Making the Leap From RUI to Graduate Research Fellowship

In 2013, Emina Stojkovic, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University was awarded a Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) grant from MCB to study light-responsive proteins in the development of myxobacteria. The RUI award mechanism is designed to support faculty at predominately undergraduate institutions conducting research that engages them in their professional field, builds capacity for research at their home institution, and supports the integration of research and undergraduate education.

We are excited to report that Dr. Stojkovic’s research, mentoring, and advising activities at the undergraduate level have resulted in four students being awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships to support their graduate studies. Two of the students, Angela Varela and Anna Baker, were undergraduate researchers trained in Stojkovic’s laboratory by working on the RUI project. The other two students, Daniel Westcott and Christopher Craddock were trained in research groups that collaborated with Stojkovic on interdisciplinary projects.  The students share more about their research interests in this press release provided by Northeastern Illinois University. In response to this news Dr. Stojkovic states, “The impact that NSF has had on our alumni and the students who are on their way to graduate from our department is tremendous. I am honored and grateful to serve in the role of a mentor and primary investigator.”

MCB at Your Meeting: Annual Biomedical Conference for Minority Scientists (ABRCMS)

By Chloe N. Poston, PhD

Program Directors in MCB regularly attend scientific meetings and workshops in an effort to garner input from the community,  spread the word about funding opportunities, recruit panelists, and encourage submissions to our division. Last November, Dr. Suzanne Barbour, Program Director for the Cellular Dynamics and Function cluster traveled to San Antonio, Texas for the 2014 Annual Biomedical Conference for Minority Scientists (ABRCMS). There, she presented the breadth of opportunities at MCB available to biomedical researchers through a very well attended panel hosted by the MCB-funded American Society of Microbiology LINK program.

As a part of the same session, ASM LINK (Leaders Inspiring Networks and Knowledge) representatives presented data outlining their initiatives to improve mentoring through in-person workshops, webinars, and discussion forums known as “Mentoring Mondays”. ASM LINK seeks to build strong “links” between established research investigators and early-career scientists, undergraduate faculty, and trainees (students and fellows). In addition to these on-going activities, ASM LINK also sponsored travel awards for NSF eligible post-doctoral scientists and research faculty to serve as presentation judges at ABRCMS. Travel awardees were invited to participate in a two-day Mentoring Strategies Workshop before the meeting. This workshop focused on tackling the greatest mentoring challenges, especially as they relate to building interdisciplinary research teams and broadening participation in STEM.

Dr. Barbour views attending ABRCMS “a unique opportunity to showcase research/ training opportunities in MCB, with the goal of inspiring underrepresented bioscientists to work on projects in the MCB mission area”. She is optimistic that her presentation in conjunction with the ASM LINK program will lead to a range of positive outcomes especially with respect to broadening the community of applications to MCB.

Summer Interns Shine at MCB

Last summer the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences hosted 3 summer interns pictured above. NSF’s Summer Scholars Internship Program (SSIP) is designed to develop undergraduate and graduate student potential through exposure to relevant science and engineering policy, research, and education issues and programs. The students come to NSF for a ten-week summer experience to work in an office that aligns with the students’ academic interests.

Summer 2014 MCB Intern Ariel Parker (second from the left above) shares her experiences:

What was your project while at NSF?

My project was to study the representation of underrepresented minorities (URM) in MCB proposal submission and award allocation. In addition, I began to collect data about the increasing number of proposals submitted by PIs who choose not to report their gender or race/ethnicity.

How did your experience enrich your university experience?

This internship provided my first experience in science policy.  Before this past summer, all of my science experiences were in laboratory research; I had no knowledge of how science policy and funding worked.  This summer at NSF taught me that science is not just the research but is also about outreach, education, and ensuring that research can be funded.  This internship expanded my ideas about what science entails and about science careers. At my college, I now have a greater appreciation for basic science research and am exploring some of the alternative science careers I learned about at NSF.

What was your favorite part of the internship?

I enjoyed everything about the internship – the helpfulness of all my mentors, the openness of the program directors, the group meetings, and the division retreat.  However, I think my favorite part was the trip to the Plant Biology 2014 Conference in Portland.  It was here that I saw how important NSF’s and specifically MCB’s work is: many of the posters were possible due to funding from MCB/NSF, and a great number of principal investigators came to the NSF co-sponsored workshop to learn about funding opportunities.  I learned a lot on the sixth floor of the NSF building, but it was not until I went to the conference that I saw first-hand how far-reaching MCB’s work is.

Do you know a graduate or undergraduate student who might be interested in a summer internship at NSF? For more information on the Summer Scholars Internship Program, please contact Sherrie Green, Program Manager, at sbgreen@nsf.gov or visit: http://www.nsf.gov/od/iia/activities/interns/index.jsp