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Spring 1999

Gene Hunter
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"Again, this disease is not a public-health problem," Peltonen says. "But if you consider the more general concept, that we are looking for a molecule that is essential for normal development of our motor neurons, it is a very basic, very crucial finding, which is needed to understand how we develop as human beings."

Among the challenges Peltonen now faces working at UCLA is dealing with a non-homogeneous population that is far more genetically diverse and far more wary of medical research than in Finland. But after discussing the issue with many of her colleagues, she is not discouraged.

"In Finland, you can approach families by simply sending them letters. Here, with the diversity of the population, you have to apply a much wider spectrum of strategies. But I don't see this as being much of a problem."

In fact, the change in clinical approach may actually be stimulating for Peltonen. Perhaps it's not so surprising, but the Finnish geneticist seems to view her new surroundings with a sense of awe. "I'm still so fascinated by the wonderful campus of UCLA," she says, looking out her office window onto a gorgeous, sunny day. "If I walk around the campus in Helsinki, everybody looks the same. If I walk around the campus at UCLA, there is such tremendous diversity. You see all the different haircuts, all these different faces. If I'm really depressed or it's a blue day, I go to the campus."

BRAINY AND BEAUTIFUL

By Michael Webb

The latest addition to the campus is a handsome brick-faced laboratory tower, on the corner of Westwood Plaza and Young Drive South, that serves as a bridge, visually and intellectually, between the medical departments and the main campus. Its role is to foster interdisciplinary research on an exciting frontier of science. The name appears in bold lettering -- GONDA (GOLDSCHMIED) NEUROSCIENCE AND GENETICS RESEARCH CENTER C and therein lies an inspiring tale of survival and philanthropy.

Leslie Gonda and his wife, Susan, were born in Hungary. As Jews, both were imprisoned by the Nazis; he escaped from a labor camp and changed his name, she survived internment at Auschwitz, and after the war they were married in Switzerland. They moved to Venezuela, then to Los Angeles, and created a medical research foundation in memory of family members who were lost during the Holocaust.

The Gondas' gift made it possible to complete a complex that was first planned 12 years ago. Venturi Scott Brown, the Philadelphia-based architects who have enriched several American campuses with their boldly patterned buildings, proposed two towers on a hillside, to be

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