The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) gave a warm send off to Dr. Susanne von Bodman, former Program Director and cluster leader in the Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) program. Among the many reasons she enjoyed her time at NSF are “interacting with amazingly bright and forward thinking colleagues across the agency who share a commitment to advancing molecular and cellular biosciences through cross-disciplinary collaborations; getting to know a community of remarkable investigators in the fields of Systems and Synthetic Biology; the camaraderie between colleagues at the NSF and a fun, but dedicated staff creating many opportunities for memorable social events and recreational experiences outside of work; and living in the greater DC area with its art, food, music, sports, museums, and recreation.”
As cluster leader, Dr. von Bodman provided a clear vision and direction for how best to support investigator-driven scientific proposals. She noted, “I believe that Systems and Synthetic Biology will change the field of molecular and cellular biology as we know it. Recognizing that biology is non-linear; the responses to perturbations uncertain; and the whole being greater than the sum of its parts necessitates the integration of mathematical and computational biological research.” Dr. von Bodman offered a few words of advice to young investigators; “Have a conversation with mathematicians, computation biologists, physicists, and/or chemical and bio-engineers about your projects because it may be eye-opening.”
After her years of service to the NSF, Dr. von Bodman is most looking forward to golfing, biking, hiking, and traveling; spending time with her four wonderful grandchildren; reading books she has never finished; and continuing the renovations on her cabin in West Virginia. Dr. von Bodman also plans on “following the science we funded, and learning about the next exciting scientific frontiers.” Lastly, in her words, “I wish to take this opportunity to thank all of you within and outside the National Science Foundation who made my experiences in academia and as a Program Director at the NSF most enjoyable and rewarding. It was a privilege to serve and get to know this community of talented researchers and educators. I particularly valued your service as reviewers and panelists; it is ultimately you who drive the science forward! The very best wishes – Susanne (Susi)”
All of us at MCB thank Dr. Susanne von Bodman for her many years of dedicated service as a Program Director and cluster leader. We will miss Susi’s outspoken advocacy and passion for the science and investigators she supported. We wish her lots of enjoyment in this new chapter.
A few words by Dr. Parag Chitnis, Former MCB Division Director:
“At NSF, Program Directors can make major impacts on the directions of science. In the 1980s, DeLill Nasser’s bold and substantive support of Arabidopsis as a model system revolutionized plant biology. In the 1990s, Kamal Shukla catalyzed the field of computational molecular biophysics. Around 2007, Dr. Greg Warr proposed realignment of programs within MCB, leading to the creation of a Networks and Regulation cluster, when it became clear that projects using network analysis were increasing in signal transduction, cell biology, metabolism and genetic regulation. Dr. Susanne von Bodman, an ardent proponent of systems approaches and synthetic biology, served as a Program Director in this cluster. The cluster was ultimately renamed Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) due to Dr. von Bodman’s leadership fostering these fields in the MCB portfolio. Her leadership in ERA-SynBio was also responsible for many rewarding partnerships with EU funding agencies. MCB had strongly favored interdisciplinary research including areas at the interface with engineering (e.g. metabolic engineering and quantitative systems biotechnology). However, Dr. von Bodman, in collaboration with Dr. Theresa Good, strengthened interactions with engineering far beyond what was historically done. Joint panels and co-funding led to many productive discussions and exciting opportunities for supporting truly interdisciplinary research.
Around 2010, Susanne von Bodman fostered synthetic biology as a major tool to decipher the molecular rules of life. Like DeLill and Kamal, Susanne von Bodman has been an unapologetic proponent of excellence in science and an ardent supporter of young investigators. Like them, she emphasized projects with bold approaches and transformative impacts, often ignoring ‘other factors’ and overly bureaucratic policies. She catalyzed science frontiers in systems and synthetic biology and built strong connections to leverage science investments. She recruited top notch panelists and depended on their advice to understand the frontiers in systems and synthetic biology. She identified CAREER awardees with great potential to be leaders in systems and synthetic biology, many of whom have now made prominent contributions to the progress in these fields. Her impacts on the science supported by MCB has been phenomenal and will last long after her retirement.”