Category: Training/Fellowships/Career Development

Give Us Input for Our Strategic Plan on Training and Career Development

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Give us your input on the future of NIGMS-sponsored research trainingI’m proud of NIGMS’ long and strong commitment to research training and biomedical workforce development. As biomedical research and its workforce needs evolve, we want to be sure that our training and career development activities most effectively meet current demands, anticipate emerging opportunities and help build a highly capable, diverse biomedical research workforce.

To this end, we are beginning to develop a strategic plan focused on research training and career development, and we want your input.

Between March 2 and April 21, you can anonymously submit comments at https://publications.nigms.nih.gov/trainingstrategicplan/.

You can also give us input at one of the regional stakeholder meetings we’re holding in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco between April and June 2010. If you’re a pre- or postdoc, you can participate in a special webinar designed just for you on June 11, 2010.

You don’t need to be an NIGMS grantee to share your thoughts on this important topic. We want to hear from individuals with many different perspectives, so in addition to responding yourself, I encourage you to let others know of these opportunities to offer comments.

As the planning process unfolds, look for updates on the Feedback Loop.

New Research Education Program to Enhance Diversity in the Neurosciences

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NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research

The NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, which NIGMS actively participates in, recently announced the Blueprint Program for Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences (BP-ENDURE).

The program will support the development of collaborative research education partnerships to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups who are well-prepared to enter and complete Ph.D. degree programs in the neurosciences. It will connect academic enhancement and research training activities at research-intensive institutions (such as those participating in the Jointly Sponsored Institutional Predoctoral Training Programs and the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Program) and institutions that have substantial enrollments of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups majoring in areas relevant to the neurosciences. These activities must be designed to increase students’ interest in the neurosciences and better prepare them for graduate studies in the field.

The deadline to submit a letter of intent is February 24, 2010, and the application deadline is March 24, 2010. Please see the funding opportunity announcement or contact me if you need more information.

Conference Marks Hispanic Heritage Month

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SACNAS LogoThe annual Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the United States and celebrates Hispanic heritage and culture. The end of this year’s observation coincided with the opening ceremony of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Conference, which is supported by NIGMS.

The SACNAS conference highlights the scientific contributions of Hispanics and Native Americans and fosters the development of new scientists. This year’s more than 2,500 attendees, including more than 1,000 undergraduate students, made it the largest SACNAS conference to date. The impressive talents and skills of the “budding” scientists were evident not only in their poster and oral presentations, but also in their conversations with established researchers, educators and mentors.

During the conference, SACNAS honored the significant roles of three NIGMS grantees by giving them its highest awards. Jorge Gardea-Torresdey Link to external web site received the 2009 Distinguished Scientist Award, Frank T. Bayliss Link to external web site received the 2009 Distinguished Undergraduate Institution Mentor Award and Maria Fatima Lima received the 2009 Distinguished Professional Mentor Award.

Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing minority in the United States, and they are contributing to all aspects of the fabric and economy of this country. Although there are a number of very prominent Hispanic scientists, there is still a dearth of Hispanics pursuing Ph.D. degrees and research careers. Through its conference and other activities, SACNAS is contributing to NIGMS efforts to encourage and support students who are interested in science, including those from underrepresented groups.

Deadline Approaching for Postdoc Workshop

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Last month, Jeremy Berg announced that NIGMS is holding a two-day workshop for postdoctoral fellows who will soon transition to their first independent positions. The event will take place on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, March 11-12, 2010, and the deadline for applications is just a few weeks away (November 2). While we received a strong response, we still have some space available.

As chair of the NIGMS committee organizing this special workshop, I want to emphasize what a great opportunity it will be for transitioning postdocs, especially ones from groups underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. Since NIGMS has a strong interest in encouraging a diverse scientific workforce, we are excited to host a workshop that will help a wide range of transitioning postdocs.

The workshop will provide practical advice about applying and interviewing for jobs, negotiating start-up packages, finding a mentor, establishing a lab, forming collaborations, getting tenure, balancing research with other commitments and much more. The agenda features a fabulous lineup of speakers, including many well-established academic scientists, who will share their experiences and offer tips.

Please consider applying or forwarding this information to eligible postdocs in your lab.

NIH Awards 14 Grants Examining Women’s Careers in Science

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It has been very gratifying to see outstanding female scientists appropriately recognized in the Nobel Prize announcements this month. However, a variety of evidence reveals that, in many fields of science and engineering, women’s careers progress along different trajectories than do men’s careers. As I noted in a previous post, NIGMS has led an initiative to support social science research directed toward examining and developing a rigorous evidence base regarding the factors that influence women’s careers in the biomedical and behavioral sciences and engineering. This effort resulted in a new funding opportunity, and NIH announced last week that it had awarded 14 R01 grants.

In addition to studying causal factors, such as family, finances and culture, the new research projects will also look at the role of mentoring, environment, funding support and other interventions. To learn more about the projects, search NIH RePORTER by RFA-GM-09-012. With a total of $16.8 million in funding from 15 NIH institutes, centers and programmatic offices, these grants reflect NIH’s broad commitment to addressing these issues.

We look forward to following the results over the next four years. I expect that they will have broad implications with regard to programs that promote the advancement of women’s careers in science and engineering, especially at critical junctures.

Nominate Your Top Student for 2010 Nobel Laureate Meeting

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A select number of graduate students will have the unique and exciting opportunity to meet and learn from dozens of Nobel Prize winners next summer in Germany during the annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Now’s your chance to nominate Link to external web site your most outstanding students.

If you are unacquainted with this program, you can visit the official Web site Link to external web site or watch a video about the 2009 meeting. The 2010 meeting will feature Nobel laureates from chemistry, physics and physiology/medicine.

Photo taken by Erika Milczek, a graduate student at Emory University who attended the 2009 meeting.
Photo taken by NIGMS-supported 2009 meeting attendee Erika Milczek, a graduate student at Emory University.

Last year, NIGMS was a sponsor of the meeting, and we are pleased to be one again in 2010. As I described in an earlier Feedback Loop post, the 2009 meeting gave students the opportunity to meet 23 chemistry laureates.

The 2009 U.S. delegation included about 65 graduate students, and I attended as the NIGMS representative. The energy and talent in our group of students were extraordinary! The students, who came from universities all over the country, found this to be a uniquely rewarding experience, with extensive opportunities for networking and international community-building in addition to one-on-one and small-group discussions with the Nobel laureates. Here are a couple of comments from NIH-supported students:

“[It] was an amazing and life-changing experience that is hard to put into words. The meeting gave me inspiration, motivation and hope for my future in science. I was able to learn secrets of success from some of the most highly regarded individuals in the field of chemistry and meet other young researchers [who] will help shape the future of scientific research. Most of all, it helped me realize that being in science is the correct choice for me and that I can, and will, accomplish many things throughout my scientific career.”“Such an experience drives people to reach for the big ideas in science. The short-term effect is a comprehensive shaking up of our perception of chemistry, but the long-term effect is the higher standard we set for our research and ourselves.”

The nomination and selection process will be exceptionally competitive, as the scientific coverage will be much broader than last year. Each university may nominate only one student per sponsoring agency (NIGMS, NSF and DOE). Keep in mind that nominees for NIGMS sponsorship must be involved in projects supported by NIGMS or supported by an NIGMS training award. Additional information about the meeting, including student eligibility and the nomination procedure, may be found at this Web site Link to external web site. Nominations are due by October 30 and should be submitted directly to the Lindau organization using an electronic submission form.

Please contact the organizer of the U.S. delegation, Sam Held, with questions about the 2010 event or nomination procedures. You may also e-mail me or Mike Rogers at NIGMS, especially with questions about eligibility for NIGMS support.

Workshop for Transitioning Postdocs

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We’re holding a two-day workshop for postdoctoral fellows that will help them transition to their first independent positions. It will take place on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, March 11-12, 2010.

NIGMS Workshop for Transitioning to Independent Positions - March 11-12, 2010.  Registration deadline: Novermber 2, 2009The workshop is called “Advancing Biomedical Research Workforce Diversity: NIGMS Workshop for Postdocs Transitioning to Independent Positions.”

The agenda covers all stages of this transition process, from identifying the institutions that best fit their needs, to preparing for the job search, negotiating a start-up package, setting up a laboratory, applying for research funding, and receiving tenure. Although the focus of the workshop is on academic positions, participants will also have an opportunity to learn about other scientific careers. The workshop will emphasize special aspects of the transition process as they apply to postdocs with diverse backgrounds, especially those from groups underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences.

We want to provide a personal and meaningful experience for all participants, so attendance at this meeting is limited. Priority will be given to those who plan to complete their postdoctoral training within the next year and whose career plans would benefit from this workshop. Participants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Applications are due by November 2, 2009. Individuals selected to attend the workshop will be reimbursed by NIGMS for travel and per diem expenses.

If you are a postdoc and believe this meeting would be of benefit, I encourage you to apply. If you are an investigator with eligible postdocs, I urge you to share this information with them.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Chemists: Snapshots from the Meeting of Nobel Laureates

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John Schwab here, reporting from the 59th Meeting of Nobel Laureates on the Island of Lindau on Bodensee, near the point where Germany, Switzerland and Austria meet. Since 1951, the annual Lindau meetings have sought to educate, inspire and connect generations of scientists. There are 583 young scientists here from around the world, including about 70 graduate students from the United States. NIGMS is sponsoring the participation of 16 of these students, and this is the first year that NIH has joined DOE, NSF and others in supporting graduate students to attend.

Live Stream of the 59th Meeting of Nobel Laureates.  Watch the opening ceremony, lectures and the panel discussion live. Starting on Sunday, June 28th.This year’s meeting is dedicated to chemistry. As you know, NIGMS supports lots of basic science, which includes different “flavors” of chemistry. Many chemistry Nobel laureates are, or have been, NIGMS grantees. Several of them—such as Robert Grubbs, Richard Schrock and Roger Tsien —are among the 23 laureates attending the Lindau meeting.

During the week-long symposium, our students are networking with their international colleagues, being exposed to the entire spectrum of chemistry laureates and participating in discussions about science and society. The students are generally in their second or third year (some are in their fourth). They’re a very bright and motivated group. They’re experienced enough to understand much of the science, and they’re really excited to be here.

The talks so far have covered quite a range. Here are a few highlights:

  • Gerhard Ertl spoke about surface science and showed time-resolved images of individual atoms moving around and self-organizing on a surface. Amazing!
  • Sherwood Rowland and Paul Crutzen spoke about atmospheric chemistry, greenhouse gases and global warming. This was the science behind the project for which Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize. Very exciting yet sobering.
  • Ryoji Noyori gave a pure science talk about asymmetric catalysis.
  • Hartmut Michel spoke about the structure and function of cytochrome C oxidase, a membrane protein.

One of the most interesting and unconventional talks was given by NMR spectroscopist Richard Ernst and titled “Passions and Activities Beyond Science.” He talked about the inspiration and pleasure he has gotten from his study of Buddhism and Tibetan art. His interest ranges from history to culture to fine art to the science of restoration of ancient artwork. His message was an important one for the students: that science need not be the only passion of a productive and creative scientist—that being a scientist doesn’t have to mean being narrowly focused!

I’ve been enjoying “spreading the word” about what NIGMS is all about, and I’m looking forward to yet more stimulating science and fun interactions with a group of bright, creative students.

Interested in Research Training Fellowships?

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NIH has just reissued program announcements for Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) individual fellowships at the predoctoral (F31), postdoctoral (F32) and senior (F33) levels.

Scientist in her labIf you plan to apply, be sure to read the recent NIH Guide notice applying to NRSAs. Effective with the August 8, 2009, submission date, NIH will only accept electronic applications for F-series programs. There are other changes, too, including how letters of reference are submitted, how many amended applications you may submit (only one), and how review is structured (there are now five review criteria). In addition, reviewers will use the new scoring system for individual fellowships starting with applications reviewed at the summer 2009 study section meetings.

I am happy to answer your questions about the F32s and F33s, and Adolphus Toliver can answer questions about the diversity-oriented F31s.

As some of you may know, I recently became the acting research training director at NIGMS after John Norvell retired this past March. For more than 20 years, John provided outstanding leadership for training at NIGMS and across NIH, and he brought about many significant improvements.

I welcome your input on training matters and look forward to working with you in my new role.

Getting More Women into Science

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Recently, John Whitmarsh, one of my colleagues at NIGMS, pointed out a short article called “The Glass Ceiling’s Math Problem” Link to external web site from the May 31 edition of the Washington Post. It highlighted a study Link to external web site by researchers associated with the National Bureau of Economic Research that focused on 9,500 U.S. Air Force Academy students from 2000-2008. The findings showed that female students (but not male students) performed better and were more likely to go on in science when they were taught by female faculty members.

I wondered why the population from the Air Force Academy was chosen for this study. I learned that Air Force Academy students are assigned to faculty randomly, and they all must take math and science courses. These characteristics minimized factors of self-selection bias due to students choosing particular faculty, which would confound similar analyses at many other institutions. I encourage you to read the study and welcome any comments you may have.

Women in Biomedical Careers Web Site BannerThis recent work aligns with an ongoing effort at NIH to encourage the advancement of women in research careers. As part of this effort, NIGMS has led an initiative to identify and support research related to understanding the factors and interventions that encourage and support the careers of women in biomedical and behavioral science and engineering. I’m pleased to say that there was a strong response to the request for applications and that we expect to make awards soon.