Dr. Shiva Singh

About Dr. Shiva Singh

Shiva, a microbiologist with a lot of experience in scientific administration, oversees predoctoral T32 training programs, predoctoral F30 and F31 fellowships, as well as a broad array of undergraduate student development programs.

Your Perspectives: Catalyzing the Modernization of Biomedical Graduate Education

NIGMS actively supports efforts to catalyze the modernization of biomedical graduate education. We have undertaken a number of initiatives to stimulate this process, including hosting a symposium to showcase innovations in biomedical graduate education and providing administrative supplements to T32 predoctoral training grants to enhance rigor and reproducibility, career development and skills development.

On June 8, 2016, we took another step to encourage such change with the release of a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input on how our institutional predoctoral training grants program can be used to promote innovations in training. The RFI asked members of the community to weigh in on the strengths and weaknesses of the current system, the skills the next generation of graduate students should acquire, barriers to change and strategies to promote change through our institutional predoctoral research training grants.

We received 90 unique responses from stakeholders ranging from students and faculty to institutions and professional societies. Themes represented in the responses were organized around five major categories:

  • Institutional and training-related issues,
  • Skills development,
  • Systemic issues within the research enterprise,
  • Careers, and
  • Administrative and review issues.

Figure 1. Major Categories in Graduate Education RFI Responses. Bar chart showing the number of RFI responses in which one of the major categories was represented. A total of 90 unique responses were received for the RFI.

While NIGMS recognizes that those who responded to the RFI are unlikely to represent a random subset of the individuals and organizations who have a stake in graduate biomedical education, these responses provide insights regarding how members of the extramural community view the current challenges and opportunities in graduate biomedical education. As such, these comments will inform NIGMS’ ongoing efforts to catalyze the modernization of graduate education through a new predoctoral T32 funding announcement, which is currently under development. For more details about the analysis, we encourage you to explore the report.

Give Input on Strategies for Modernizing Biomedical Graduate Education

We’ve been examining how best to support the modernization of graduate education at the national level to ensure that trainees gain the skills, abilities and knowledge they need to be successful in the biomedical research workforce.

We’re involved in a variety of efforts. For example, we and other NIH institutes and centers provided support for the development of training modules on rigor and reproducibility. We encouraged graduate programs at institutions that receive predoctoral T32 support from us to make their alumni career outcomes publicly available to prospective and current students. We’ve also offered administrative supplements to predoctoral T32 training grants to support innovative approaches in the areas of rigor and reproducibility, career outcomes and graduate education. In April, we held a symposium covering these and other topics in graduate education. Finally, we plan to write a new predoctoral T32 funding announcement.

We’re now soliciting input from the biomedical research community and other interested groups in response to a new request for information (RFI) on strategies for modernizing biomedical graduate education. We’d like to know your thoughts on:

  • Current strengths, weaknesses and challenges in graduate biomedical education.
  • Changes that could enhance graduate education to ensure that scientists of tomorrow have the skills, abilities and knowledge they need to advance biomedical research as efficiently and effectively as possible.
  • Major barriers to achieving these changes and potential strategies to overcome them.
  • Key skills that graduate students should develop in order to become outstanding biomedical scientists and the best approaches for developing those skills.
  • Potential approaches to modernizing graduate education through the existing NIGMS institutional predoctoral training grants.
  • Anything else you feel is important for us to consider.

Responses can be submitted via an online form Exit icon and can be anonymous. They can also be emailed to modernPhD@mail.nih.gov. The due date for responses is August 5, 2016.

Wanted: Program Directors for Predoctoral and Postdoctoral Training, Capacity-Building Programs

We’re looking for multiple program directors (also known as program officers or health scientist administrators) to manage research grants, undergraduate and/or graduate student research and postdoctoral career development programs, and capacity-building programs.

Several of the positions are in the Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch of our Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity (TWD). These individuals will manage undergraduate and/or graduate student development programs along with research and training grants. Another position is in TWD’s Postdoctoral Training Branch. This individual will manage one or more of the programs in this branch along with research and training grants. We’re particularly interested in candidates who have broad expertise in areas relevant to the NIGMS mission and professional experience in the training of research scientists as well as in programs aimed at increasing the diversity of the scientific workforce.

The other position is in our Center for Research Capacity Building. This individual will manage programs that support research and provide resources for research infrastructure enhancement and capacity building in the basic, translational and clinical biomedical sciences. These programs seek to enhance the competitiveness and diversity of the biomedical research workforce.

Please see the vacancy announcement Exit icon for position descriptions and requirements and detailed application procedures. The positions close on April 13.

Webinar to Answer Your Questions About the New Research Training Tables

UPDATE: The webinar slides and answers to frequently asked questions are available.

NIGMS Staff Participating in March 8 Webinar

Shiva Singh, Chief, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity

Dick Okita, Program Director, Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry

John Laffan, Scientific Review Officer, Office of Scientific Review

Lisa Newman, Scientific Review Officer, Office of Scientific Review

If you’re preparing an institutional training grant application, you might have questions about the new research training tables required for receipt dates on or after the one coming up on May 25. We’ll field these questions during a webinar on Tuesday, March 8, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. EST. You can send questions to me or post them here before the webinar.

The revisions reduce the number of tables from 12 to 8, minimize the reporting of individual-level information and extend the tracking of trainee outcomes from 10 to 15 years. Table 8A must also be used to prepare annual progress reports. Table formats, instructions and samples are available on the NIH website.

To access the webinar, visit https://face2face.nih.gov/hope.mabry/7GZSC5SY Exit icon and click “OK.” If you’re away from your computer, you can access the site from a mobile device. You can also listen to a voice-only option by calling 1-888-390-0678 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering access code 50106.

We look forward to talking to you about the new training tables.

Webinar on Training Grant Supplements

NIGMS Staff Participating in the February 8 Webinar

Jon Lorsch, Director, NIGMS

Alison Gammie, Director, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity

Shiva Singh, Chief, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity

Kris Willis, Program Director, Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology

Lisa Moeller, Grants Management Officer

UPDATE: To join this meeting, visit Webinar on Administrative Supplements to T32 Grants, PA-16-060 and click “OK.” The site is compatible with mobile devices. For a voice-only presentation, call 1-888-469-2151 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and enter the access code 8911526.

We’ll field your questions about the recently announced Availability of Administrative Supplements to NIGMS Predoctoral Training Grants during a webinar on Monday, Feb. 8, from 3:15-4:15 p.m. EST. Details about how to access the webinar online will be available soon. You can send questions to me ahead of time.

Since announcing this funding opportunity, we’ve received many inquiries. The following points address most of the common questions:

  • The supplement is designed to provide support for the development and implementation of curricular activities aimed at providing graduate students with a strong foundation in research design and methods in areas related to conducting reproducible and rigorous research.
  • To be eligible, your training grant must be active through at least June 30, 2018. Thus, training grants that might have received outstanding priority scores and are expected to be renewed effective July 1, 2016, are NOT eligible.

Continue reading

Catalyzing the Modernization of Graduate Education

A major overhaul of how we educate graduate students in biomedical research is long overdue.

Science has changed dramatically over the past three decades. The amount of information available about biological systems has grown exponentially. New methods allow us to examine the inner workings of cells with unprecedented resolution and to generate expansive datasets describing the expression of every mRNA or metabolite in a system. Biomedical research is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary and collaborative, and the questions we seek to answer are more and more complex. Finally, as the scientific enterprise has expanded, Ph.D.s have pursued increasingly diverse careers in the research and development, education and related sectors.

Despite these major changes, we educate Ph.D. students in biomedical research in essentially the same way as we did 25 or more years ago. As Alan Leshner put it in a recent editorial Exit icon in Science magazine, “It is time for the scientific and education communities to take a more fundamental look at how graduate education in science is structured and consider, given the current environment, whether a major reconfiguration of the entire system is needed.”

Problems related to the reproducibility and rigor of scientific studies Exit icon are likely driven in part by the inadequacies of an outdated system for educating our trainees. When nearly any student can sequence hundreds of millions of bases of DNA in a few days, does it make sense that all of our students are not given a significant amount of training in quantitative and computational analyses? And as we delve into more complex biological systems, shouldn’t students be receiving in-depth training in rigorous experimental design and data interpretation before they embark on their thesis work?

Continue reading

Training Career Outcomes

Last week, I wrote to NIGMS-funded T32 program directors to encourage them to inform students about trainee career outcomes. Because this topic is also relevant to the broader community, I’d like to share the message here.

Dear NIGMS T32 Training Grant Program Director:

At the June 2015 meeting of NIGMS training, workforce development, and diversity program directors Exit icon, Peter Preusch, Dick Okita and I discussed the importance of making post-training career outcomes available to current and prospective students. The goal of collecting and sharing data on Ph.D. career outcomes is consistent with recommendations of the Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH. This topic has also been addressed by the Association of American Medical Colleges Exit icon, the Council of Graduate Schools Exit icon and a recent Molecular Biology of the Cell article.

Continue reading

New Biosketch Formats for Applications Due May 25 and Later

Sample biosketch

See sample biosketches: predoctoral, postdoctoral, general.

With several training and other grant application receipt dates right around the corner, I want to be sure you know that all competing and noncompeting applications submitted for due dates on or after May 25 must use a new biosketch format.

There are two versions of the biosketch:

Continue reading

NIGMS Participation in Additional NIH Individual Predoctoral Fellowship Programs

We are now supporting two additional Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award individual predoctoral fellowships in basic biomedical sciences relevant to our mission: the F30 fellowship for M.D.-Ph.D. or other dual-doctoral degree students and the F31 fellowship for Ph.D.-degree students. We will continue our support of the F31 fellowship to promote diversity in health-related research.

NIGMS predoctoral fellowships, which generally provide up to 3 years of support, promote fundamental, interdisciplinary and innovative research training and career development leading to independent scientists who are well prepared to address the nation’s biomedical research needs.

An applicant for an NIGMS predoctoral fellowship should:

  • Be an advanced Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. student.
  • Demonstrate high academic performance in the biomedical sciences and independence in his or her research.
  • Have identified a research sponsor and a dissertation project that includes a novel approach to the problem and has strong training potential.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to a career as an independent scientist.

We expect the funding for F30 and F31 fellowships to be highly competitive, and we anticipate funding only a very limited number of these applications in any year.

We will give priority to outstanding applicants with sponsors who are currently supported by NIGMS research grants. In addition, we strongly encourage F30 applications from students in combined M.D.-Ph.D. (or other dual-doctoral degree, such as D.O.-Ph.D., D.D.S.-Ph.D. and D.V.M.-Ph.D.) programs at institutions that are not currently supported by our Medical Scientist Training Program.

For more details on F30 and F31 awards, see the NIGMS NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowships Web page or contact Peggy Schnoor.

NIGMS Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity Division Director Clif Poodry Retires

Clifton Poodry, Ph.D.Clifton “Clif” Poodry, Ph.D., director of the NIGMS Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity, retired earlier this month. Although he’s left federal service, Clif is continuing to pursue his long-held interest in improving science education as a senior fellow at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Throughout his nearly 20 years at NIGMS, Clif championed—and in many cases, led—activities to build the biomedical research workforce of the future. This included initiatives for training and mentoring students from groups that are underrepresented in biomedical and behavioral research and advising on NIH-wide programs, such as the newly announced Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity program.

Clif has long been committed to using scientific approaches to understand interventions that promote interest in and pursuit of research careers. He consistently encouraged staff and colleagues to read the scientific literature on training and workforce diversity in order to develop a better understanding of biomedical workforce issues and challenges so that we could create and/or modify programs accordingly.

Clif’s long and distinguished career includes time as a biology professor, department chair, associate vice-chancellor for student affairs, and NIGMS grantee at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In the early 1980s, he served a 2-year stint at the National Science Foundation, where he helped create a program that later became a model for the NIH diversity supplement program.

Clif is a great and natural mentor who has touched the lives of numerous students and colleagues across the country, as well as those of us here at NIGMS and NIH. Many of those he mentored have gone on to positions in academia, government and the private sector.

Clif has had a huge impact in many areas, including the education and training of students from underrepresented groups, and we look forward to building on his legacy.