Author: Dr. Jon Lorsch

Headshot of NIGMS Director Dr. Jon Lorsch.

As NIGMS director, Jon oversees the Institute’s research, training, and other programs. He’s committed to engaging the scientific community on a wide range of topics, including funding policies and trends, research evaluation, and workforce development and diversity.

Posts by Dr. Jon Lorsch

Dorothy Beckett to Direct BBCB Division

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Headshot of Dr. Dorothy Beckett.

I’m pleased to announce that Dorothy Beckett will join NIGMS on January 19 as the new director of our Division of Biophysics, Biomedical Technology, and Computational Biosciences (BBCB). Dorothy is a molecular biophysicist with extensive expertise in the field. She is a leader in the scientific community and a proponent of expanding opportunities for women and underrepresented groups in science.

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Dorit Zuk Named NIGMS Acting Deputy Director

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Headshot of Dr. Dorit Zuk.

I’m pleased to tell you that Dorit Zuk has agreed to serve as acting deputy director of NIGMS upon Judith Greenberg’s retirement at the end of the month.

Dorit has served in several leadership roles at both NIGMS and NIH. She’s been the director of our Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (GMCDB) since early 2016. Before joining NIGMS, she was director of the former Office of Policy, Communications and Strategic Alliances at NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Prior to that, she was the science policy advisor to the NIH deputy director for extramural research.

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NIGMS Deputy Director Judith Greenberg to Retire

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Headshot of Dr. Judith Greenberg.

I’d like to share with you the bittersweet news that our deputy director, Judith H. Greenberg, is retiring at the end of the month after 45 years of service to NIH, most of which was spent right here at NIGMS. Judith has been a vital part of the NIGMS leadership team and an invaluable advisor to me since I came on board as NIGMS director.

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Developing a Culture of Safety in Biomedical Research Training

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NIGMS is committed to supporting safety in the nation’s biomedical research and training environments. Last April, we shared with you resources for enhancing lab safety in biomedical research training environments. Now, in a perspective in the current issue of Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC), we focus on strategies for improving laboratory safety. Some of these strategies are also applicable to other forms of safety including the prevention of harassment, intimidation, and discrimination. We frame the problem of laboratory safety using a number of recent examples of tragic accidents, highlight some of the lessons that have been learned from these and other events, discuss what NIGMS is doing to address problems related to laboratory safety, and outline steps that institutions can take to improve their safety cultures.

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What Can We Do to Combat Anti-Black Racism in the Biomedical Research Enterprise?

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The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, in addition to the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on African Americans, are wrenching reminders of the many harms that societal racism, inequality, and injustice inflict on the Black community. These injustices are rooted in centuries of oppression—including slavery and Jim Crow, redlining, school segregation, and mass incarceration—that continue to influence American life, including the biomedical research enterprise. Despite leading an NIH Institute whose mission includes building a diverse scientific workforce, at NIGMS we’ve struggled with what an adequate response to this moment would be, knowing that the systems that mediate the distinct and disparate burdens Black students, postdocs, and scientists face are complex and often aren’t easily moved with the urgency that they demand. With that in mind, below we share thoughts on what each of us who is in the majority or in a position of power can do to help break the cycles of racial disparities that are woven into the fabric of the biomedical research enterprise and that limit opportunities Link to external web site for Black scientists Link to external web site.

Institutional structures, policies, and cultures Link to external web site, including those in the biomedical research enterprise, all contribute to racial inequality and injustice. This fact was laid bare for us by the responses to the request for information (RFI) we issued in 2018 on strategies to enhance successful postdoctoral career transitions to promote faculty diversity. Respondents cited bias and discrimination—including racism—most frequently as a key barrier to postdoctoral researchers attaining independent faculty positions.

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Seeking Feedback on Our New Strategic Plan

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UPDATE: The deadline for responding to the request for information has been extended to July 31.

As I described in my last post, we recently released a progress and outcomes report [PDF] highlighting the work we’ve done to meet the goals and objectives of the NIGMS 2015-2020 strategic plan [PDF].

We’re now beginning development of a new strategic plan that will describe NIGMS’ overarching goals, strategic objectives, and implementation tactics in support of the Institute’s mission over the next 5 years.

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Reflecting on Our Strategic Priorities

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In my first post as NIGMS director in 2013, I discussed the need to develop a new strategic plan to guide our efforts and to ensure that we invest taxpayer money as efficiently and effectively as possible. Our current strategic plan emerged as a product of collaboration between all functional units of our Institute, with valuable input from external stakeholders, and it’s been used to guide management decisions at NIGMS for the last 5 years.

Since publication of this strategic plan in 2015, the Institute has undertaken programmatic and organizational changes to better achieve the goals set forth in the plan. I therefore wanted to reflect on these activities as we consider our priorities for the next 5 years.

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New Webinar Series for the NIGMS Training Community

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UPDATE: Additional webinars have been announced. View the full schedule.

We’re pleased to announce a new webinar series for students, postdocs, and faculty. Each hour-long webinar will include a 10- to 15-minute presentation by the speaker followed by a moderated question and answer session. Our hope is that these webinars will enhance our trainees’ ongoing learning experiences. 

The webinar series kicks off next Monday, May 4, and a tentative list of dates and speakers is below. As plans are finalized, additional details will be posted on our website.

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New NIGMS Web Resource on Safety in the Lab and Other Training Environments

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The safety of trainees and other lab workers from accidents, violence, harassment, and inappropriate behavior is a high priority for NIGMS. Because the Institute has such a large training and workforce development portfolio, we feel that we should play a central role in promoting the development of a robust culture of safety in biomedical research training environments.

As part of this effort, we recently announced the availability of supplements for research education, training, and career development grants to enhance laboratory safety curricula and to build a culture of safety in biomedical research training environments (NOT-GM-20-016). To provide additional resources to enhance safety, we have now launched an NIGMS website highlighting laboratory safety training and guidelines. On this page, you’ll find links to a number of online resources including:

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NIGMS Virtual Learning Resources for Scientists at All Career Stages

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To assist with virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’d like to remind you of the valuable resources NIGMS supports for our trainee and educator communities. These resources apply to all levels, ranging from community college students to faculty.

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