What were you doing before you came to the NSF?
I am currently a Staff Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in Los Alamos in NM, and also an Adjunct Professor at Department of Chemical Engineering at UC Davis. In general, my area of scientific expertise covers using neutron and x-ray scattering to investigate nano- and meso-structures, including bio-interfaces (lipid membranes, interaction of membranes with bio-toxins, Langmuir-Blodgett monolayer films films and living cells) and soft-matter systems (polymers, etc.) in different environments. At LANL I was also involved in many aspects of solid-state physics and science connected with national security and actinides properties. I am currently an American Physical Society (APS) and Neutron Scattering Society of America (NSSA) Fellow.
What attracted you to work for the NSF?
I was interested to explore new career avenues as well as to use my experience to influence science outside the lab.
What was your first impression of the NSF? Has this impression changed since you began serving as a rotator?
My first impression was that NSF is a well-functioning institution with a friendly working environment and well-deserving of its impressive reputation. The organization has a clearly established mission, well-trained personnel, and extremely nice people all around. My first impression has only changed in that these observations have become even more evident over time!
What personal goals would you like to accomplish while at the NSF?
I would like to use my time at NSF to learn how science is supported from the view of a funding agency. I am interested to see the ways NSF uses to get to know the community we support and to understand their scientific needs. I hope to obtain a more global picture of how federal agencies like NSF work and use this information to develop connections and knowledge. I also hope to visit the scientific places NSF supports and to better understand the scientific outcomes of the funded research..
What has surprised you most about working at the NSF?
That such tremendous work is done is such short time and with such efficiency. I have been continually impressed by the tight connection between the science communities and NSF Program Directors who support them. I have also been impressed at the huge spectrum of expertise, experiences, and ideas of the NSF staff.
What are some of the challenges of serving as a rotator?
I have to admit that the beginning was rather overwhelming: to learn so many new things in a short time (the panel season was approaching when I started) and to deal with/memorize/try to understand the science described in the proposals while knowing that any decision might be consequential for science. I was fortunate to have the support of my fellow Program Directors through this time and have learned so much.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about serving as a Program Director at the NSF?
It is a tremendously rewarding job but a lot different from regular activities of a scientist. It is a job well-suited for people who have a lot of experience in the scientific community and know their science well – I still find myself needing to learn many things at NSF despite my 20+ years’ experience as a scientist.
When friends or colleagues find out that you work at the NSF, what do they say or ask?
My friends and family, even those not as familiar with the extent of NSF’s work, are very impressed and think that working at NSF is very noble.