CAREER

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!

BROADER IMPACTS — IF IT WORKS, KEEP DOING IT

Broader Impacts are activities which advance societal goals through either the research itself or through complimentary efforts that advance the larger enterprise of science. Broader Impact activities don’t have to be original, one-of-a-kind ideas. However, they should clearly address a need, be well-planned and documented, and include both a thoughtful budget and a thorough assessment plan. Principle Investigator Allyson O’Donnell uses near-peer mentoring to pair high school students from under-represented minorities with undergraduates in the O’Donnell lab at the University of Pittsburgh, and assesses the outcomes to identify impact.

High school student Hanna Barsouk (Taylor Allderdice High School) and undergraduate student Ceara McAtee (University of Pittsburgh) work on a project in the O’Donnell Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh.

Goals of the Broader Impact activity: “The near-peer program focuses on bringing underrepresented minority high school students into the lab and providing an opportunity for them to develop their passion for science. Undergraduates who serve as mentors have measurably stronger engagement with their work in the lab.”

Recruitment: “The high school students volunteer in the lab during the school year and then can apply to participate in more research-intensive activities during the summer. The summer internships are paid, and this is currently funded through an REU supplement as part of my CAREER award.” (NSF award 1902859)

How it works: “I pair the high school students with an undergraduate mentor so that there is a near-peer mentor connection with someone closer in age than a grad student or post doc. We have found that this gives the undergraduate a stronger sense of engagement and ownership in their research project. Plus, based on our assessments, this mentoring experience makes it more likely that the undergraduates will participate in outreach activities in the future. From the high school students’ perspectives, they have someone they are more comfortable asking questions of and who can help give them advice on navigating the application process for universities. Of course, this is in addition to having myself and other team members as mentors.”

How do you measure impact? “We have used the Grinnell College SURE survey [Survey of Undergraduate Research Experiences] and other reflective assessments of this approach and find that both the undergraduate and high school students report significantly enhanced learning experiences. Specifically, the high school students show higher learning gains in understanding the research process and how to think like a scientist, while the undergraduate students gain more knowledge about science literacy and confidence in their ability to engage the community in science.”

High school students Sara Liang (left) and Hannah Barsouk proudly display a box of plasmids they created to support their research project at the O’Donnell lab. The two attend Taylor Allderdice High School.

Future plans? “We first used this system of pairing high school students with undergraduate mentors while the O’Donnell lab was located at Duquesne University. We worked with eight students in 2017 and six students in 2018 and we expanded to other labs in the Department of Biological Sciences. We hope to expand the program here at the University of Pittsburgh as well, where it will also be supported by our fantastic outreach team.”


CAREER DEADLINE REMINDER- July 17, 2019

doodles of bology images, books, a heart, an axon, cells, fungus, insects, chemical formulas, and leaves

NSF CAREER proposals submitted to BIO are due July 17, 2019 by 5PM submitter’s local time. The CAREER program (NSF 17-537) is an NSF-wide solicitation offering the agency’s most prestigious award for early career faculty. CAREER awards are intended to be the foundation of a lifetime of leadership, research, and education, and in MCB are awarded in any research area supported by MCB core programs. CAREER awardees are also eligible to receive the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.

Applicants with questions can read these FAQs or contact the relevant division representative. All proposals should be submitted in accordance with the revised NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 19-1), which is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after February 25, 2019.

continued doodle of biology things, plant cells, sugar structures, DNA, a bird, root systems, cell structures

Photocredit: Drawlab19/Shutterstock.com

This is MCB! Hear from Dr. Engin Serpersu

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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.

NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR BROADER IMPACTS: THE POWER OF PARTNERSHIPS

NABI

In April, the National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI) held its fifth annual Broader Impacts Summit at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA. NABI is a network of more than 600 individuals working together to build institutional capacity, advance broader impacts, and demonstrate the societal benefits of research. NABI members come from educational institutions, museums, science centers, zoos, botanical gardens, professional societies, private industry, foundations, and other organizations. A list of member institutions is available on the NABI website and you can read about the objectives of NABI in a prior post on the MCB Blog. Established in part with funding provided by the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, NABI events and resources help researchers create and develop impactful broader impacts activities.

At the summit, Dr. Suzanne Iacono, Head of the Office of Integrative Activities (OIA) at the National Science Foundation, delivered a keynote address entitled Broader Impacts at NSF. She noted, across proposals, student education and broadening participation were two main focus areas. These areas were also a major point of discussion in several of the sessions at the meeting.

The theme of the three-day summit was the “Power of Partnerships.” Sessions focused on three strands: innovative BI approaches and activities, faculty and student development and training, and broader impacts infrastructure, skills, and tools. Research into the role of partnerships in empowering high-quality outreach, models for public engagement partnerships, and best practices in the assessment and evaluation of broader impacts were presented, which created a foundation for data-driven conversations about broader impacts for the 21st century and beyond.  Presenters discussed how to construct strong science education and build outreach partnerships with a diverse array of partners such as citizen scientists, startup companies, museums, community partners, STEM graduate students, engineers, and faculty. Summit participants also learned how to use crowdfunding, cinema, social media, and Twitter as tools to facilitate outreach.  Discussion also focused on how to reach non-traditional public audiences, minorities underrepresented in STEM fields, and the next generation of scientists. Panelists offered lessons learned while establishing outreach partnerships such as University of Wisconsin – Madison Science Alliance, which connect scientists with K-12 educators, parents, lifelong learners, students, and others. The Summit had a strong focus on the future of BI and NABI.  Sessions engaged member feedback, discussed the creation of a peer-reviewed journal about broader impacts, and considered the role of the NSF CAREER Program in integrating intellectual merit and broader impacts. Slides for each presentation are available at https://broaderimpacts.net/2017-schedule/.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the National Alliance for Broader Impacts network, visit their website at https://broaderimpacts.net/join-nabi/ to join for free. Registration for the next summit, which will be held at the Providence Biltmore April 25-27, 2018 will become available on the NABI website at https://broaderimpacts.net/.

This work is partially funded by the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, Award #MCB – 1408736.

CONGRATULATIONS TO 2017 PRESIDENTIAL EARLY CAREER AWARDEE, DR. AHMAD KHALIL!

Dr. Ahmad Khalil is smiling, arms crossed, standing in front of his lab bench while wearing a blue and white checked shirt and glasses.

MCB would like to congratulate Dr. Ahmad (Mo) Khalil, recipient of the 2017 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The PECASE award is the most prestigious honor a scientist or engineer can receive from the U.S. government early in their independent research career.

PECASE selection is a highly competitive process. As we previously noted on the MCB Blog, awardees must first receive a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. Dr. Khalil received his CAREER award from the Systems and Synthetic Biology Cluster in the Division of MCB. The National Science Foundation annually nominates up to twenty CAREER awardees for the PECASE award, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy makes the final selection of PECASE awardees.

Dr. Khalil was selected to receive a PECASE award because his work is an outstanding example of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and because of his strong commitment to service, scientific leadership, education, and outreach. His research uses synthetic biology to engineer cellular networks; the specific focus of his CAREER award is to develop synthetic tools to study the function of prions in yeast cells and populations. You can read more about his research at Boston University on his lab’s website or in a post we featured via the Share MCB Science blog theme.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Khalil!

This work is partially funded by the Systems and Synthetic Biology Cluster of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, CAREER Award #MCB-1350949.

2016 Top 6: Our Most Popular Blog Posts of the Year

We greatly appreciate your continued support of the MCB Blog! In 2016, we were very pleased to see MORE visitors, an INCREASE in views per post and total blog views, and 104 NEW followers who read our blog weekly!

Meet the Editors who craft and edit MCB blog posts. Read our blog policies. Share Your Science with our readers. Tell us what you like to read most and provide feedback on how we can continue to improve. You can also contact us online or reach out to program staff from MCB at Your Meeting.

Here is a quick look at our top 6 most popular blog posts of 2016.

(1) IN HONOR OF DR. KAMAL SHUKLA

This grouping of photographs shows Dr. Kamal Shukla smiling with NSF and MCB staff during work events.

(2) EXPLORING NON-ACADEMIC SCIENCE CAREERS: ASSISTANT DEAN FOR DIVERSITY INITATIVES IN THE NATURAL SCIENCES IN PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

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(3) EXPLORING NON-ACADEMIC SCIENCE CAREERS: SUPPLEMENTAL FUNDING FOR CAREER DEVELOPMENT

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(4) MEET THE SUMMER 2016 INTERNS AT MCB!

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(5) EXPLORING NON-ACADEMIC SCIENCE CAREERS: PRESIDENTIAL MANAGEMENT FELLOWSHIP

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(6) NSF FACULTY EARLY CAREER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

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