What were you doing before you came to the NSF?
I am an associate professor in the Department of Biology at Georgia State University. I teach courses in genetics to students at all levels and conduct research with my students to investigate the underlying mechanisms by which transcriptional regulators direct post-embryonic development—in other words, we want to understand how the molecules that regulate the process of making RNA from DNA affect the development of an organism after the embryo stage.
What attracted you to work for NSF?
I was attracted by the opportunity to be at the forefront of cutting edge research, to expand my own knowledge of my research field, and to understand how funding trends are directed.
What was your first impression of NSF? Has this impression changed since you began serving as a rotator?
My first impression was that the impact of NSF (on science as a whole) extends far beyond the individual research laboratory. I have only been here a month, but my impression stands.
What are the personal goals you most want to accomplish while at NSF?
I want to learn as much as I can, about everything I can; to find ways to broaden my research focus; to find ways to communicate to the research community the ways in which NSF supports research; and to find ways to better engage the general public so that everyone can understand the need for and benefits of basic scientific research.
What has surprised you most about working at NSF?
I think I am most surprised about how much support – from IT to administrative to security – is offered here. That type of support is sometimes missing in academia, so I am used to spending time trying to figure things out for myself, when here all I need to do is ask for help.
What are some of the challenges of serving as a rotator?
The learning curve is very steep. The biggest challenge is fighting the feeling that I’m not moving fast enough to get things done. The other challenge is making sure that my students and my personal research do not suffer while I am here.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about serving as a program director at NSF?
Do it! Your colleagues at NSF will help you succeed and at a minimum, you will leave with a much better understanding of how NSF works.
When your friends/colleagues find out that you work at NSF, what do they say or ask?
All have responded “What an amazing opportunity!” Then, they ask if I like it and who is taking care of my lab.
Casonya’s research shows elegant dissection of regulation of behavior and morphology in a model organism. NSF offers important support for basic science on animal molecular development.