizona, Hank practically wrote the book on opioid receptor pharmacology with especially strong contributions to the area of delta-opioid peptides. Hank was an active and cherished member of the Department of Pharmacology from 1975 until the day of his passing.

I first learned about Hank Yamamura, like most pharmacology PhD students, from his book “Neurotransmitter Receptor Binding”. His contributions to cannabinoid pharmacology played an important role in my PhD work. For the past 9 months of my life I was lucky enough to work in the same Department with Hank. When I first arrived here he was one of the first to greet me. Hank made a point to come visit my office (which was in a separate building) at least once a week and he was always eager to hear about what we were working on. He read all of my grant applications and gave me incredibly detailed comments. He shared advice on navigating the varieties of channels at the University and we eventually developed a small collaboration (which will continue). In other words, in 9 short months Hank became one of the most important mentors I have ever had and became a dear friend. I am just one of hundreds of trainees and faculty who have been positively touched by Hank’s never-ending enthusiasm for science and boundless generosity. I think I can speak for the entire field in saying that we will all miss Hank.


Covered: Tagged by BikeMonkey

So I got tagged for the “Covered” meme…. Here goes:
Greatest Ever:
Sinead O’Conner, Nothing Compares 2 U, written by Prince, originally performed by The Family.

Worst Ever: Seether, Careless Whisper, destroyed from the original Wham (which is a true classic).

I’m too lazy to tag, but if you’re reading and are so inclined, go for it!

The semester is over!!

Just posted final grades. The semester from hell is over! I may actually blog again sometime soon. Let’s just say that writing several grants, directing a course (as the more or less solo lecturer), teaching 5 hrs a week to med students and getting 4 papers out the door has been stressful. However, I survived!

We need better batting helmets

Such a sad story.  A young man gets hit in the head by a pitch and dies.  Apparently he turned to escape a wild pitch and it hit him just below the helmet, killing him. This may sound like a freak accident but the fact is that baseball helmets are not constructed to protect a person when they turn (as is the reflex) to avoid a pitch headed for their head. A simple flap attachment to the back of a helmet (similar to the throat protector on a catcher mask) could stop this from happening in most cases.

I played baseball from the time I could walk until my knees became so bad (from football) that I could no longer bend to catch (I was a catcher). I cannot tell you how many times I have seen players get hit in the head with pitches. If you’re lucky, the ball hits your helmet as you turn but all too often it hits just below the helmet, hitting a relatively softer spot very near the brainstem/spinal cord junction where many respiratory control centers are located (among other things). While I never witnessed anyone severely injured by this, I did see several concussions and had one myself that landed me in the hospital for a day.

If Barry Bonds and other players can get away with wearing protective equipment for their lead elbows as they crowd the plate there is no excuse for not adding to the protection offered by helmets through the addition of an extra unit that would protect the base of the skull from wild pitches. Well, forget Barry Bonds, there is no excuse period. I feel terrible for this kid and his friends and family (and the pitcher). This is a tragedy that could have been avoided.

Rescued from deep inside a thread at Drugmonkey

In DM’s thread on a Nature article concerning the bombing of a UCLA researcher whimple asks to hear from pain researchers:

Good idea, let’s throw out pain research based on animal models altogether.

Yes, this is a possibility that some people are willing to consider, the sarcastic tone of the statement notwithstanding. The best refutation would be evidence that pain research based on animal models has directly resulted in improvements in pain management in animals (including humans as animals).

How about it pain researchers? Can you compile a quickie list of such instances? Even stipulating that the ends can be used to justify the means, if causing pain to animals is “bad”, then this research is going to need to demonstrate that it is “worth it”. There’s a lot of arguing over how bad the badness is, but not a lot arguing over how good the goodness is. In the absence of a list of pain research successes, a cynic might suppose this is because there in fact isn’t any good that has resulted from this research.

To which I responded:
Continue reading

Juniorprof’s Bracket

CPP has his up so here’s mine. GO HEELS!!


Click to see full size


I just went to the citibank website to pay my credit card bill for the month. After submitting my payment I happened to notice that my APR doubled, for no apparent reason. That’s it citibank, no more money from me. Luckily I carry a zero balance, if not you jerk-offs would have been effective in stealing more of my money. If you have a citibank card I suggest you check for an unannounced increase in your APR.

Financial Tidbits

I just got my retirement fund annual report in the email box. What a disaster, thankfully, I don’t need this money anytime soon. On the other hand, choosing a plan with a 5 year wait for full vestment was a monumental mistake. No chance, hopefully (but unfortunately for my dumb-ass decision), that equities will be this cheap again in 5 years.

Michael Lewis (with David Einhorn) has two OP-ED pieces on the economy in NYTimes today and both are excellent. Check them out. If you haven’t read Lewis’ piece on the end of the wallstreet boom from last month you should check that one out as well. Depressing yet informative.

Based on the NYTimes pieces I went over to trulia to check out home prices in my zip code. The sky is falling indeed. What is worse is the foreclosure numbers. More than 3000 in my zipcode alone. I have no way to check if those numbers are correct but I distinctly remember looking at them when we were buying the house and back then foreclosures were fewer than sales volumes. Now they are 10 times higher. I don’t know much about economics but I’m gonna venture a guess that its a bad sign.

In which Juniorprof shows that he is a movie junkie

The movie mania meme is making the rounds and I’ve decided to play. I’m a real movie junkie so this is gonna get a bit out of control, I fear. My minor in college was film criticism (bet you didn’t know you could get a minor in that did ‘ya) and I have two old high school buddies who are now hollywood directors: one quite famous for mainstream films and another well known in the gore-fest niche. Let’s get started: Continue reading

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I hope all of you, dear readers, have a great day tomorrow, and some well-deserved relaxation! And to those of you with kiddos, especially DrdrA, DM and Nat, I hope your day is filled with cheer and fine memories to come. There’s nothing like kiddos on Christmas and since I’m 30 something going on 5 I know I’m gonna have some fun tomorrow!