Headshot of Dr. Cathy Lewis

About Dr. Cathy Lewis

Until her retirement in January 2017, Cathy directed the NIGMS division that supports basic research and training in cell biology and biophysics. She played an active role in developing new NIH initiatives in single molecule biophysics and live cell imaging.

Final FOA for NIGMS Program Project Grants

We have reissued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for program project grants (P01) in areas related to NIGMS’ mission. The program remains unchanged from the previous FOA. The next application deadline is January 25, 2017. The program project grant is designed to support research in which the funding of several interdependent projects offers significant scientific advantages over the support of these same projects as individual regular research grants.

We’re exploring alternative approaches to fund team science projects. We recently requested community input on this topic. The responses we received included a recommendation to support interdisciplinary, challenging science beyond multiple-PI R01s that would allow greater flexibility than what is possible with the existing P01 program. We’ll keep you posted on our plans.

Give Input on Needs and Opportunities in Team-Based Science

We’ve been examining the benefits and challenges of team science and considering approaches to support this mode of research.

We use a variety of mechanisms to fund collaborative and team-based science, including program project grants (P01s) and different types of center grants (e.g., P50s and U54s). At our recent Advisory Council meeting, we heard a report on P01 outcomes compared to those of other mechanisms. We also heard a report from an external review panel on the National Centers for Systems Biology program.

To explore team science approaches, we have set up an internal NIGMS committee that includes representatives from across the Institute. Our goal is to develop better ways to identify and support research teams that will produce scientific advances not attainable by single individuals or by standard collaborative efforts.

One of the committee’s first efforts was issuing a request for information (RFI) on approaches for supporting team science in the biomedical research community. We’re soliciting input on a number of topics, including:

  • Interest in team science.
  • Management and advisory structures in team science.
  • Team composition.
  • Resources and infrastructure.
  • Assessment of team science.
  • Past or current NIGMS team-based programs and funding mechanisms.

RFI responses should be sent to TeamScience@mail.nih.gov by June 17, 2016. We also welcome comments here.

Support of Structural Biology and PSI Resources

The 15-year Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) ended on June 30, 2015. In preparation for the termination of the program, an external committee of structural biologists and biomedical researchers identified high-priority areas for NIGMS’ future support of structural biology and the preservation of certain PSI resources. Here are some of their key recommendations and what we’re planning to do in response.

Continue to support synchrotron beamlines for macromolecular crystallography.

Recognizing the importance of synchrotron beamlines in modern structural biology, we intend to continue to support these community resources. Part of this effort includes using a new funding approach to ensure that NIH-supported investigators have reliable access to mature synchrotron-based resources.

Maintain the technologies that make structural investigations possible at the most advanced level; meet the need for modern cryo-electron microscopy resources.

We’ll continue to use existing grant mechanisms to support structural biology research, including
X-ray crystallography, NMR, cryo-EM and integrative or hybrid methods. To facilitate the use of
cryo-EM for structure determination we have started a program to provide support for consortia of
cryo-EM labs to upgrade their facilities
. NIGMS is also developing plans for establishing regional
cryo-EM centers that could provide access to state-of-the-art cryo-EM resources for the broader structural biology community.

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NIGMS Grantee to Share 2014 Nobel Prize for High-Resolution Cellular Imaging

Cellular skeleton showing the calculated 3D location of the protein tubulin.

Using a technique made possible by super-resolved fluorescence microscopy, scientists captured this image of a cellular skeleton. More details

We were excited to learn this morning that our grantee William E. Moerner will share the 2014 Nobel Prize in chemistry Exit icon with Eric Betzig and Stefan W. Hell "for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy." We congratulate them on this well-deserved recognition of their pioneering work, which has provided an unprecedented window into the cell and paved the way for understanding a range of biological processes.

I’m particularly thrilled with today’s news because it highlights an NIGMS-supported field that I’ve been closely involved in for more than 15 years. I remember my first conversation with W.E. on moving single-cell spectroscopy into biology, which led to a 2000 workshop we held to explore the state of the art in—and potential for—research in single molecule detection and manipulation. The recommendations from that workshop informed the development of a number of initiatives to apply the tools and approaches of the physical sciences to biological problems. The initiatives include our single molecule detection and manipulation program announcement and an NIH Roadmap for Medical Research program on the development of high-resolution probes for cellular imaging.

Since then, we have witnessed an explosion in the use of optical methods to look at single molecules at the nanoscale level and are gaining a wealth of insights as a result.

A statement from NIGMS on the prize is at http://www.nigms.nih.gov/news/results/pages/20141008.aspx. More information about our support of Nobel Prize winners is at http://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/pages/factsheet_NIGMSNobelists.aspx and at http://www.nigms.nih.gov/pages/GMNobelists.aspx.

Wanted: Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity Division Director

Search Committee Members:

Howard Garrison, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Gary Gibbons, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Co-chair

Carlos Gutierrez, California State University, Los Angeles

Catherine Lewis, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Co-chair

Hannah Valantine, Office of the Director, NIH

Dorit Zuk, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences

NIGMS plays a major role in supporting research training, career development, diversity and capacity-building activities that foster a strong and diverse research workforce. The Institute’s Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity (TWD) coordinates these efforts. TWD also serves as a focal point for similar activities across NIH and among other federal and non-federal agencies and organizations.

The search is now open for an outstanding individual to serve as director of the TWD Division. This position offers important and unique opportunities to set new directions and shape new strategies, including optimizing training models to best address scientific and workforce needs.

Candidates must have an M.D., Ph.D. or equivalent degree in a field relevant to the position. The ideal candidate will have a broad spectrum of scientific knowledge in fields related to the NIGMS mission and considerable experience in research, research training and activities aimed at developing a diverse biomedical and behavioral research workforce. Beyond that, we’re looking for someone who has vision, is innovative, and has exceptional leadership, management, strategic and collaborative skills; experience leading change; and an interest in testing ideas and approaches experimentally.

For additional information and application instructions, please see the vacancy announcement (no longer available). Applications will be accepted from June 1, 2014, to July 15, 2014.

As chair of the search committee for the division’s director, I ask for your help in identifying candidates for this crucial position and in sharing this information with others who might be interested.

UPDATE: This vacancy listing has been extended to August 31, 2014.

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 Exit icon.

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

“Join Us on the Edge of Discovery”

NIGMS LogoWe’ve posted a new job listing (link no longer available) for a position in the NIGMS Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics.

This position is for the Chief of the Structural Biology and Proteomics Technology Branch. This person will oversee the scientific and administrative management of the branch, which supports research using genomics or computational approaches to study protein structures and functions as well as the development of new tools to facilitate this work. In addition to handling a portfolio of research grants, the branch chief will also direct the Protein Structure Initiative.

The listing closes August 11, 2009. Spread the word!

UPDATE: This vacancy listing has been extended to August 18.