THERE ARE ROCK STARS. And there are rock stars of science, like UCLA's Jeffrey Cummings, M.D., a professor of neurology and director of the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Deane F. Johnson Center for Neurotherapeutics at UCLA. Dr. Cummings is among 11 “Rock Stars of Science” who were paired with iconic stars of the stage – guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith, singersongwriters Sheryl Crow and Seal, Black Eyed Peas front man will.i.am and pop crooner Josh Groban – for a six-page photo spread in the June 2009 issue of GQ. (Single-page spreads also have run in The New Yorker, Vogue and Vanity Fair, among other publications.)
Dr. Cummings is a leading researcher into the mechanisms of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. He and his team are working to understand how Alzheimer’s disease kills cells to produce memory loss and to develop answers that potentially could lead to cures.
The “Rock Stars of Science” public-service campaign, which is sponsored by the Geoffrey Beene Foundation, aims to elevate the public’s awareness of the crucial role of science and scientists and to encourage support for more funding for research toward cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and HIV/AIDS.
Was Dr. Cummings surprised to learn he’d been selected as a Rock Star? “I was incredulous,” the soft-spoken scientist says. “Then I thought this sounds like a kind of cool idea – a way to reach out to an audience who would not ordinarily think about Alzheimer’s disease but should because their parents and their grandparents are of the age when it might become an issue for them.”
While he hasn’t exactly been basking in the adulation that usually comes with being a genuine rock star, there have been moments. He’s been recognized while shopping for clothing at Nordstrom and by a fellow customer at the bank. “That made me feel incredible,” Dr. Cummings says. “I had a moment of what it is like to be a celebrity. But I was disappointed that nobody asked for my autograph.”
For more about “Rock Stars of Science,” to see the complete spread, read profiles and watch videos of the scientists talking about their work, go to: www.rockstarsofscience.org