From the very start of my professional career, I’ve seen the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a major influence in shaping the direction of science. I’m excited for this opportunity to impact the processes that help guide the science priorities of the nation.
Since joining MCB as the newest Division Director several weeks ago, I am appreciative of the work done by my predecessors. I specifically want to thank Dr. Theresa Good for her excellent work as Acting Division Director for the past 16 months. Her commitment to keeping MCB moving forward maintained a sustainable platform on which to build. I look forward to working with a Deputy Division Director with so much experience and vision.
My career has come a long way since 1988, when I mailed 15 copies of my first 50-page grant application via Federal Express during my first year as an Assistant Professor at Iowa State University. Although that application was not funded, I was pleasantly surprised the next year when I received a call with the news of my first successful award to study biotin-containing enzymes in plants. That grant was the first in a series of projects, primarily NSF-funded, that built a research program focused on acetate (or acetyl-CoA) metabolism in plants. Ultimately, we were successful in developing a program that provided the biocatalytic core of the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC).
Over the years, I have served at NSF as an ad hoc reviewer, a panelist, and as a member of various Committee of Visitors panels. I’ve been impressed by the dedication and collegiality of program officers and the administrative support staff as they work together serving a vibrant and diverse research community. Serving as Division Director will be an opportunity to give back to the organization that has supported my career. I see this role not only as an opportunity to support the NSF community but also to have a hand in contributing from the ground-up to the science priorities of the country.
During my time in MCB I look forward to supporting the strong scientific research programs this directorate is so well known for, as well as overseeing upcoming changes. The transition to the “No Deadlines” proposal submissions process, along with NSF’s “10 Big Ideas” and especially the “Rules of Life” initiative, are aimed at increasing the opportunities for NSF to fund research that crosses levels of biological organization. This is a pivotal time for NSF, and I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to lead MCB as we find ways to fund more complex, interdisciplinary projects that have the potential to dramatically advance the biological sciences. I also look forward to working with the great team in place here. Even after a few short weeks, I feel welcomed and impressed by just how efficient and dedicated the team here is.