Wanted: Cell Biology Branch Chief

We’ve just posted a job listing for the chief of the Cell Biology Branch within the NIGMS Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics.

This person will oversee the scientific and administrative management of the branch, which supports basic research on cellular organization, structure, organelles and processes. The branch’s major scientific areas include cell motility, cell division, cell attachment, extracellular matrix, cell signaling, cytoskeletal components and dynamics, membrane structure and function, intracellular trafficking, lipid metabolism, and electron and light microscopy.

In addition to this management role, the branch chief also serves as a program director responsible for advising, directing and evaluating program activities for a portfolio of research grants in one of the areas of cell biology cited above.

This listing closes December 2, 2011. See the vacancy announcement for a detailed description of the job requirements and application procedures.

Please spread the word by forwarding this information to others who might be interested.

UPDATE: This vacancy listing has been extended to December 23.

New Resource for Finding and Contributing Cellular Images

Colorized scanning electron microscope image of a nerve ending that has been broken open to reveal the synaptic vesicles (orange and blue) beneath the cell membrane.With NIGMS support through a Recovery Act grant, the American Society for Cell Biology has established The Cell: An Image Library Exit icon. The resource is a freely accessible, easy-to-search, public repository of reviewed and annotated images, videos and animations of cells.

The goal is to create a single place where scientists—as well as educators, students and the general public—can find images of cellular structures and processes. The library currently houses more than 3,600 representative images from different organisms and cell types. You can search for specific images or browse by a number of categories.

You can use the library to:

  • Locate historical and recent images to use in slide presentations or classroom lectures,
  • Study how structures behave in a cell with the movies and animations,
  • Compare cellular structures from different organisms,
  • Generate new scientific questions based on observed characteristics, and
  • Identify potential collaborators.

The curators continue to improve the site and to add images. Plans include future collections related to diseased cells. I encourage you to draw from the library and also to submit your own images.

If you have feedback on the library, you can send it to the manager, David Orloff.

Back by Popular Demand: Workshop for Transitioning Postdocs

We’re holding our second two-day workshop for postdoctoral fellows who soon will transition to their first independent positions. It will take place on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, March 12-13, 2012. All eligible postdocs may apply, but we especially encourage applications from members of groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical or behavioral sciences.

The workshop, organized with the assistance of FASEB, covers a broad range of topics to help postdocs navigate the transition process, including applying for a position, negotiating an offer, establishing a lab, finding mentors and collaborators, getting a grant and balancing research with other commitments. NIH Director Francis Collins will deliver the keynote address.

We received a lot of positive feedback on our 2010 workshop. Just last week, I met an attendee who told me that she had recently moved into her first independent position and that attending the workshop had helped her get the job.

If you know of postdocs who would benefit from our career development event, please encourage them to visit the registration page for details about eligibility, travel reimbursement and application materials, which are due by November 30. Note that participants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Webinar on Transformative Research Awards, Managing Science in Fiscally Challenging Times

Extramural NexusI want to highlight two items from the monthly digest of postings from NIH’s Office of Extramural Research.

On November 8 from 1:00 to 2:45 p.m. Eastern time, NIH will host a webinar on a new high-risk, high-reward program, the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Awards. It’ll provide an overview of the program and details about the application process. You can access the webinar at https://webmeeting.nih.gov/hrhr. Submit questions in advance or during the program by e-mailing Transformative_Awards@mail.nih.gov or by calling 1-800-593-9895, passcode 10699.

You may have already read the post from OER Director Sally Rockey on managing science in fiscally challenging times or tried out NIH’s interactive data graphs. The post has generated more than 175 comments, including this one from our former director Jeremy Berg that discusses NIGMS’ approach:

I think it is a very good idea to make these data and the interactive slides available to the scientific community. However, some key points deserve clarification. On slide 2, it is stated that the current way of managing is to “bottom out success rates (doing nothing but letting the system correct itself)”. I do not think that this correctly represents the situation. As Director of NIGMS for 7 1/2 years, we used a number of the degrees of freedom shown in the slides to manage success rates. For example, awards sizes were often reduced below the requested amount to increase the number of new and competing awards that could be made. We realized that these reductions had implications for the funded investigators, but in periods of constrained appropriations, these were deemed to be less problematic than further decreases in the number of awards that could be made. In addition, NIGMS has had a long-standing policy of scrutinizing potential awards to well-funded laboratories, defined as laboratories hav[ing] annual direct costs from all sources of over $750,000. Note that this is not a cap, but rather a process involving program staff and the advisory council to ensure that such potential awards are carefully considered with respect to alternative awards to less well-funded laboratories. Thus, some of the approaches described have already been utilized. Furthermore, we have attempted to analyze scientific output in the context of these policies. Some trends are indicated but there are, of course, many challenges to measuring scientific output in a meaningful way. Furthermore, as one might anticipate, there are large variations at any given level of support. NIH and the scientific community need to work together to use the available data to develop policies that can best sustain the biomedical research enterprise in the long run.

For additional details, see the NIGMS funding policies page.

New NIH Curriculum Supplement on Evolution and Medicine

Cover image of the NIH Curriculum Supplement on Evolution and MedicineTo help students develop a rich understanding of evolution, NIH has just published a new high school curriculum supplement, Evolution and Medicine, that includes two weeks of lessons.

I particularly like the supplement because it shows through clear, scientifically-valid examples that evolutionary biology is fundamental to understanding health and disease. For instance, a unit on lactase persistence demonstrates how variation is distributed geographically and how it’s associated with the environment. There’s a unit on influenza that focuses on the evolutionary principles underlying vaccine development, and another that explains the evolutionary rationale for using model organisms.

The supplement was produced by the NIH Office of Science Education, but many of us at NIGMS were involved in developing and reviewing it. You can see an outline and order a copy for your own use or to share with others. A version of the supplement that you can review online and a downloadable teacher’s guide are coming soon. Descriptions of and links to other curriculum supplements are also available.