Author: nsfmcb

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. (more…)

JOB ANNOUNCEMENT: PROGRAM DIRECTOR FOR THE MOLECULAR BIOPHYSICS CLUSTER

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences is looking for a permanent Program Director for the Molecular Biophysics Cluster. The cluster funds research into the structure and dynamics of biomolecules with a goal to establish the fundamental principles that underlie biomolecular interactions, regulation of biological function at the atomic, near-atomic, and molecular levels. For more information and to apply visit  USAJobs before June 22, 2018.

Meet Dr. Basil Nikolau, Our New Division Director

basic picture

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.

Thank you,

Basil Nikolau

Better Communication, Better Science

Alexandre and Barnajeet
Dr. Gladys Alexandre, left, and REU participant Reena Barnajeet.

In 2015, researcher Dr. Gladys Alexandre learned something valuable: the addition of Reena Barnajeet, a hard of hearing student, to her lab improved the communication skills of everyone in the group. (more…)

Spotlight – Science and Technology Centers

Some scientific ideas are too big for one researcher or one university to tackle alone. To address such innovative and potentially transformative large-scale challenges, NSF periodically solicits proposals under the Science and Technology Centers (STCs): Integrative Partnerships program. Among the largest projects that MCB is involved with, each STC has a different approach to the research. However, they all have one thing in common: they bring together a range of people to work on one research or education project. The centers come from all areas of science, engineering, and education research funded by NSF. MCB assists in funding and managing several of the centers, including the Center for Cellular Construction (CCC) (award DBI 1548297).

The CCC is a partnership which brings together researchers in the San Francisco Bay area, which according to their website, aims to “engineer the physical structure and interactions of living cells, to turn them into living bioreactors and modules of novel self-organizing devices”.  The Center’s goal is to transition the field of cell biology to a quantitative discipline, combining classical cell biology with engineering to develop a design-build-test approach to understanding the rules governing cell behavior. Improving how we manipulate, control, and create cells could have impacts on a wide range of fields, including chemical production, materials engineering, biomedical engineering, basic scientific exploration, as well as various civil and consumer applications.

While the research area is exciting, it’s the partnerships that make this center unique; the center not only brings together university researchers, but also industry. The partnerships, which include the University of California, San Francisco; San Francisco State University; IBM Almaden Research Center; University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University; and The Exploratorium, are overseen by Center Director Dr. Wallace Marshall. These partnerships enable an exceptional approach to the research and create a strong and varied environment to train researchers of all ages, particularly important for addressing another of the Center’s goals to increase diversity of participation in research, education, and knowledge transfer.

CCC was one of four STCs funded in 2016 and one of 12 active centers in the U.S. Click here to monitor information about funding opportunities from the Office of Integrative Activities. Follow updates on MCB funding by visiting this page.

Ray Bowman: Supplemental Funding Pays!

Bowman blog photoFeaturing Ray Bowman, Duquesne University, this post is the fourth of a series highlighting the experiences of Ph.D. students who have benefitted from supplemental funding awards that are intended to enhance student readiness to enter the workforce. The supplement that assisted Bowman is tied to MCB award #1553143, Dr. Allyson O’Donnell, principle investigator. Bowman is a student in Dr. O’Donnell’s lab.

What he did:
Bowman attended a course in quantitative fluorescence microscopy to develop his skills in microscopy, including techniques in FRET (Förster resonance energy transfer), FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photobleaching), three-dimensional imaging of cells and whole tissues, and super resolution microscopy. He also worked with software engineers from Nikon to develop a new platform for automated quantification of cell surface and intracellular fluorescence.

In his own words:
“While this grant did not change my career plans, it did provide me with a new skill set and an opportunity to network and establish contacts in the larger cell biology field. That will undoubtedly help me in attaining my career goals.”

MCB’s commitment to helping students transition from academia to the workforce is formalized via funding announcement NSF 16-067, which describes the opportunity. Although that announcement is now closed, MCB strongly encourages principle investigators to contact their NSF program directors to discuss.Orange Dot

WELCOME ACTING ASSISTANT DIRECTOR DR JOANNE TORNOW

A headshot style photograph of Dr. Tornow, she has short grey hair and is wearing black glasses, a blue suit, and a blue necklace.

MCB extends its warm welcome to Acting Assistant Director for the Biological Sciences (BIO), Dr. Joanne Tornow! Dr. Tornow started as a Program Director here in MCB. She has since gone on to take leadership roles in several directorates throughout the agency, but we look forward to having her back in BIO. Dr. Karen Cone, Genetic Mechanisms Program Director says, “Joanne was the Division Director who hired me back in 2009!  She was a terrific role model and I’m glad to have the opportunity to work with her again.” Take a moment to go check out the BIO BUZZ’s newest blog post, “Q&A: Getting to Know Dr. Joanne Tornow,” to hear more about her.