Watch the September 19 Advisory Council Meeting Live or Later

Our next National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council meeting is September 18-19, 2014. Although the first day is a closed session, Friday’s portion of the meeting is open to the public. You can watch the open session online.

Friday’s presentations begin at 8:30 a.m. with opening remarks by NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch. In addition, the agenda includes presentations by staff on a variety of Institute activities as well as a concept clearance for the pilot to support NIGMS investigators’ overall research programs.

You’re also welcome to attend the meeting in person and make comments during the public comment period.

If you can’t view the meeting live, you can watch it later in the videocast archive.

Spectacular Scenes of “Life: Magnified,” Now on View at Washington’s Dulles Airport and Online

NIH Director Francis Collins with NIH scientist and ASCB President Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz at the Life: Magnified exhibit. Credit: Charles Votaw Photography.
NIH Director Francis Collins with NIH scientist and ASCB President Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz at the Life: Magnified exhibit. Credit: Charles Votaw Photography.

Yesterday, I was thrilled to walk through Life: Magnified, a newly installed exhibit of stunning microscopy images at Washington Dulles International Airport. The pictures lit up the 2-story gallery space with vibrant colors, intriguing shapes and incredible science. The exhibit, which we co-organized with the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Exit icon and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, runs through the end of November in the walkway leading to Concourse C.

This striking image collection has already been featured in a number of major news outlets, including Science Exit icon, NBC News online Exit icon, The Atlantic Exit icon, The Washington Post Exit icon and National Geographic Exit icon. What a great way to share the complexity and beauty of biomedical science with such a large public audience!

We had a tough time selecting the 46 images in the exhibit from the more than 600 submitted by the scientific community in response to calls from us and ASCB Exit icon. The images, which are from labs in 17 states—from Massachusetts to Missouri to Montana, represent work funded by NIGMS and nine other NIH institutes.

The collection showcases the rich diversity and activity of life at the cellular level: ever-changing architectures, communities cooperating and colliding, a daily struggle between health and disease. It includes various tissues—skin, bone, muscle, fat, blood, brain, liver, eye, ear. It presents examples of normal development as well as diseases. And it includes pathogens that infect us—anthrax, HIV, Ebola, rotavirus, bubonic plague.

Quite a few of the images come from model organisms, providing us an opportunity to convey to non-scientists the important role these systems play in helping to advance understanding of human health and disease. The exhibit also features a range of cell imaging and microscopy techniques.

This project is an excellent example of a public-private collaboration to bring biomedical science to a public place where a wide array of people will be able to see, enjoy, marvel and learn from it. We hope to have more opportunities to do this in the future.

While Life: Magnified is best viewed in person, if your travels don’t take you through Dulles as a ticketed passenger, you can still see the images in our online gallery. This site includes longer captions than in the airport exhibit and enables anyone to freely download high-resolution versions of the images for educational, news media or research purposes.

If this exhibit inspires you to share the beauty of your own work with the public, we’re always interested in receiving new content for our image and video gallery. Send your submissions to Alisa Zapp Machalek. Not only does she manage the gallery, Alisa was the NIGMS project leader for Life: Magnified and worked tirelessly with colleagues in NIGMS and the collaborating organizations to mount the show in record time.

Attend or Watch Online: Medical Scientist Training Program 50th Anniversary Symposium

NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) 50th anniversary symposiumThis year is the 50th anniversary of the NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), which supports research training leading to the combined M.D.-Ph.D. (or other dual) degree. Starting with only three institutions and a handful of supported students, the program has grown to 45 institutions and more than 900 trainees per year.

We’re marking this milestone year with a symposium on Thursday, July 17, from 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. The event will feature remarks by NIH Director Francis Collins and Association of American Medical Colleges President and CEO Darrell Kirch as well as talks by seven current and former MSTP trainees.

Although the symposium is free, we would like participants to register to attend. If you can’t join us in person, you can watch the event live online.

Plans for a scholarly article highlighting the history of the MSTP are under way. If you have comments, anecdotes, historical data, photos or other relevant images, please let us know by writing a note in the comments box on the meeting registration site or by sending me an e-mail message.

Protein Data Bank Passes 100,000-Structure Mark

Protein Data Bank (PDB) counter showing 100,147 total number of entries.
The latest update brings the total number of PDB entries to 100,147.

The Protein Data Bank (PDB) Exit icon just passed a major threshold—the release of its 100,000th entry. This free online repository of experimentally determined protein and nucleic acid structures, which NIGMS and other parts of NIH have helped fund since 1978, facilitates atomic-level insight into protein structure and function. PDB is widely used by the scientific community to study basic biological processes like transcription, translation, enzymology, bioenergetics and metabolism and also for more medically oriented investigations into disease mechanisms and drug design.

In addition to scientists, students and educators use the digital resource for their own explorations of protein structure, function and interactions as well as to gain greater knowledge about biology.

Number of structures available in the PDB per year, with selected examples. For details, see http://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/73206.php?from=267554 Exit icon.

Approximately 260,000 visitors access PDB each month. Scientists around the world currently deposit about 200 structures per week, which PDB staff review, annotate and augment with links to other relevant biological data. To meet the challenges posed by large structures, complex chemistry and use of multiple experimental methods, the repository recently launched a software tool for structure deposition and annotation Exit icon.

If you aren’t already a PDB user, I encourage you to check out its resources to see if they could help advance your research.

 

Watch the May 23 Advisory Council Meeting Live or Later

Once again, we’re videocasting the open session of the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council meeting. The half-day session begins at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, May 23, with opening remarks by NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch.

We’ll also hear talks by NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity Hannah Valantine and Council member Richard Lalonde of Pfizer, Inc.

Other items on the agenda include presentations on our cell repository and our postdoctoral research associate program as well as a concept clearance for data reproducibility training modules.

If you can’t view the meeting live, you can watch it later in the videocast archive.

You’re also welcome to attend the meeting in person and make comments during the public comment period.

Career Transitions Workshop for Postdocs

2014 Postdoctoral  Preparation Institute: Career Transitions WorkshopRegistration is now open for the 2014 Postdoctoral Preparation Institute: Career Transitions Exit icon, a workshop we’re funding for postdoctoral fellows who will soon be seeking positions in a variety of career sectors. The workshop, which is being run by FASEB, will take place near NIH on June 5-6. It follows two successful prior NIGMS postdoc workshops in 2010 and 2012 Exit icon.

The meeting will cover a range of topics related to making a successful transition to the next career stage, including career planning; communication, leadership and other interpersonal skills; grant-writing; applying for positions; and navigating the interview and negotiation processes. Participants will also have an opportunity to learn about a number of scientific career options.

Among the featured speakers are NIGMS director Jon Lorsch and NIH’s first chief officer for scientific workforce diversity, Hannah Valantine.

If you know of postdocs who would benefit from this career development event, please encourage them to visit the registration page Exit icon for details about eligibility, travel support and application materials. Applications are due by April 18.

While the event is open to all eligible postdocs, we especially encourage applications from members of groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical or behavioral sciences. If space is available, the FASEB meeting organizers will also consider applications from new assistant professors who are within 1 year of the completion of their postdoctoral training and 5th-year Ph.D. students who are near degree conferral.

Call for Stunning Microscopy Images—Deadline March 10

A collage of images showing taste buds on the tongue, nerve fibers, microtubules and actin filaments, small intestine, and plague bacteria.

In a few months, stunning microscopy images from NIH grantees will be featured in an exhibit called Life: Magnified.

The exhibit, a joint project of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), NIGMS and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, will run from June through November of this year at Dulles International Airport. This is an exciting opportunity to educate the public about cutting-edge biomedical research.

If you have images you’d like us to consider for display, please see the submission Web site Exit icon for image requirements and instructions. Submissions are due by March 10. You can contact NIGMS’ Alisa Machalek or ASCB’s Thea Clarke with any questions. You don’t have to be an ASCB member or an NIGMS grantee to contribute images.

If you find yourself near the C Concourse at Dulles later this year, I encourage you to stop by the Gateway Gallery to check it out.

International Year of Crystallography Is Under Way

A crystal of hen egg white lysozyme. Credit: Alex McPherson, University of California, Irvine.
A crystal of hen egg white lysozyme. Credit: Alex McPherson, University of California, Irvine.

As you may know from the coverage in various popular news outlets and science journals (see below for a list), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has declared 2014 to be the “International Year of Crystallography Exit icon.” This is in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize in physics to Max von Laue for the discovery of diffraction of X-rays by crystals.

I first learned about crystallography in college, when I took a course in physical chemistry that included an introduction to chemical crystallography. Crystallography combines math, computer science, chemistry and biology—and that’s what convinced me to do graduate work in the field. When you determine structures, you’re often the first person to ever see that molecule, and that’s pretty exciting.

Since 1914, scientists have made many advances in the use of X-rays for the atomic-level determination of the 3-D structure of molecules. For instance, in the early years of the 20th century, William and Lawrence Bragg, father and son, learned that the newly discovered X-ray radiation could be used to locate the atoms in a crystal of matter. Their work ultimately led to Bragg’s Law for understanding X-ray diffraction and the structure determination of materials ranging from table salt to the ribosome. Breakthroughs made possible by crystallography (and diffraction) have led to 15 Nobel Prizes, including 7 with NIGMS support.

X-ray crystallography has impacted all areas of science, including biomedical research. The first biological finding was made by James Sumner, who discovered that enzymes could be crystallized (urease was the enzyme). In the years following, X-ray diffraction and crystallography have been used to reveal the structure of DNA and countless proteins and enabled structure-based drug design efforts. Crystallography has become an established tool of small molecule and protein studies.

Today, modern biological crystallography is practiced at synchrotron facilities, with access to 20 X-ray crystallography beamlines supported entirely or in part by NIGMS. Efforts are under way to make smaller, more intense beamlines that will allow the study of small crystals. Crystallography is also very much a part of the new X-ray laser facilities, where several NIGMS investigators are carrying out pioneering research on very small crystals of proteins, including membrane proteins, on X-ray scattering of proteins in solution and on protein dynamics.

Clearly, crystallography continues to be a cutting-edge field, and I’m excited to see what advances it brings during the coming years.

Articles about the International Year of Crystallography:

January 30 Special Issue of Nature Exit icon
UN to Raise Awareness of Little-Known Science Behind DNA, Computer Memory, New Drugs Exit icon
2014 Is the International Year of Crystallography (‘What’s Crystallography?’ You Ask) Exit icon

Web Chat to Stimulate Student Interest in Cell Biology and Research Careers

Cell Day 2014: Web Chat with NIH Scientists. February 28, 2014. 10a.m. to 3 p.m. ESTWe’re hosting another Cell Day interactive Web chat on Friday, February 28, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST. During this time, members of the NIGMS scientific staff, including our director Jon Lorsch, will answer questions from students, teachers and the public about cell biology and research careers.

You can follow the chat live from the Cell Day Web site or read the transcript, which will be posted there shortly after the event. The site also includes registration information, the transcript from the 2012 event and classroom resources about the cell.

Please let people in your local schools and community know about Cell Day.

This event is just one example of the Institute’s commitment to encouraging and preparing future generations of scientists via formal research training and informal learning opportunities.

Advisory Council Meeting: Attend, Watch, Comment

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council will have its winter meeting on January 23-24, 2014. Although the first day is a closed session for the review and discussion of grant applications, Friday’s portion of the meeting is open to the public. The agenda includes presentations on NIGMS programs and policy changes as well as a public comment period.

You may attend the open session in person or watch the presentations and discussions live or later.