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…)
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.
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.
MCB welcomed Dr. Matthias Falk to the Cellular Dynamics and Function (CDF) cluster this past December. Dr. Falk is serving as a rotating program director (PD) under the Visiting Scientist, Engineer, and Educator Program (VSEE), where he will work closely with visiting panelists, other PDs, and the greater scientific community to help shape the direction of science. In his role as program director, Dr. Falk’s expertise will help guide funding recommendations; influence new directions in the fields of science, engineering, and education; and support cutting-edge interdisciplinary research. Keep reading below to learn more about Dr. Falk.
Here is a list of the top five most-viewed blog posts of 2017 in descending order. From the shift in no-deadlines to highlighting innovative broader impact activities, this blog features exciting science, news, and opportunities generated or supported by MCB. See what you’ve been missing!
Rolling MCB proposal submissions to be implemented in 2018.
Published Oct 5 under “Funding and Service.”
Above and beyond basic science: Dr. Raj designing a science communication tool called Slideboards at UPenn, and Dr. Neiman and Dr. Schoerning creating a Science Booster Club at UIowa.
Published May 12 under “Broader Impacts.”
Dr. Skop of UW-Madison emphasizes work/life balance, and incorporating your passion into your science.
Published Dec. 12 under “Broader Impacts.”
From NSF grantee, then panelist/reviewer, to the inside scoop: meet Dr. Weinreich as he embarks on his new role at NSF.
Published June 2 under “Getting to Know MCB.”
The 2017 MCB call for grant proposals: program synopsis.
Published Aug. 18 under “Funding and Service.”
MCB welcomed Dr. Elebeoba (“Chi-Chi”) May to the Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) cluster this past November. Dr. May is serving a two-year assignment under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA). As a “rotator,” Dr. May will retain ties to her current institution and return to it with new insights and experience. As a program director, she’ll use her expertise to make funding recommendations; influence new directions in the fields of science, engineering, and education; and support cutting-edge interdisciplinary research. Keep reading below to learn more about Dr. May: (more…)
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.
What were you doing before you came to the NSF?
I am currently a Staff Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in Los Alamos in NM, and also an Adjunct Professor at Department of Chemical Engineering at UC Davis. In general, my area of scientific expertise covers using neutron and x-ray scattering to investigate nano- and meso-structures, including bio-interfaces (lipid membranes, interaction of membranes with bio-toxins, Langmuir-Blodgett monolayer films films and living cells) and soft-matter systems (polymers, etc.) in different environments. At LANL I was also involved in many aspects of solid-state physics and science connected with national security and actinides properties. I am currently an American Physical Society (APS) and Neutron Scattering Society of America (NSSA) Fellow.
What attracted you to work for the NSF?
I was interested to explore new career avenues as well as to use my experience to influence science outside the lab.
What was your first impression of the NSF? Has this impression changed since you began serving as a rotator?
My first impression was that NSF is a well-functioning institution with a friendly working environment and well-deserving of its impressive reputation. The organization has a clearly established mission, well-trained personnel, and extremely nice people all around. My first impression has only changed in that these observations have become even more evident over time!
What personal goals would you like to accomplish while at the NSF?
I would like to use my time at NSF to learn how science is supported from the view of a funding agency. I am interested to see the ways NSF uses to get to know the community we support and to understand their scientific needs. I hope to obtain a more global picture of how federal agencies like NSF work and use this information to develop connections and knowledge. I also hope to visit the scientific places NSF supports and to better understand the scientific outcomes of the funded research..
What has surprised you most about working at the NSF?
That such tremendous work is done is such short time and with such efficiency. I have been continually impressed by the tight connection between the science communities and NSF Program Directors who support them. I have also been impressed at the huge spectrum of expertise, experiences, and ideas of the NSF staff.
What are some of the challenges of serving as a rotator?
I have to admit that the beginning was rather overwhelming: to learn so many new things in a short time (the panel season was approaching when I started) and to deal with/memorize/try to understand the science described in the proposals while knowing that any decision might be consequential for science. I was fortunate to have the support of my fellow Program Directors through this time and have learned so much.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about serving as a Program Director at the NSF?
It is a tremendously rewarding job but a lot different from regular activities of a scientist. It is a job well-suited for people who have a lot of experience in the scientific community and know their science well – I still find myself needing to learn many things at NSF despite my 20+ years’ experience as a scientist.
When friends or colleagues find out that you work at the NSF, what do they say or ask?
My friends and family, even those not as familiar with the extent of NSF’s work, are very impressed and think that working at NSF is very noble.
(Left) A photograph of NSF’s building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia
(Right) NSF’s new offices in Alexandria, Virginia
As you may have heard, the National Science Foundation is relocating to Alexandria, Virginia. The physical transition is occurring over a six-week period, and this week the time has arrived for BIO (including MCB) to make the move. Our last day in Ballston will be Thursday, September 14th and we will begin operations in the new building on Monday, September 18th. Our phone numbers and emails will remain the same, but we ask that you remain patient as we may be slower to answer messages or calls over the next few days. Effective October 2, our new mailing address will be:
National Science Foundation
2415 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22314