Blog

Help BIO Spread the Word About Your Research

The following was published Dec. 4 on Bio Buzz, the blog of NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences, Office of the Assistant Director. Access the original post here.

Every PI knows that disseminating data is an essential part of the scientific process. From publishing manuscripts to presenting at meetings, a project’s biggest impacts only come after it has been shared. Promoting new discoveries and cutting-edge research (more…)

HBCU-UP: Historically Black Colleges and Universities-Undergraduate Program

HBCU EiR announcement expected to be released in December

Dear Colleague Letter DCL 17-138 was released Sept. 19 to introduce a new program expected to be announced next month. The program, titled, “HBCU Excellence in Research” (EiR), will be open to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). (more…)

MCB Welcomes Dr. Alias Smith, AAAS Fellow

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to “advancing science for the benefit of all people.” Science and Technology Fellows at NSF partner with NSF staff for a year-long term of service. During that assignment, Fellows assist in the planning, development, and oversight of agency programs. Many also develop projects that both interest them and serve the organization to which they have been assigned. MCB is excited to welcome Dr. Alias Smith as our AAAS Fellow for the 2017-18 term.

Dr. Alias Smith, AAAS Fellow, MCB, 2017-18

What is your educational background?
I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from University of Missouri, Columbia. Next, I completed my Ph.D. in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics at University of California, Los Angeles, where I studied gene expression in the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. My postdoctoral training at University of California, San Diego, centered around understanding the life cycle of the parasite Giardia lamblia.

What is your position? When did you start working in MCB?
I began my posting as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in MCB in September. As an AAAS Fellow I have the opportunity to carve out my projects within the scope and mission of MCB. I have received great guidance from MCB staff, program directors, and our acting division director in creating my fellowship plan. My primary focus in MCB is on working with the program directors in the Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) cluster to develop and align research goals with synthetic biology research interests both within NSF and between NSF and outside agencies.

Additionally, professional development is a major component of the AAAS Fellowship. During my time in MCB, I will learn advanced data analytics skills to conduct a portfolio review of the proposed science submitted to the SSB cluster under past solicitations. I will also become more familiar with the merit review process. The AAAS Fellowship and MCB also provides opportunities for me to work on projects that broaden participation in science and technology education, training, and careers.

What attracted you to work for NSF?
Science education, mentoring, and outreach have been consistent components of each phase of my research training and professional career. Recently, I became curious about the bigger picture: What mechanisms influence STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education and research on a larger scale? I want to learn first-hand how NSF impacts the science-education and the research communities. The AAAS Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to directly witness the inner workings of NSF and to support the agency’s mission and strategic goals.

What have you learned so far from your position?
I have learned how valuable it is to have a variety of expertise among reviewers and program directors during the merit review and funding decision process. It is impressive to witness how much work and thought goes into reviewing each proposal.

RUI AWARD SUPPORTS 2017 STUDENT RESEARCH ACHIEVEMENT AWARDEE, RIMA REBIAI

Rima Rebia, Student Research Acheivement Award, Biophysical Society, Feb. 2017

Rima Rebiai, winner of the Biophysical Society’s “Student Research Achievement Award” stands next to her entry.

At the 61st Biophysical Society meeting held in New Orleans February 11-15, 2017, undergraduate researcher Rima Rebiai received the prestigious Student Research Achievement Award. Of the 14 awards made, Rebiai’s research was the only project focusing on nanoscale biophysics.

Rebiai’s research was funded in part by a Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) grant from the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB). RUI proposals support faculty at predominately undergraduate institutions to conduct research that builds institutional capacity for research and supports the integration of research and undergraduate education.

The research was a collaboration between and Dr. Emina Stojkovic, Bernard J. Brommel Research Professor, Department of Biology at Northeastern Illinois University, and Drs. Ken Nicholson and Stefan Tsonchev, Associate Professors in the Department of Chemistry. The award (#1413360) was the first to be awarded to the Biology Department in NEIU’s history, said Stojkovic. An interesting side note, Stojkovic added, is that she attended a similar meeting of the Biophysical Society as an undergraduate student 17 years ago with her research advisor, Dr. Anne Walter from St. Olaf College.

The university featured the honor on its News and Announcements page. According to Northeastern, Rebiai’s project, titled “Light-Induced Conformational Changes of S. aurantiaca Bacteriophytochromes as Revealed by Atomic Force Microscopy,” is the first to use atomic force microscopy to build structural characterization of light-regulated enzymes. Highlighting Stojkovic’s pride in Rebiai’s achievement, the article concludes with a quote: “This is a true honor to have our student stand on the national stage.” Rebiai is currently in her first year of Ph.D. studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

MCB-funded Workshop Explores Benefits and Challenges of Crowdfunding Basic Research

Participants listen attentively to panel dicussion

Approximately 70 guests attended the workshop

Researchers, scientific society representatives, citizen scientists, academics, economists, and non-profit leaders convened October 10 in Alexandria, VA, to exchange experiences and perspective on using crowdfunding to help finance basic research in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) topics. The day-long workshop, which drew approximately 70 participants, addressed a wide range of topics, including:

  1. The hidden benefits of crowdfunding (more…)

This is MCB! Hear from Dr. Engin Serpersu

Serpersu head shot

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) supports fundamental research and related activities designed to promote understanding of complex living systems at the molecular, sub-cellular, and cellular levels. Behind our mission stands a group of individuals whose efforts and great work make this Division outstanding; we are proud to showcase their hard work via this blog.

Dr. Serpersu completed his doctoral degree in biochemistry Hacettepe University Medical School, Ankara, Turkey. He was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at Justus Liebig University, Giessen, West Germany, before completing postdoctoral work at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. He began a teaching career in 1988 at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he rose through the ranks to professor and served a term as chair of the Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology department. His areas of expertise include biophysical chemistry; protein structure, function, and dynamics; and thermodynamics.

Dr. Serpersu joined MCB in June of 2014 as a rotator (a two-year, temporary program director position) and is now a permanent program director, serving as cluster leader in the Molecular Biophysics cluster. As a program director, he manages proposal reviews and makes funding decisions. As cluster leader, he coordinates activities within the cluster and collaborates with other program directors as well as the broader scientific community to help ensure that awards funded by Molecular Biophysics contribute to NSF’s mission of transforming the frontiers of science and innovating for society. He is also on the CAREER (Faculty Early Career Development) Coordinating Committee and a member of the Oversight Group for National Facilities with the National Institutes of Health.

In his spare time Dr. Serpersu enjoys playing volleyball, attending antique auctions, and walking on the beach.

Congratulations to 2017 Nobel Laureate, Dr. Joachim Frank!

A picture of the three awardees in stylized yellow and blue sketches with each of their names below their face.

© Nobel Media. Ill. N. Elmehed

MCB joins the rest of the scientific community in congratulating NSF funded researcher Joachim Frank who, along with Jaques Dubochet, and Richard Henderson, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his role in the development of Cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM).

“Cryo-electron microscopy fundamentally changed biology and biochemistry, allowing scientists to create 3-D reconstructions of the biomolecular processes that support life,” said NSF Director France Córdova. “The technology delivers an unprecedented look at life at the atomic scale, providing us with accurate models of everything from viruses to antibodies. Joachim Frank demonstrated that potential to NSF in 1984, when the agency helped him acquire a high-resolution electron microscope for 3-D reconstruction, and then continued to support his development of new applications for the technology over the following decades. Biochemistry owes Frank and this year’s other two Chemistry laureates, Richard Henderson and Jacques Dubochet, a debt for this important visualization tool.”

Dr. Engin Serpersu, Program Director and Molecular Biophysics Cluster Leader stated that “technological developments and improvements in data analysis transformed Cryo-EM from being suitable only to study global structural properties of biological complexes to providing 3D structures with atomic level resolution. These developments also allow researchers to examine proteins smaller than we ever imagined possible, including ones as small as 100 kDa. Undoubtedly, Cryo-EM is now one of the mainstay structural tools helping scientists in a broad range of biological problems and its development is well worth this honor.”

YEAR-ROUND PROPOSAL SUBMISSIONS (NO DEADLINES) COMING TO MCB IN 2018

MCB’s current solicitation (NSF 17-589) deadline is Nov. 20, 2017.

In response to popular feedback, and in the interest of our community, MCB will be following in GEO’s footsteps to eliminate deadlines for future proposals. We will release a new solicitation in mid- 2018 which will detail the procedure and funding priorities for proposals submitted with “no deadline.” Funding for the proposals submitted under the no-deadline solicitation will begin during the 2019 fiscal year.

Eliminating proposal deadlines offers three key advantages. First, no-deadlines allows PIs to be more strategic in building collaborations; second, no-deadline reduces the time crush on institutions; and third, no-deadlines enables NSF-BIO to work more collaboratively across the directorate to fund science that crosses levels of biological organization. NSF anticipates that this change will result in more complex, interdisciplinary projects that have the potential to dramatically advance biological science.

More information about the change will be released through FAQs, webinars, presentations, and this blog as it arrives. Read more in the Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 18-11).A timeline of the changes to come over the next two years