mcb welcomes three new staff members

MCB has welcomed three new staff members to its ranks during the past several months. Dr. Manju Hingorani, who filled a rotator position as program director during 2014-2016, returns to MCB as a permanent program director in the Molecular Biophysics cluster. Allison Burrell, science assistant, joined MCB this past January; Bridget Johnson, program assistant, followed in March. Learn more about the unique experiences each brings to her respective role below.

Dr. Manju Hingorani
Program Director, Genetic Mechanisms cluster

Manju formattedWhat is your educational background?
I received my BS in pharmaceutical sciences at University of Bombay, India, and came to the US to pursue a PhD in medicinal chemistry at The Ohio State University. Thanks to an incredible enzymologist, Prof. Smita Patel, who joined the university at the same time, I was beguiled by the beauty of enzymes and chose to become a biochemist instead. My research expertise is in investigating the kinetic mechanisms of DNA replication and repair proteins.


What attracted you to work for NSF?
In my first year as an independent principal investigator, I received that most exciting phone call about my proposal from MCB program director Patrick Dennis. Over the past (almost) two decades it’s been great fun to engage with science in depth, as a researcher on DNA replication and repair mechanisms, and in breadth as a reviewer on proposals spanning molecular-to-organismal scales in biology. The opportunity to serve as a program director in order to find and fund exciting science, especially at the interfaces of disciplines, attracted me most to the NSF.

When friends or colleagues find out that you work at the NSF, what do they say or ask?
Often, they wonder about the funding process and I’m happy to share my experience with the hope that they’ll send their best ideas to the NSF through grant applications.

How has your relocation to the area gone?
What can I say…I moved here and the Caps won the Stanley Cup! Coincidence? I think not…

Allison Burrell, Science Assistant

Allison Burrell, Science Assistant, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

What is your educational background?
I have a BA in theatre with a focus on directing from Arizona State University. After graduation I spent a year teaching biology at Northern Arizona University. I then attended New York University where I received my MS in biology with a focus on genetics, and taught genetics and earth science. After a year of environmental conservation through AmeriCorps in the Southwest, I went on to receive my MPhil in molecular medicine with a focus on cancer biology from The George Washington University.

What is your position and what are you most looking forward to?
I am a Science Assistant, a  position that serves as a wonderful jumping off point for scientists looking for careers out of the lab. I look forward to using this position to learn about new scientific career opportunities.

What have you learned so far from your position?
As a science assistant I participate in a wide range of projects. The unique merit review process at NSF has been the most important thing I have learned about since I started in late January 2018. Specifically, I have enjoyed learning how broader impacts are weighed alongside the intellectual merits of a proposal. I see how important scientific outreach is and how integral it is for the future of science. This insight has inspired me to participate in science outreach whenever possible, here at NSF and in my future endeavors.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about serving as a science assistant at NSF?
The position of science assistant is customizable; it can be a great opportunity for anyone early in their science career who wants to learn more about the intersection of science funding, society, and the government. Whether you are a recent college graduate with an interest in science or a post-doc looking to move beyond the lab, this position could be for you.

Bridget Johnson, Program Assistant

Bridgette Johnson, Program Assstant, Directorate of Molecular and Cellular BiosciencesWhat were you doing before you came to NSF?
I earned my bachelor of science degree in ecology and natural resources from Rutgers University in New Jersey. After graduating, I worked as a plant biology technician in South Carolina and then as an AmeriCorps VISTA on a community garden project in Montana. I’ve spent the past two years as an agricultural extension volunteer in the Peace Corps in Paraguay before coming here to NSF.

What attracted you to work for NSF?
Working for NSF, I’m still able to be involved in the science world but from a different angle. I feel strongly about promoting science and engineering research and education in the US, and being able to work for an agency that supports that cause is very meaningful.

What have you learned so far from your position?
So far as a program assistant, I’ve learned how much behind-the-scenes work it takes to fund science research! I have a much better appreciation for the whole grant life cycle, from soliciting proposals to the merit review process and finally awarding grants, as well as the level of teamwork required to keep the division running smoothly. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m happy to join such a dedicated and welcoming team.

How has your relocation to the area gone?
I love living in the DC area so far. From museums and festivals to great restaurants and nearby nature trails, I don’t want to leave anytime soon!

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