MCB welcomed Dr. Elebeoba (“Chi-Chi”) May to the Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) cluster this past November. Dr. May is serving a two-year assignment under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA). As a “rotator,” Dr. May will retain ties to her current institution and return to it with new insights and experience. As a program director, she’ll use her expertise to make funding recommendations; influence new directions in the fields of science, engineering, and education; and support cutting-edge interdisciplinary research. Keep reading below to learn more about Dr. May: (more…)
What were you doing before you came to the NSF?
What attracted you to work for NSF?
The reason was two-fold: (1) Being a program director allows one to learn about science at the cutting edge beyond ones area of expertise. (2) The NSF has provided me with uninterrupted funding since 2004 starting with a CAREER award. This is an opportunity for me to give back.
What was your first impression of NSF? Has this impression changed since you began serving as a rotator/program director?
My first impression was very positive and it continues to be so. There are some incredibly bright people working here who are quick to realize (and fund) the next big innovation.
What were the personal goals you most wanted to accomplish while at NSF?
Get a broader view of science, in general and molecular biophysics, in particular. This is an opportunity one rarely has in one’s research lab.
What surprised you most about working at NSF?
Nothing really. I have served on multiple panels in the PHY, CHEM and BIO directorates and have been a Committee of Visitors member in the past.
What are some of the challenges of serving as a rotator/program director?
It takes a little while to realize that one is not a panelist when running panels. One has to take great care not to editorialize and let the panelists do their job.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about serving as a program director at NSF?
They should absolutely do it. It would give them an unprecedented opportunity to get a broad view of science than they normally would.
When your friends/colleagues find out that you work at NSF, what do they say or ask?
They worry that my own research may be affected. I tell them that with the Independent Research/Development (IR/D) program and flexible work hours (for an IPA assignee), it allows me to continue my research uninterrupted and supervise my students and postdocs. It actually forces me to organize my time better and perhaps makes me more productive.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?
I would say that this is a great place to work for rotators. The staff and other program directors are fabulous. I expect to leave the NSF a better scientist and a better manager.