What were you doing before you came to the NSF?
I was a professor for 28 years; 21 years at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and seven years at San Diego State University. I had an active research program on plant hormone signal transduction which involved postdoctoral scientists, graduate students, undergraduates and high school student interns and several collaborators in the U.S., Europe and China. I also taught graduate courses in plant biochemistry and plant molecular biology.
What attracted you to work for NSF?
My research was funded by NSF continuously for 30 years, starting with an NSF postdoctoral fellowship in plant biology and concluding last summer with a large grant on plant proteomics. I also reviewed many NSF proposals and served on several NSF panels during that period, so I was familiar with the NSF mission and operational procedures. I wanted to contribute something to NSF before retiring and also be exposed to the breadth of science that NSF funds.
What was your first impression of NSF? Has this impression changed since you began serving as a rotator?
I was impressed by the collegiality of the program directors and the helpfulness and skill of the support staff. This impression has continued to grow during the two months I have been here.
What are the personal goals you most want to accomplish while at NSF?
To work with my colleagues to fund the best possible science in our discipline and broaden my scientific perspective from a focus on my own individual research to interdisciplinary approaches.
What has surprised you most about working at NSF?
The large amount of new software that needed to be learned to accomplish the different tasks a program director is required to do.
What are some of the challenges of serving as a rotator?
Starting my rotation just weeks before panel season required learning a lot of different things quickly and reading a very large number of proposals in order to assign panelists and reviewers in a timely manner.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about serving as a program director at NSF?
A very worthwhile endeavor, particularly if your research program is well established and can continue to function with periodic visits to the home institution. If timing is flexible, begin the rotation several months before the first panel duties.
When your friends/colleagues find out that you work at NSF, what do they say or ask?
They are impressed and think it is a good move.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?
Since I really have only just started, I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and learning the fine points of becoming a good program director.