Getting to Know MCB

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.

A Word from Dr. Gregory Warr, Acting Division Director

We all in MCB want to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation to Dr. Warr for his great service as Acting Division Director. During his time, Dr. Warr worked diligently in support of the Foundation’s mission. His excellent judgment, pragmatism, and collaborative approach led the division to new heights of excellence. Thank you, Dr. Warr, for your hard work and outstanding contributions to MCB.

It’s been an interesting, challenging and rewarding year that I’ve spent as the acting Division Director of MCB, and I’d like to take this opportunity to give you some idea of what the job has been like. Although the NSF is in many respects an academically-oriented agency whose mission is (in brief) to promote the progress of science, nothing in my near three-decade career as a professor in academia prepared me adequately for this position. While we work for the President of the United States, we are actively engaged with the broad academic community we support (who also serve, as sterling proposal reviewers), to whom we owe transparency and accountability. We are responsive to Congress in their oversight functions; and we bear in mind that we are investing the taxpayers’ money for the future benefit of society. It’s fair to say that a Division Director’s responsibility is to manage all of this in as seamless and efficient a manner as possible, which of course couldn’t happen without the strong professional skills of the Division staff, both administrative and scientific.

The Federal Government is a complex organization, but someone somewhere has seen every challenge that can crop up, and knows how to solve it. Knowing who that person might be is an essential aspect of the job! In addition to responsibilities as an administrator and manager, the Division Director is also involved in strategic planning, which involves not just the Biological Sciences Directorate and other units at the Foundation, but also other federal agencies and our international partners. Strategic initiatives may gestate slowly in the Federal Government, so it is important to take the long view. While I’ve enjoyed my year as acting Division Director, I’m very much looking forward to returning to my position as a Program Director, where I will be engaged very directly with evaluating and supporting the best and most exciting science that our community can propose to us.

I wish Linda Hyman, our incoming Division Director, the best of success in the position and hope that she will find it as enjoyable and rewarding as I have done.

Gregory Warr
Acting Division Director

Farewell to Dr. Suzanne Barbour

MCB gives a warm send off to Dr. Suzanne Barbour, Former Program Director and Cluster Leader for the Cellular Dynamics and Function Cluster.

Dr. Barbour completed her doctoral degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She started working in MCB in November of 2013. As a cluster leader, Dr. Barbour provided advice to investigators, coordinated the funding process, managed proposals in the area of cell biology, maintained cluster budgets, developed post-panel reports, and served as a liaison to Education and Human Resources committees on undergraduate biology and graduate education.

Dr. Barbour has accepted a position as the Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Georgia. As a Dean, Dr. Barbour will be committed to enhancing the Graduate School Experience for students, faculty, staff, and administrators. Her vision, passion for Graduate Education, academic background, and leadership skills will unquestionably be a great asset to the University of Georgia’s Graduate School.

MCB staff wishes Dr. Barbour many successes in this new chapter of her career.

 

This is MCB! Hear from Claudia Garcia

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.

Claudia Garcia has a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems from George Mason University. She is currently working on her second bachelor’s degree in Accounting. She came to NSF through the Pathways Program in February 2013. The Pathways Program in the federal government is designed to provide current students, recent graduates, and students with advanced degrees an opportunity to explore federal careers while enrolled in school. As Program Specialist, Ms. Garcia provides administrative support to the Molecular Biophysics and Cellular Dynamics and Function clusters. Furthermore, Ms. Garcia assists six program directors with the approval proposal cycle, which includes compliance checking, panel set-up, and award distribution. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and outdoor activities like biking and hiking.

MCB Bids Farewell to the Summer 2015 Interns

This summer, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences had the pleasure of hosting three summer interns. These outstanding undergraduate students culled through proposals, awards and annual reports to identify trends related to informal science education, minority involvement in broader impacts, and the impact of statistical and quantitative analyses on MCB-funded projects. The preliminary data produced by the interns generated several follow-up questions to be explored in the future.

Anita AlbanFullSizeRenderese, a rising senior at the University of Nevada, Reno, investigated informal science education in  active awards in the division. With the help of her mentors, she created a working definition of informal science education as any educational activity the PI participates in outside of the required curricula. These activities included training graduate and undergraduate students, K-12 outreach, lectures or blog posts targeted toward the public, and creating workshops and conferences. In addition to investigating the types of informal education, Anita also considered the length of time that principal investigators were funded, as well as their institutional resources. The division will use these data to continue to investigate what environments influence successful informal science education activities.

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Melissa Sam, a rising junior at Northeastern State University used her love of math and statistics to learn more about the use of Big Data analyses in MCB-funded projects. Melissa included the use of both statistical methods, such as the Markov Model, network analysis, bioinformatics, and principal component analysis, and quantitative methods, such as mass spectrometry, NMR spectroscopy, ChIP-sequencing, and next generation sequencing, to define “Big Data Analyses” for her research this summer. She investigated the number of different statistical or quantitative methods per proposal, the costs associated with employing these methods, as well as the impact on the scientific community ( ie. papers, presentations, and book chapters).  Her research findings will be useful to the division whose priorities for research support include quantitative and predictive cell and molecular biology.

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Mikah Barrueta,a rising senior at Otternbein University, spent her summer investigating minority involvement in the broader impacts of MCB-funded research by comparing promises to include underrepresented groups in proposals to reported outcomes in annual reports for a representative sample of awards. In addition, Mikah surveyed program directors and principal investigators to learn more about how the involvement of underrepresented groups is reported to NSF. She evaluated several topics including ways to improve reporting to better capture the demographics of participants in broader impact activities. Mikah’s data and analysis will be considered by the division, as it conducts follow-up research to address questions which emerged as a result of her research.

This is MCB! Hear from Dr. Arcady Mushegian

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. Mushegian completed his doctoral degree in Virology and Molecular Biology at Moscow State University, Former Soviet Union. He currently works as a Program Director and Cluster Leader for the Genetic Mechanisms Cluster. Dr. Mushegian started working in MCB in December of 2012. As a cluster leader, Dr. Mushegian provides advice to investigators, coordinates the funding decision process, manages proposals, maintain cluster budgets, develops post-panel reports, coordinates cross-directorate activities including multi-disciplinary panels, and brainstorm with colleagues.

Dr. Mushegian’s area of expertise is in bioinformatics. Prior to joining NSF, he was the Director of Bioinformatics at the Stowers Institute for eleven years. In his spare time, he greatly enjoys traveling with his wife, keeping up with his children, reading books and blogs, eating figs and apricots, and growing parsley in a community garden.

This is MCB! Hear from Dr. Susanne von Bodman

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. Susanne von Bodman completed her doctoral degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She currently works as a Program Director and Cluster Leader for the Systems and Synthetic Biology Cluster. Dr. von Bodman started working in MCB in September of 2010. As a cluster leader, Dr. von Bodman is involved in Program Management, outreach activities, and community development activities. She also provides advice to investigators, participates on strategic working groups, represents NSF in international funding activities in the area of Systems and Synthetic Biology. She coordinates the funding decision process, maintains cluster budgets, develops post-panel reports, and coordinates cross-directorate activities including multi-disciplinary panels.

Dr. von Bodman area of expertise is in Microbial cell-cell communication, Biofilms, Biotechnology, and Genetic Engineering. Prior to joining the National Science Foundation, she spent 12 years as a professor at the University of Connecticut, Storrs Campus. In her spare time, she greatly enjoys playing golf, and appreciates all the diverse activities the DC and Northern Virginia areas have to offer.

Meet the Summer 2015 Interns at MCB!

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 three interns. Throughout the summer we will share updates about their projects. Read below to learn more about these dynamic undergraduates.

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I am Anita Albanese, and I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. I am a rising senior attending the University of Nevada, Reno studying chemical engineering and neuroscience. I want to pursue an MD/PhD and am fascinated by degenerative disease research including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, diabetes, lupus, and arthritis. In my free time, I like to go to concerts and enjoy trying new food! This summer, I am researching the percentage of Principle Investigators that participate in informal science education within MCB. Furthermore, I will assess the mechanisms these Principle Investigators use to engage the public in MCB supported science.

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My name is Melissa Sam. I am from Baldwin Park, California and I am a rising junior at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. I am pursing a Bachelor’s of Science degree in mathematics. In the future, I hope to work with Native American communities nation-wide. I chose to apply through the Washington Internship for Native Students program  to get internship experience and to network with other native students. Also, I feel like this experience will better prepare me to effectively contribute to native communities.

Aside from my coursework, I work at the Indigenous Scholar Development Center on the Northeastern State University Campus as an Academic Peer Consultant. I tutor students mainly with College Algebra homework. I am the treasurer for the Native American Student Association (N.A.S.A.), and the vice president and treasurer for American Indian Science and Engineering Society (A.I.S.E.S.). During my free time I like to bead jewelry, read, and hang out with friends.

This summer, I will be researching MCB funded proposals that incorporate big data and statistics. I will also investigate whether the results of these projects are more impactful and more reproducible than those that do not use these techniques.

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My name is Mikah Barrueta. I am a rising Senior Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major with a French minor at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. I was born in Merida, Mexico and moved to the U.S when I was 18 years old. I have a strong interest in Public Health with a focus on minority health. I am planning to get my Master’s in Public Health with the Peace Corps “Masters International” program following my graduation. As a summer intern at NSF, I will be working on a project that reviews proposals that include Broader Impacts for minority involvement in the past, and compares them to the follow-up Broader Impact statement in the Annual Report.

This is MCB! Hear from Dr. Karen C. Cone

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. Cone completed her doctoral degree in Biochemistry and Genetics at Duke University. She currently works as a Permanent Program Director for the Genetic Mechanisms Cluster. Dr. Cone began working in MCB in January of 2009. As a program director, Dr. Cone manages the review and funding decisions for proposals submitted to Genetic Mechanisms. She also manages existing awards, which includes reviewing annual reports and processing supplement requests. Furthermore, she conducts outreach visits to prospective and current PIs. Dr. Cone is also the managing program director for the iPlant Collaborative, a large cyberinfrastructure project funded by BIO. She is also a member of several cross-disciplinary working groups that coordinate research activities across BIO and between BIO and other divisions.

Dr. Cone was a faculty member for 21 years in Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri.  Her research was focused in two areas: epigenetic regulation of gene expression in maize, and development of genetic and genomic resources for maize research.  Dr. Cone’s work involved both laboratory and field components; She had a huge corn field in the summer and spent a couple of weeks every January working in her winter nursery in Puerto Rico.

In her spare time, she likes to cook, eat, watch cooking shows on TV,  listen to NPR, read detective novels, do home improvement projects, garden, hang out with her pets (3 dogs and 1 cat) and her partner, and travel.