CAREER

IMPORTANT UPDATES TO THE CAREER SOLICITATION

image saying "Update!" Image credit: SergioVas/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: SergioVas/Shutterstock.com

The Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) solicitation (NSF 20-525) contains key updates this year:

  • A single deadline has been implemented for all directorates. The deadline is July 27, 2020 and the fourth Monday of July annually thereafter.
  • Principal Investigators must hold at least a 50% tenure-track or equivalent position as an assistant professor to be eligible to apply.
  • This year’s applicants must meet all eligibility criteria as of July 27; future applicants must meet all eligibility criteria by each year’s respective deadline of the fourth Monday of July.

The CAREER Program offers the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty. Each year, NSF also selects nominees for the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from recent CAREER awardees. Approximately 500 CAREER awards are made each year; the total anticipated funding amount for this year’s awards is $250,000,000.  

To assist applicants in meeting the deadline, NSF has developed supplementary guidance on key milestones to complete before submitting your CAREER proposal. For example, CAREER proposals submitted through Grants.gov should be submitted by July 17 to allow for the additional processing required before they can be accepted by NSF. If submitting through FastLane or Research.gov, submit by July 20 to allow time for resolving any system errors and also to avoid high volume delays at NSF’s Help Desk.

MCB CAREER Awardee “Confab”

On October 28-29, 2019, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) hosted the first annual CAREER Awardees Conference, which was attended by 36 current principal investigators. The conference enabled awardees to share information on their research and broader impact programs with each other and NSF staff, discuss current and future directions in molecular and cellular biological sciences, and form new connections within the MCB CAREER awardee community.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-wide funding opportunity for early-career faculty. Recipients of the prestigious, five-year award are selected for their potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the missions of their respective departments or organizations.

The conference, anchored by seminars and a poster session, included activities to foster networking and stimulate collaborations amongst awardees. Program officers from each of the four divisions within the Directorate of Biological Sciences (BIO), as well as from the Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) and the Directorate of Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), presented flash talks informing attendees about how MCB interfaces with other programs within NSF. Conference organizer Manju Hingorani (Program Director, Genetic Mechanisms cluster, MCB) noted that an important goal of the conference was for the attendees to come away with new ideas on advancing their research and educational programs.

The responses from attendees were overwhelmingly positive. “This has been a fantastic opportunity to meet other scientists across domains and feel better connected to the NSF,” said one. “Learning outside my area of expertise” was most rewarding, noted another. The conference gave one attendee “several new ideas that I am itching to try out. I also linked up with two to three people for potential collaborations” – a sentiment expressed by many others as well.

MCB plans to host this conference annually for CAREER awardees in their second and fifth years of the five-year award period in order to facilitate knowledge transfer between scientists at different points in their academic careers.  If you would like to find out more about the program, please visit the CAREER website. If you have questions or are interested in applying to the program, please contact a Program Director in MCB.

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

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.

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.