Getting to Know MCB

MCB Office Hours Nov. 13

During this Office Hour we will discuss Award types and Funding Mechanisms followed by an open Q&A session. Questions should be broad and of potential interest to others.

Division Leaders and Program Directors from all four MCB clusters: Cellular Dynamics and Function (CDF), Genetic Mechanisms (GM), Molecular Biophysics (MB), and Synthetic and Systems Biology (SSB) will be present.

DATE: Wednesday, Nov. 13
TIME: 2-3 pm (Eastern Standard Time)
REGISTRATION LINK:
https://nsf2.webex.com/nsf2/onstage/g.php?MTID=e8f6e83805a92d4976895ee2f6addbe42

Register to participate and submit your questions via this link.

Click on the link “Subscribe to NSF-MCB” (right side of the page) to receive notifications of new posts as well as the link for each month’s Virtual Office Hours event.

Virtual Office Hours! NEW!!!

MCB now holding office hours!
Wednesday, Oct. 9 2-3pm
(and the 2nd Wednesday of every month)
Bring your questions! 
Join us remotely to listen and learn!

At MCB’s first Virtual Office Hour on October 9, MCB Division and Deputy Division Directors (Basil Nikolau and Theresa Good) as well as cluster leaders/representatives (Charlie Cunningham, CDF; Karen Cone, GM; Wilson Francisco, MB; David Rockcliffe, SSB) will give an overview of the MCB division, its clusters, and their respective priorities. The meeting will be held via WebEx. Participants may submit questions via the Q&A function. Questions should be broad and of potential interest to others.

At each Virtual Office Hour thereafter, MCB plans to discuss a specific topic, followed by an open question and answer session. Registered participants may post questions during the Virtual Office Hour.  Click on the hotlink to register – and be sure to select “Join by browser” when the option appears on your screen.

*Click on the link “Subscribe to NSF-MCB” (right side of the page) to receive notifications of new posts as well as the link for each month’s Virtual Office Hours event.

Reintegrating Biology: Last Chance

This is the logo for Reintegrating Biology.

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences wants to hear what you think!


Although registration for participating in one of two Virtual Town Halls will soon close, there’s still time to make your voice heard in the discussion about the directions you’d like to see funded by the National Science Foundation.  

For more information, read the post, “Integrating Biology” at BioBuzz, the blog of the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Biological Sciences, Office of the Assistant Director.

MCB WELCOMES TRESA SCRUGGS PROFFITT AND PHOEBE LOSTROH

Welcome Tresa

Tresa Proffitt is a program assistant in MCB.

A photo of Tresa smiling into the camera with a tree behind her

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!

Welcome Phoebe

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?

A picture of Phoebe smiling into the camera in an office setting.

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.

MCB Welcomes Summer Intern Jamie Helberg

Each year the National Science Foundation hosts summer interns from across the United States. This summer, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences staff is excited to welcome Jamie Helberg. Read below to learn more about Jamie and the project she’s undertaking for MCB.

Welcome Jamie Helberg

I grew up in Los Angeles, California and am the proud daughter of Cuban and Colombian immigrants. This fall, I will be entering my senior year at Pitzer College. Pitzer is a member of the Claremont Colleges-a unique consortium of five undergraduate colleges and two graduate institutions. I am majoring in Environmental Analysis with a Spanish minor. Following my bachelor’s degree, I aspire to attend graduate school to study agriculture and food security. This summer, I will be focusing on whether resilience and productivity of applicants to MCB awards correlates with demographics by evaluating resubmission rates. Overall, I hope to consolidate this data in a manner that coherently recognizes how NSF funding can lead to groundbreaking research while simultaneously diversifying our nation’s scientific discoverers. 

MCB congratulates the winners of the NSF Director’s Awards and the National Alliance for Broader Impacts Award

The NSF directors award winners are standing together holding their certificates and smiling
Left to right (front) Alexis Patullo, Reyda Gonzalez-Nieves, Bridget Johnson, Engin Serpersu, (back) Wilson Francisco, Charles Cunningham, and Jaroslaw Majewski.

On May 9, 2019 the National Science Foundation held its annual Director’s Award ceremony to recognize excellence in service and achievement by NSF employees. Eight MCB employees were honored this year. Reyda Gonzalez-Nieves received the NSF Director’s Award for Meritorious Service for her exceptional leadership. Charles Cunningham, Bridget Johnson, and Alexis Patullo received a Superior Accomplishment award for advancing one of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas, “Understanding the Rules of Life” through their work organizing the “Building a Synthetic Cell” ideas lab. Wilson Francisco, Jaroslaw Majewski, and Engin Serpersu also received a Superior Accomplishment award for their leadership in developing “Quantum Leap,” another of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas.

The National Alliance for Broader Impacts held its annual summit April 30-May 2 and honored Karen Cone and David Rockcliffe for their significant contributions to advancing the societal impacts of research and for leadership in supporting the National Alliance for Broader Impacts.

MCB congratulates all our awardees and thanks them for their hard work and commitment to fulfilling NSF’s mission to promote the progress of science.

MCB Welcomes Rita Miller and Marcia Newcomer and Bids Farewell to EJ Crane

Welcome Rita Miller

Rita Miller is a Program Director in the Cellular Dynamics and Function Cluster and comes to us as a VSEE rotator from Oklahoma State University where she studies the cytoskeleton and positioning of the mitotic spindle.

Rita is smiling to camera

What is your educational background?

I have been a biology nerd since my youngest days.  As a kid, I used to sit for hours and watch my older brother dissect his high school frog, dogfish shark, and pig.  I wanted to see how those organ systems worked, so I majored in physiology in college at Michigan State University.  I loved working in the lab as an undergraduate, so I went to Northwestern University for graduate school.  I studied cell biology there with Robert Goldman, using some of the early confocal microscopes to study keratin intermediate filaments. Those studies taught me a lot about protein purification and microscopy, but I wanted to know more about genetics and molecular biology.  So, I went to Princeton University and worked with Mark Rose as a Postdoctoral Fellow.  He taught me a massive amount about yeast genetics and cell biology.  I had my first daughter there in New Jersey and Mark always had great advice on raising daughters too!

When did you start working in MCB and what was your first week like?

I started at NSF the Tuesday after Labor Day, so early September 2018.  The first week was two days of training.  After a couple days of getting oriented to the computer system and then it was straight into helping manage a CAREER panel, followed by writing the acceptances and declination letters.  It was the fastest week ever!

What have you learned so far from your position? 

That NSF invests in people not just projects.

What are some of the challenges you have faced so far?

I think that it can be a challenge to Skype often enough with my graduate students back in Oklahoma.  Some students are more comfortable with Skype than others. But I have given them the “golden ticket” to call me whenever even evenings or weekends, so after some adjusting we have worked out a schedule that works for everyone.

Welcome Marcia Newcomer

Marcia Newcomer is a Program Director in the Molecular Biophysics Cluster and comes to us as an IPA rotator from Louisiana State University where she studies cell responses to environmental conditions and metabolic pathways.

What were you doing before you came to the NSF?

I am a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University, where I have a research program that focuses on the enzymatic production of lipid mediators of the inflammatory response. We are a group of structural biologists trying to define the molecular mechanisms these enzymes use to acquire their membrane-embedded substrates.  As a professor, I teach Introductory Biology for biology majors. This is a very surprising fate for someone who did all she could to avoid biology as an undergraduate chemistry major.

What attracted you to work for NSF?

I see my position at NSF as a chance to be involved with an agency I consider essential to our ability to discover ways to improve the world in which we live. 

What was your first impression of NSF? Has this impression changed since you began?

Although I knew that the National Science Foundation funds more than the biological and physical sciences, I did not appreciate just how expansive its profile is until I started working here.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about serving as a Program Director at NSF?

One of the joys of life in academia is that you are constantly challenged to learn more. Serving as a program director exposes you to even more new fields and helps you enjoy the “big “picture” of scientific advances from a different perspective. It is a great experience.

Farewell to EJ Crane

EJ Crane served as a VSEE rotator for two years as a Program Director in the Systems and Synthetic Biology Cluster and returns to Pomona College where he studies microbiology and biochemistry of sulfur-based respiration.

EJ is smiling into the camera with sunglasses, he is holding a large metal stick with a sampling bottle attached and a hot spring is steaming in the background

How did your time at NSF influence how you will go forward with your research?

I had been doing interdisciplinary science before my time at NSF; however, my experiences there made appreciate interdisciplinary approaches even more.

What is next for you after your time at NSF?

I’ll be back at Pomona College, refocusing on my lab and courses. Based on what I learned during my time at NSF, the emphasis of my lab will change somewhat, and I will spend much more time focusing on trying to find connections in the many datasets that have been generated for microbial communities in a wide range of environments. My lab will continue to be experimental, but we’ll be taking better advantage of all the data on microbial communities that has already been obtained by others.

What personal goals did you accomplish while at NSF?

One personal goal was just being able to manage the workload as a program manager. I have been in academics for my entire career, so it was reassuring to know that I’m able to work effectively outside of the relatively isolated environment of my own laboratory and my experience at NSF showed me that I can translate these skills to other contexts.

What did you learn from your position?

I learned about several new areas of the molecular and cellular biosciences from the proposal review process, meetings, and my colleagues at NSF. I have a much better understanding of what the important and exciting questions are across the broad field, as well as in biology as a whole.

MCB Program Director Devaki Bhaya Named Fellow of California Academy of Sciences

Devaki is smiling into the camera and holding up a framed certificate from the California Academy of Sciences

MCB warmly congratulates Dr. Devaki Bhaya, Program Director in the Systems and Synthetic Biology cluster, for being recently named a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. The honor was extended to a total of 14 researchers this year for their significant contributions to science or science education and communication. Fellows are nominated by their peers and selected by the Academy’s board as individuals whose research aligns with the Academy’s mission to “explore, explain, and sustain life”.

Dr. Bhaya is a research staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, CA, and holds a courtesy appointment as a Professor of Biology at Stanford University, Stanford, CA. Dr. Bhaya says, “I am thrilled to be elected a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, an organization that couples a remarkable natural history museum with a lively research institute.  My innumerable visits to the California Academy with friends, students, and family, have always been memorable and now I hope to participate more actively.”

Dr. Bhaya was selected for the Academy in part due to her work using molecular tools to understand how photosynthetic bacteria interact with their environment. More about the Academy and its newest group of Fellows is available via their website; more information about Dr. Bhaya and her research can be found on her lab web page.

 

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…)