Phil Bourne, the new president of the International Society for Computational Biology, likes to build things. He helped create the Protein Data Bank and the Protein Kinase Resource, and has engineered software for a variety of purposes. Now, Bourne leads the ISCB as it reorganizes into a more visible and powerful scientific association.
“The society was formed, essentially, to run the annual meeting,” Bourne says, referring to the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology conference. “While that’s still a very significant focus, we’re now turning to more society-based activities.” The main driving force behind the redirection is the growth of the ISCB from about 400 to 1,400 members in just two years, a result of both the growth of the bioinformatics field and outgoing president Russ Altman’s membership drive.
ISCB members elected Bourne, 48, whose platform advocated raising the society’s “collective voice,” as he calls it. He held previous executive positions with the International Union of Crystallography and the American Crystallography Association. Although he has years of bioinformatics experience under his belt, Bourne, who was born in the UK and raised in Australia, originally studied chemistry — “[though] my roots were always in some sort of molecular structure, both small-molecule organic structures and protein structures.”
Bourne officially took over the office of ISCB president in late January. Last year, while he was ISCB secretary, Bourne simultaneously held positions as director of integrative biosciences at San Diego Supercomputer Center, tenured pharmacology professor at University of California, San Diego, adjunct to Keck Graduate and Burnham Institutes, and co-director of the PDB. Bourne has no plans to quit any of his jobs. “I just have to remember what hat I’m wearing,” he says.
— Diana Jong