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.


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.

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.