Dr V's Biographical Sketch
Born in the city of Chicago only 6 weeks before the beginning of WW2, Carl W. Vermeulen entered a world of turbulence that must have established a mindset for mischief which has continued ever since - little he does is in the ordinary ways that most people do things! .. His mother, a former registered nurse went to great lengths to make sure this little kid remembered major events of that turbulent time. ..This was not difficult because his earliest childhood war years were spent in Amarillo, Texas, where his father, having just finished his medical residency at the Univ. of Chicago Medical School, became a medical officer in the United States Army Air Force. .. Common sights were numerous German officers, who were prisoners of war, and watching massive bomber fleets move between the Atlantic and Pacific battle theaters. ..His mother very tenaciously made her four-year old understand the time and importance of the Normandy invasion, and all the rationing of food and fuel that occurred at the time. ..After the war, the family returned to Chicago, where Carl attended the Clara Barton Grade School and then the Calumet High School. ..During this time his father moved from private practice to joining the staff of the University of Illinois School of Medicine, where he soon attained the yet to be superceded honor of gaining four prizes given by the medical students for being whom they deemed their best medical school teacher. ..Soon his dad moved to join the staff of his alma mater and within a few years became the Dean of the University of Chicago Medical School. ..During these years, the future second "Dr V" worked summers in his father's lab on projects dealing with the formation of urinary stones.
GRADUATE SCHOOL. ..... When Carl graduated from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, with a chemistry major under Dr. Garrett van Zyl (see Academic Tree), he was also close to majoring in mathematics, and philosophy. .. He then went to the Biochemistry Department of the University of Illinois in Urbana. ..In the laboratory of Dr. Ben Hall, he participated in the first ever isolation of mRNA, and then the first ever isolation of a specific mRNA, and was the helper of Dr. Agnar Nygaard (visiting from the University of Oslo), who serendipidously came upon the use of nitrocellulose paper as a binding agent for ssDNA. ..That adsorption procedure is the basis of most blotting methods of today. ..After only 18 months, Carl was informed that his advisor was moving to Seattle leaving him an academic orphan. ..He put in a plea to join Dr. Kimball C. Atwood's group in the Department of Microbiology and was accepted the same evening. ..His doctoral thesis dealt with the first mapping of the genes governing rRNA synthesis in E. coli. ..Along the way to this thesis, he showed the multiplicity of rRNA cistrons in many of the Enterobacteriaceae, how closely related they were between species, and also much the same with fruit flies. ..Among his thesis committee members were Sol Spiegelman (missed winning the Nobel for reverse transcriptase by three weeks), and Carl Woese (discoverer of Archibacteria and winner of the decennial van Leeuwenhoek award for the most important discovery in general microbiology in the 1980's), and in 2006 was elected to the Royal Society (London) - one of only a few non-Britishers in its long history since Queen Elizabeth-I to be so elected. His micriobiology teacher was Ralph Wolfe (winner of the American Society for Microbiology's 2000 Outstanding Career Award).
PROFESSIONAL CAREER...... Arriving at the College of William and Mary in 1966, he cut loose from the aforementioned work and turned his attention to warping young minds to think in unorthodox, outside-the-box ways. ..Because he always worked closely with his undergraduate students, most of his research advances came due to student "mistakes". ..Among those advances have been the determination of when it was that E.coli were growing in "steady state", the quantification of the expression of the lac-operon, the rationale for the layout of the E.coli chromosome (why the genes are located where they are; done years before "genomics" was a recognized field), improvement of typhoid vaccine (8,700 additional lives are saved per year per student worker on that project), how the body uses fever to control Gram-negative infections, and that human babies pop into the world with zillions of bacteria already in their intestinal tracts. .. Most recently (2004) came what is thought to be the first complete biochemical pathway linking a stress with its effect on a gene's output. ..His wholly-owned web-site, www.science-projects.com, lists many of the other projects he is working on with the help of young minds all over the world - and some of those young minds are in older bodies such as a group of WW2 veterans.
TRAVELS......In 1958, Carl held a summer position working in the laboratory of Dr. Pien Chien Wang in Biochemistry at the downtown School of Public Health of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. .....There he demonstrated that both 16S and 23S rRNA's of E.coli could be electrophoretically separated into subsets, this indicated that they were coded by different DNA sequences, and thus his doctoral thesis was further supported... A dozen years later, he grabbed at the opportunity to take one of his university's first sabbaticals. .....Carl went to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he showed that by moving the lac-operon to other locations on the E.coli chromosome, the gene's expression correlated with the distance from oriC. ..... Upon returning from Scotland with ideas of moving genes around, Carl was a three-time summer researcher in the division of infection and immunity at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, then located in Washington DC. .....There he put aside the idea of moving virulence genes around because he showed that environmental factors played a strong role in the synthesis and quantity of bacterial cell envelope materials. ..... This work caught the attention of Dr. Frits Ørskov, Director of the World Health Organization's E.coli Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark. .....The laboratory specialized in serotyping of the various strains of E.coli as they are found scattered all over the world. .....To find out more about "wild" E.coli, click this. In Copenhagen, Carl was a Fulbright Research Scientist, and developed methods for quantifying and characterizing the components of bacterial cell envelopes. .....One thing started troubling Carl at this time. .....It was that almost all evidence was about pathogenic strains of E.coli, and almost nothing was known about the normal intestines of people with regard to the amounts of the various serotypes, and the waxings and waning of strains over time. .....Certainly such a baseline of information should be known before one could hope to understand one of the world's most deadly diseases - infant diarrhea. .....For this Carl took a rotating gang of students and a Danish helper for a summer of work in St. Thomas, in the Caribbean. St. Thomas was to be the control as few babies ever died of diarrhea there. .....After St. Thomas he had planned to then work on Grenada a few hundred miles away, and where a quarter of all babies died of diarrhea before reaching age two. .....But lack of medical insurance for his own student workers precluded Grenada and he found a laboratory that would take him in at the University of California at San Diego in La Jolla, California. ..But the diarrheal research was sidetracked as he ran into Dr. Melvin Green, who was once one of Carl's fellow graduate students back in Ben Hall's lab in Illinois. With Mel, Carl established the first lower division lab course in Biology at the Univ. of California in the history of that university. .."An Introduction to Biology as an Experimental Science" was an integral part of an outreach program that interacted high school students, their teachers and undergraduates in summer programs of research that lasted eight weeks (35 hours per week). ..That program was extremely successful: of 94 high schoolers in the early 90's, 93 went to college, 92 graduated from college, and all 92 went on to graduate, medical and law schools. ..Dr. V's approach to this program dictated the out-of-the-ordinary: .. the students were not chosen on the basis of GPA, but rather whether they had ever done anything like a science fair presentation. ..Furthermore, the students all came from three high schools from the most deprived innercity locations in San Diego.
A NEW MISSION - A SECOND CAREER...... Because of the extreme success of that San Diego program, and because of his success in the stock market, Dr. V told his W&M chairman back in Williamsburg that he was leaving teaching at the undergraduate level to work with high schoolers and their teachers. .....He felt his goals could be met by warping even younger minds, and investing them with the notion of looking at the normal rather than the abnormal, the sick. ..So-, in recent years, Dr V has been actively guiding students - young and old - with their science projects. ..He has long felt that it is a shame that all over the world the same projects are done year after year. ..There are so many new and important projects that can be done. .. For participating high school teachers and students, it is fundamental that ideas for NEW projects be available. ..For this reason Dr. V instituted his web-site, www.science-projects.com, for young scientists around the world, and especially for those who want to work together with other students - just the way professional scientists do. ..The web-site consists mostly of projects that have never been done before. ..As an indicator of success of that site, fifteen high schoolers and teachers in the past nine years have had their work accepted for presentation at the annual international meetings of the American Society for Microbiology for years 1998 (Atlanta), 1999 (Chicago), 2000 (Los Angeles), 2001 (Orlando), 2003 (Washington DC), 2004 (New Orleans), 2005 (Atlanta), 2006 (Orlando), 2007 (Toronto) and 2008 (Boston). ..Out of 43,000 applicants (over that span of time), of whom most were from professional labs, these students were accepted as presenters, and also three-times chosen as one of 80 to be highlighted in the international press room. ..These were not science fairs, but rather the real things - science meetings that included work from Nobel labs. ..These kids were the only high schoolers presenting. .....Six high schoolers presented their work at a meeting in Washington DC on an extension of the lac-operon theory to encompass the complete picture of the control of lactase activity on both the genetic and enzyme levels. .....The students were from London, Eng., Pennsylvania, New York, Texas and Virginia. .....They developed this into a tool to quantitatively measure how "ill" a bacterium became when subjected to various outside stresses. .....This work is continuing. .....Recently, groups of high schoolers and retirees worked together to invent a type of additive that when added to paints and varnishes produced a surface that was rapidly self-sterilizing, and remained self-sterilizing as long as the coating hadn't worn away. .....This is now being developed commercially. In 2008, their presentation deals with how potable water can be rapidly produced in disaster areas such as was needed after the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.
TEACHING TEACHERS......Since his retirement from W&M (7/2000), Carl has been struck by what seems to be an unnoticed phenomenon. .....In the U.S. "Leave No Child Behind" Law, it is mandated that all teachers teach subjects in which they themselves have majored in college or university. .....Sounds good on the face of it, but during Carl's tenure at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, he noticed that the biology majors when he first arrived were required to take 14 laboratory courses, and when he retired, they were required to take only two. .....In other words, college majors might not be what they once were! .....Thus a new high school biology teacher at the beginning of the 21st Century doesn't know how to do hands-on work. .....So, for example, how can the teachers be expected to teach the ten or twelve lab exercises listed by the College Board's Advanced Placement Biology manual? .....The teachers must get lab experience in the years after starting to teach! .....Thus Carl has been laying the groundwork for a program that will rapidly spread hands-on science experiments throughout all of a state's public high schools. ..There are many classic experiments, about which the teachers talk at considerable length in the classrooms, but do not perform in their laboratory periods. ..Teachers just to not have the time to acquaint themselves with all the maneuverings needed to run even rather simple experiments. ..Computerized 'virtual' experiments just don't work! ..They don't tell the teacher how to order the supplies, how to work the equipment, and computers certainly don't feel like test tubes, or fern leaves. ..Feeling that the teachers merely need to have done the experiment a couple of times so that they feel comfortable with it in front of their students, Dr. V likes to show off one of his pet experiments. ..He shows both teachers and their students how to turn a gene on and off. ..This is the classic "lac-operon" experiment that requires only three chemicals not commonly found in biology lab stockrooms. ..All the equipment is commonplace. ..Just before leaving the teacher and students, he leaves them with a project or two - something that has never been published - something that they can all work on together for a day or two, obtain publishable results and submit them for fame and glory.
Since retiring, he has taught intro chem lab and biochemistry lecture/lab at Chowan University in Murfreesboro NC, and microbiology lecture/lab for nurses at Paul D. Camp Community College in Suffolk, VA. He is currently teaching an introductory biology lab at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton VA, and introductory biology lecture and lab for Paul D. Camp Community College.
FAMILY...... Dr. V is married, and has two married children from a previous marriage: ..Kevin (1964) is now a civilian computer cartographer with the U.S. Air Force, and Susan (1968) is an architect specializing in revitalizing the centers of small towns in Virginia. She has also worked on designing the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library to be built in Staunton, VA. ..Dr.V is a member of the American Society for Microbiology, and a former Charter Chemist and Founding Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (London) as well as a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemists, and a life member of the Fulbright Society. ..He was selected as one of America's Outstanding Teachers, and is included in the VIP section of Swathmore's Who's Who for his work on improving typhoid vaccine - a spin-off of his work at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.