Blog

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.

CAREER CORNER: DOING IT YOUR WAY

In alignment with the National Science Foundation’s vision statement, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) occasionally posts articles about scientists who pursue careers outside the traditional path of post-doc, research and tenure-track university positions. Dr. Beth Carpenter holds a Ph.D. from Uniformed Services University in Emerging and Infectious Diseases. Her career path has steered away from the post-doctoral research and tenure-track positions at universities.  

Dr. Beth Carpenter in her lab at Seton School.

Dr. Carpenter entered graduate school already knowing that her career goal was to earn a doctoral degree to teach science, rather than conduct research – specifically her goal was to teach undergraduate students. “Understanding this gave me a lot of freedom in my program,” Carpenter says. “I chose the preventative medicine track because it provided a broader exposure to knowledge than other specializations.” And, luckily for her, her Ph.D. advisor supported her goal.

Carpenter’s planning paid off: She is now in her fifth year at Seton School in Manassas, VA, where she is science department head and teaches chemistry to high school students. She is also an adjunct professor of biology at University of Maryland University College, where she has taught biology to undergraduate students since receiving her Ph.D.

It took more than a Ph.D. to open the doors to the classroom, says Carpenter. She was fortunate that her Ph.D. program included professors who were teaching at community colleges in addition to their research. They helped her craft a personal statement of teaching philosophy and frame her CV to reflect her teaching experience. And if she could do it again, she says, she would look for funding to attend an education conference to help her establish connections in the field of education.

The key to re-aligning a traditional career path to meet her personal goals were planning and persistence. Carpenter advises students to seek opportunities that develop the skills and experiences needed to transition to their intended career goals. “There are probably scientists in your department who can help you,” says Carpenter. Advisors can help students identify opportunities by tracking the career paths of former students and remaining open-minded to their students’ goals.

“Teaching biology to high school and undergraduate students is where we can help the public understand how biology fits into their lives,” says Carpenter. “We need good science teachers to teach science and build interest in science.”  

Do you know someone who’s used their Ph.D. in biological sciences or a related discipline to pursue a career outside the academic environment? Click on the feedback link above…we may share their story!

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.

Reintegrating Biology: Register Now

What research directions do you think the biological research community should be exploring? What research directions do your peers value?

This is the logo for Reintegrating Biology.

Make sure your ideas are part of the conversation by registering to participate in either of two Virtual Town Hall events on Sept 17 and 18. The events will include some (very) brief inspiring talks, a few details, small break-out groups to brain storm, and report-outs from the small groups.

Register now at reintegratingbiology.org. For more information, visit Integrating Biology.

Reintegrating Biology: Tell Us What You Think

This is the logo for Reintegrating Biology.

What is the most compelling question in the life sciences you would tackle by integrating disparate sub-disciplines of biology?  

NSF wants your thoughts on the question—and you may wish to hear the thoughts of your peers. Join the conversation by registering for one of two Virtual Town Hall meetings to be held Sept. 17 and 18. Participants must register. Go to reintegratingbiology.org to register. Registration is limited.

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.

Re-integrating Biology Town Halls

Learn about this exciting new initiative and register for town hall discussions from the Office of the Assistant Director’s blog here or below.

“Biology has the goal of understanding the processes that generate and sustain life.  Despite this unifying principle, the actual practice of modern biology has become increasingly fragmented into subdisciplines due, in part, to specialized approaches required for deep study of narrowly defined problems.  BIO aims to encourage a unification of biology. Our goal is to stimulate creative integration of diverse biological disciplines using innovative experimental, theoretical, and computational approaches to discover underlying principles operating across all hierarchical levels of life, from biomolecules to organisms, species, ecosystems, and biomes.

Earlier this year we asked you, as members of the biological sciences community, for high-level ideas on the research questions and topics that would benefit from NSF investment in a truly integrated research environment. The responses from across the country offered a broad range of fundamental biological questions spanning the scales of biological organization. BIO now wants to grow and enrich the conversation with a view to priming the formation of new NSF-supported research teams around these questions.

To that end, we invite you to register for one of several Virtual Town Hall discussions, which will take place the week of September 16, 2019. These events will help identify themes for more focused, in-person discussions that will take place later in the fall – fertile soil for germination of new, foundational cross-disciplinary ideas that will unify and advance the biological sciences.

More details can be found at https://reintegratingbiology.org/.”

Next Steps for NEON

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) became fully operational this year, and public sources of data are now freely available. Additionally, a recent Dear Colleague Letter announced an intent to compete management of future operation and maintenance of the network. Read more about it on Bio Buzz, BIO’s blog from the office of the Assistant Director.

TOP FIVE TIPS FOR PREPARING AN AWARD BUDGET

Whether you are a first-time investigator or a seasoned NSF-funded researcher, a correctly prepared award budget can help you prevent delays in starting your research. We asked MCB program directors to tell us their top tips on completing a proposal budget. While these tips are helpful, MCB reminds PIs to always refer to the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedure Guide (PAPPG) for guidance on proposal submission. In addition, follow any specific instructions or restrictions included in the program announcement or program solicitation to which you are applying.

Tip 1: JUSTIFY COSTS LINE BY LINE, NOTING THE LINE NUMBER OF THE BUDGET CATEGORY IN THE BUDGET JUSTIFICATION.
Tip 2: GRADUATE TUITION AND/OR HEALTH BENEFITS MUST BE PLACED IN (G.6. OTHER) RATHER THAN (F. PARTICIPANT SUPPORT).
Tip 3: WHEN SUBMITTING A SUPPLEMENTAL FUNDING REQUEST, THE INDIRECT COST RATE SHOULD BE THE SAME AS THE PARENT AWARD.
Tip 4: REQUESTS FOR MORE THAN 2 MONTHS OF SALARY SUPPORT FOR SENIOR PERSONNEL MUST BE CLEARLY JUSTIFIED. 
Tip 5: IF IT IS UNIVERSITY POLICY TO NOT CHARGE INDIRECT COST ON A SPECIFIC EXPENSE, THIS SHOULD BE STATED IN BUDGET JUSTIFICATION.