Tresa Proffitt is a program assistant in MCB.
What is your educational background?
After graduating from Lynchburg College with a B.A. in Music Education and a minor in Biology, I taught in the public schools for several years. I am especially interested in neuroscience-based educational practices and am currently pursuing a M.S. in Biology with a concentration in Neuroscience at George Mason University where I am researching adolescent brain development.
What is your position and what are you most looking forward to?
I began in July as a program assistant for MCB. I am most looking forward to learning more about the grant-review and panel administration process. It is fascinating to read about what researchers all over the country are studying and see some of the accomplishments that have been made possible through NSF support!
What was your first impression of the NSF? Has this impression changed since you began?
One of the things I have always admired about NSF is their commitment to funding not only exciting new research, but also proposals that will also have broader impacts in their community. I have only seen a little bit of one panel so far, but I can tell that the panelists and NSF staff work very hard to filter through all the proposals (and paperwork) to choose the very best ones to recommend for funding!
What have you learned so far from your position?
So far, I have learned a lot about the different checkpoints that proposals and awards undergo throughout the entire process. It’s a lot of small tasks, but I think it is necessary to ensure that proposals have all the required components and that awardees use the money how they promised.
A fun fact about me:
I enjoy playing fiddle in my free time and used to perform regularly in a traditional Irish/Appalachian music band!
Dr. Phoebe Lostroh is a rotating program officer through the Visiting Scientist, Engineer, and Educator Program (VSEE); she comes to MCB from Colorado College.
What were you doing before you came to the NSF?
I am on scholarly leave from Colorado College, a private liberal arts college with about 2,000 undergraduates. I teach six courses a year there, ranging from Mentored Research in Molecular Biology and Introduction to Molecular & Cellular Biology to Microbiology: Genes, Molecules, and Infection and Virology. I just published my first book, titled The Molecular and Cellular Biology of Viruses. For fun, I’m learning to play the card game called duplicate contract bridge, and I sing. I also volunteer with Science Riot, an organization that teaches scientists to do stand-up comedy routines as an outreach activity.
What attracted you to work for NSF?
I jumped at the chance to be a rotating program director in the division of Molecular and Cellular Biology because I want to have an impact on science beyond that which I can have at my home institution, and because when I interviewed, it was obvious that the division is a stellar workplace.
What personal goals would you like to accomplish while at the NSF?
I am very excited to work on the funding process because I know from personal experience that NSF grants lead both to important scholarly discoveries and transforming people’s lives. I would like to meet people who are making policies related to undergraduate STEM education and research at primarily undergraduate institutions to talk to them about my students’ experiences. I would also like to talk to anyone who is interested in reaching outside science toward the humanities to encourage collaboration across those boundaries.
When friends or colleagues find out that you work at the NSF, what do they say or ask?
People are curious about how the funding process works; everyone also wants to know how much money basic research costs and how much of the federal budget goes to NSF. The only science questions anyone has asked me upon learning about my new position have been about climate change – I think people are hungry to hear about this topic from a scientist they can personally talk to. Everyone also wants to come visit, so they ask about the museums and other attractions in the DC area.