Author: Shiva Singh

Headshot of Shiva Singh.

Before leaving NIGMS in January of 2022, Shiva, a microbiologist with extensive experience in scientific administration, managed predoctoral T32 training programs, predoctoral F30 and F31 fellowships, as well as a broad array of other undergraduate and graduate student training and development programs.

Posts by Shiva Singh

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 Link to external web site 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and rigor of scientific studies Link to external web site are likely driven in part by the inadequacies of an outdated system for educating our trainees.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?

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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, 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, the Council of Graduate Schools Link to external web site and a recent Molecular Biology of the Cell article.

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New Biosketch Formats for Applications Due May 25 and Later

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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 “New Biosketch Formats for Applications Due May 25 and Later”

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.

Wanted: Program Director, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch


We’re looking for a program director (also known as “program officer” or “health scientist administrator”) to join the Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch of the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity. This person will administer the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development program in addition to a portfolio of research and training grants. We’re particularly interested in candidates who have a broad spectrum of scientific knowledge and professional experience in the training of research scientists as well as in programs aimed at increasing the diversity of the scientific workforce.

Please see the vacancy announcement for position requirements and detailed application procedures. This recruitment is part of a global recruitment for program officer positions throughout NIH, and the vacancy announcement closes on January 25, 2012.

Program Prepares Postdocs for Research and Teaching Careers


IRACDA Participating Institutions MapWe’re once again soliciting applications from research-intensive institutions for the NIGMS Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award program.

Now in its 12th year, the IRACDA program supports traditional postdocs at research-intensive universities who also teach at nearby institutions with substantial enrollments of minority students. The program offers an opportunity to conduct top-notch research while developing teaching and other academic skills, such as problem-solving, communication, time management and grant-writing. Eighteen institutions currently participate in the program.

Because the IRACDA program combines a traditional mentored research experience with instruction, it prepares scientists for careers in both research and teaching. It also benefits the students at the institutions where the teaching takes place. So far, the data indicate that IRACDA postdocs do as well as or better than their peers in publishing and in getting jobs in academia and industry.

In fostering a diverse scientific workforce, IRACDA is a model program. Underrepresented groups currently make up about 28.5% of the national population, yet just 9.1% of college-educated Americans in science and engineering occupations. Nationally, about 7.5% of postdocs are from underrepresented groups. The IRACDA program, although not targeted to minorities, has about 40% of its postdocs from underrepresented groups. The program also strengthens the overall teaching and research opportunities at institutions with substantial minority enrollments. In these ways, IRACDA further promotes the development of the next generation of a diverse pool of scientists who are available to address the Nation’s biomedical, behavioral and clinical research needs.

IRACDA also addresses the growing recognition that future faculty should not only be able to conduct research, but also be effective teachers in the classrooms. Most faculty positions require some amount of teaching, and so it’s only natural that postdocs are trained in modern pedagogy before they start teaching as part of their faculty duties. To this end, major research universities are beginning to offer teaching certificate programs for their doctoral students.

If you’d like to know more about IRACDA or find out how you can participate, please contact me.

Helping to Reverse America’s “Brain Drain”


America's Brain DrainA story titled “America’s Brain Drain” that aired this past weekend on the CBS Sunday Morning show featured an interview with long-time NIGMS grantee Frank Bayliss of San Francisco State University (SFSU). It described how he is trying to nurture smart American students who are interested in pursuing science careers, in part through programs funded by the NIGMS Division of Minority Opportunity in Research (MORE). In recognition of his contributions in this arena, Frank received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2009.

The segment also featured a MORE-supported student, Damon Robles, who participated in our Bridges to the Baccalaureate program at the City College of San Francisco. He later transferred to SFSU, where he became a Minority Access to Research Careers undergraduate student. Now, he is in a Ph.D. program in physical chemistry at the University of California, Davis.

Our MORE programs represent some of the ways we seek to foster a diverse scientific workforce and prepare students for careers in science-related fields. If you’re interested in finding out how you can support a MORE student in your lab for a summer or longer, contact me at or 301-594-3900.

Apply Now for Microbial Community Dynamics Grants


NIGMS has just re-announced the Dynamics of Host-Associated Microbial Communities (R01) funding opportunity. Microbes make up the vast majority of our bodies’ cells, and this program supports projects that aim to dissect these complex communities and their roles within a host.

We are particularly interested in applications that propose:

  • Genetic, physiological and ecological research on mixed microbial communities, their internal dynamics and how they relate to those of the host; and
  • Studies on other experimental models that could make breakthrough contributions to understanding the formation and dynamics of host-microbe symbiotic systems.

We encourage interdisciplinary approaches, including bioinformatics/computational/modeling and/or experimental manipulations to investigate host-associated microbial community ecology.

You may apply for up to $250,000 (direct costs) per year (plus up to $100,000 for exceptional equipment in the first year). Most awards will be for 4 years. Letters of intent are due on December 14, 2010, and applications are due on January 14, 2011.

For more details about the program, see the funding opportunity announcement or contact me at 301-594-3900 or

Modeling Scientific Workforce Dynamics


In keeping with the Institute’s long-standing interest in training and its strong commitment to fostering a diverse scientific workforce, we have just re-announced our Modeling the Scientific Workforce (U01) program.

This program provides support for developing computational models of the scientific workforce in the United States. It takes a systems-based approach to understanding the underlying dynamics that produce successful scientists, examining strategies for increasing the diversity of the scientific workforce, identifying research questions and guiding data collection and analysis. The models will help inform our program development, management and evaluation.

We are particularly interested in models of the academic scientific workforce, but applicants should also consider industry and the government. We strongly encourage collaboration among scientists who are experts in simulation modeling, large-scale educational data sets, national policy and program development and other appropriate areas.

Letters of intent are due on October 4, 2010, and applications are due on November 4, 2010.

For additional information about the program, see the funding opportunity announcement or contact me at 301-594-3900 or