Category: Training/Fellowships/Career Development

The 10th Anniversary of ABRCMS: Preparing Underrepresented Minority Students for Scientific Careers

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The 10th Anniversary of ABRCMS: Preparing Underrepresented Minority Students for Scientific Careers

Last week, I had the privilege of giving a keynote address at the 10th Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) Link to external website in Charlotte, North Carolina. The conference, sponsored by NIGMS and organized by NIGMS Council member Cliff Houston, had a record attendance of 3,100, including more than 2,000 students and about 20 NIGMS staff members.

The meeting contributes in two major ways to the goal of a scientific workforce that reflects the diversity of the U.S. population. It provides a forum for promising scientists from underrepresented groups to showcase their talent and knowledge and make important training and career connections. It also gives faculty mentors valuable resources for facilitating their students’ success.

My address was organized around the themes from Randy Pausch’s lecture “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams Link to external website,” and it described key events and strategies that facilitated my own path to a career in science. I greatly enjoyed discussing science and career opportunities with many of the students at the poster session and after my talk.

Other keynote speakers at this impressive conference included Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Maya Angelou, NIH Director Francis Collins and NIGMS grantee Carolyn Bertozzi.

Jilliene Mitchell, who staffed the NIGMS exhibit booth and talked to a lot of attendees, writes:

The energy level among the meeting attendees soared through the roof of the Charlotte Convention Center. The undergraduate and graduate students were tremendously enthusiastic about networking, presenting their research, listening to scientific talks and getting advice about their career paths from accomplished scientists. The NIGMS exhibit booth received a lot of traffic, with students lined up to talk about training opportunities and faculty members lined up to discuss their grants.

Throughout the conference, I encountered many students who thanked NIGMS for sponsoring ABRCMS. One postdoc summed it up best when she said, “This is the best career development workshop I’ve been to—it’s huge!”

These video clips I took capture the mood and excitement.

The announcement for next year’s ABRCMS meeting is expected soon, and we will post information here when it is available.

Nominate Your Outstanding Graduate Students to Meet Nobel Laureates


Graduate Student Awards for the Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students in Lindau, GermanyIt’s the 1st of October, and there’s a Nobel buzz in the air. We’re eagerly awaiting next week’s prize announcements and hoping to see more of our grantees added to the list.

But we’re also feeling the Nobel excitement in another way: the opening of the nomination process for your graduate students to attend the next Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Nominations are due from your universities on November 1.

Through this extraordinary opportunity, the most exceptional young researchers go to Lindau, Germany, to engage with Nobel Laureates and meet their peers from around the globe. The upcoming meeting takes place June 26-July 1, 2011, and will feature Nobel prizewinners from physiology or medicine.

A student from last year’s meeting said, “Lindau is much more than a meeting. It is an experience that will change how you look at science and inspire your career.” Other students have told us that it’s “amazing” and “life-changing,” giving them extensive opportunities to network and have focused discussions with the Nobelists. John Schwab and Ravi Basavappa, NIGMS program directors who accompanied the students in past years, came back from the meeting equally charged up.

You can get a sense of what the excitement is all about by viewing a video about the meeting Link to external web site.

If you would like to nominate one of your students, visit Link to external web site for details, instructions and forms. Your universities must submit the applications via this Web site by the November 1 deadline.

Please note that your university president or designee can submit only two candidates to be considered for NIH support. Eligible students can be supported by any NIH institute or center, as long as it funds the research the student is involved in or supports the student through a training award. Universities may also submit up to six additional nominations (two to each of the three other sponsors—DOE, ORAU and Mars, Inc.).

The application process has three phases. First, candidates are selected by their universities for consideration by NIH. Second, NIH selects approximately 40 student nominations, which represents more than half of the U.S. delegation. The last phase is conducted by the Lindau Meeting. Selection is a highly competitive process, and we’re counting on you to identify the best candidates to represent U.S. science next year!

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

Research on Interventions that Promote Biomedical and Behavioral Careers


NIGMS has re-announced the Research on Interventions (R01) program that supports research on efforts to increase student interest, motivation and preparedness for careers in biomedical and behavioral research. Proposed research should test assumptions and hypotheses regarding social and behavioral factors that might inform and guide interventions.

We are particularly interested in interventions that are specifically designed to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups entering careers in biomedical and behavioral sciences. However, you need not restrict proposed research to students from these groups. In fact, comparative research that analyzes the experience of all groups can help us understand how interventions should be tailored to make more underrepresented students successful in biomedical and behavioral careers.

We strongly encourage collaboration among biomedical, behavioral and social science researchers.

Currently funded projects are quite varied. Examples include research on interventions at the institutional level and on student characteristics, such as self-efficacy and leadership.

Letters of intent are due September 15, 2010, and applications are due October 15, 2010. For additional information about the program, see the funding opportunity announcement or contact me at 301-594-3900 or

The Value of Attending SACNAS and ABRCMS

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SACNAS National ConferenceThis fall, NIGMS will be sponsoring the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) national conference in Anaheim, CA, September 30-October 3, and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Charlotte, NC, November 10-13.


These meetings present two wonderful opportunities for you to meet and recruit science-oriented undergraduate students from groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. In addition to listening to research talks, you can volunteer to mentor students during the meeting or judge their posters. For those of you who are MORE program directors, you’ll also be able to support your students.

I encourage you to attend one or both of these meetings, as they bring in some of the best and brightest undergraduate students in the nation.

You can visit NIGMS staff at SACNAS exhibit booth 817 or ABRCMS exhibit booth 700.

For additional information or to register as a meeting participant, mentor and/or judge, visit the SACNAS Link to external website and ABRCMS Link to external website Websites.

60th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Promises to Be a ‘Dynamite’ Event

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This year, I’m the lucky NIGMS program director attending the 60th Annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany. Like John Schwab, who traveled with last year’s group, my main job is to help the 16 super-energetic, really smart graduate students we sponsored interact with each other, hundreds of their peers from all over the world and, of course, dozens of Nobel laureates.

60th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

The Lindau meeting, which started in 1951, is designed to “educate, inspire and connect” generations of scientists by bringing together Nobel laureates with young researchers. Unlike last year’s meeting, which focused on chemistry, this year’s is more interdisciplinary. It showcases all three of the Nobel Prize natural science fields: chemistry, physics and physiology or medicine.

As you might imagine, the competition for student slots is fierce, with more than 40,000 applying for 650 slots this year. The U.S. contingent consists of 75 students supported by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, Mars (the company, not the planet!) and NIGMS/NIH.

It’s quite appropriate that NIGMS is involved in this program again this year. Our portfolio of funded research is extremely diverse, including a lot in chemistry and physics. After all, an interdisciplinary approach can help us better address problems relevant to human health. And around NIH, NIGMS is also widely called the “Nobel Prize Institute”—we’ve funded the Nobel Prize-winning of research of 73 laureates, and some of them are here in Lindau.

So far, the trip is going pretty well. We’re surrounded by World Cup fever! We haven’t had much of a chance to meet the laureates yet, since the opening ceremony was just on Sunday. I know that much of the close laureate-student interactions will take place through small group discussion sessions set up for this purpose.

I truly feel fortunate to be here—for the interactions, the interdisciplinary science and what I anticipate will be really inspiring lectures by the laureates. But even if you can’t be here, you can still watch the scientific proceedings online and follow the meeting using a variety of social media.

Post submitted from Lindau, Germany, on Monday, Jun 28, 2010 6:25 PM CEST

Beyond Bio2010


Beyond Bio2010Last month, I attended the “Beyond Bio2010” conference held at the National Academy of Sciences. The meeting highlighted the progress made in implementing the Bio2010 Link to external web site recommendations, chiefly to transform undergraduate biology education by using the quantitative sciences (mathematics, chemistry, physics, engineering and computer sciences) to study biology and vice versa.

The 2-day meeting, which was held in the same room that the Bio2010 report was publically released in 2002, primarily consisted of teams of biology, math and computer sciences faculty discussing strategies used by their institutions to reform science curricula. Among the efforts that really caught my attention were those that:

  • Assessed student learning outcomes and showed improvement as a result of integrating math, physics, chemistry and computer science into biology;
  • Established new interdisciplinary majors or minors in areas like bioinformatics;
  • Described efforts to break down “departmental silos” through collaborations among biology, math, chemistry and other faculty;
  • Trained faculty for an integrated pedagogical approach (for a resource, see The National Academies Summer  Institutes on Undergraduate Education in Biology); and
  • Discussed the need for the administration to formally recognize faculty who reformed the curricula.

In addition, I presented a summary of NIGMS-supported efforts, namely the MARC Curricular Improvement grant, a competitive mechanism for eligible institutions to implement Bio2010 recommendations. The inclusion of all undergraduate students, with a focus on historically unrepresented populations, was a significant theme of the conference. In fact, I was delighted to see one of our MARC Curricular Improvement grantees from the University of Puerto Rico talk about her institution’s efforts on this front.

A unique feature of the conference was that several undergraduate students also presented posters on their interdisciplinary biology and mathematics research. Their posters showed math majors collecting samples in a stream and biology majors performing mathematical modeling. A faculty attendee at the conference noted that when he walked around and listened to the student presenters, he really could not figure out who was a math major and who was a biology major—a desired outcome of Bio2010!

If you are interested in finding more details about “Beyond Bio2010,” a report of the conference is slated to be published in the Fall 2010 issue of CBE—Life Sciences Education Link to external web site.

Video from Postdoc Workshop Now Available


Marion Sewer, University of California, San DiegoAs you may recall from an earlier Feedback Loop message, NIGMS hosted its first workshop to help postdocs successfully transition to independent positions. We just posted videos for all the presentations.

The two-day career development event at NIH brought together 150 postdoctoral fellows from diverse backgrounds to discuss a wide range of topics, including applying and interviewing for jobs; establishing a lab and getting that first grant; and balancing research with teaching, family and other commitments. Meeting attendees also had the opportunity to ask panelists questions about their personal experiences and get other valuable career advice.

So far, we have received a lot of positive feedback from participants and presenters. If you have additional comments, please feel free to post them here or e-mail me.

Online Site for Giving Input on Research Training and Career Development Closes Next Week

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Give us your input on the future of NIGMS-sponsored research trainingIn March, I announced the launch of a strategic planning process focused on training and career development. I encourage all stakeholders, including faculty members, postdocs, graduate students, university administrators and government and industry scientists to provide input on this important topic.

One easy way to make your voice heard is through our online form (no longer available). We list several questions that you can respond to anonymously. You don’t have to respond to every question, and you can also make other comments or recommendations.

If you have not yet shared your views, there’s still time—the Web site closes April 21.

Exciting NIGMS Job Opportunity for Exceptional Scientist


Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) LogoWe’re looking for a program director (“health scientist administrator”) to oversee innovative programs designed to increase the number of biomedical and behavioral scientists from underrepresented groups. In addition to handling research and student development grants within our Division of Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) Special Initiatives Branch, the program director will also manage research grants in one of the following areas:

  • Cell biology, biophysics and structural genomics;
  • Computational/statistical genetics and prokaryotic genetics;
  • Bio-organic/medicinal chemistry, biochemistry with a focus in bioenergetics, redox biochemistry and mechanistic enzymology; or
  • Basic and clinical research in trauma, wound healing or pharmacology.

Please see the vacancy announcement for position requirements and detailed application procedures. The listing closes April 28, 2010.

UPDATE: This vacancy listing has been extended to May 18, 2010.