A Call for Scientific Images


NIGMS Image GalleryHave you seen the NIGMS image gallery? We’d love to feature your work there.

The gallery contains photos, illustrations and videos that showcase NIGMS-supported science. It’s a place where teachers, students, journalists and even I go to obtain images that help people understand and appreciate biomedical research.

If you have interesting or striking images or videos created with NIGMS support, please e-mail me! We prefer entries without copyright restrictions (i.e., never published or for which you retain the copyright). Images in the gallery are freely available for educational, news media or other informational purposes.

You might also consider entering the International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Science. Entries, which are due by September 15, can include photography, illustrations, informational posters and graphics, interactive games and non-interactive media. They can be pedagogical, playful or just plain pretty. Winning submissions will appear in a February 2011 issue of Science and will be featured online by Science and NSF. Let me know if you win, so NIGMS can feature the image, too!

I have judged this competition for the past 2 years and can give you more details if you’re interested.

Finding Synergy Between Math and Biology


Frontiers in Mathematical Biology:
NSF-NIH PIs Meeting 2010 posterLast week, I attended the PI’s meeting for the Joint DMS/NIGMS Initiative to Support Research in the Area of Mathematical Biology, a program managed by us and NSF’s Division of Mathematical Sciences. A key goal of the program is to bring mathematicians and new mathematical approaches into the core of biological and biomedical research.

I was a grantee of this program before I came to NIGMS, so it was interesting to see how the program has evolved and to meet other scientists finding synergy between math and biology.

During the two-day meeting, researchers and students supported by the program shared their experiences, exchanged ideas and explored new collaborations in the field of mathematical biology. Their oral and poster presentations covered a spectrum of topics, from protein and RNA structure prediction to modeling biological complexity and statistical inference. The meeting also featured six brainstorming breakout sessions that helped the program officials identify future opportunities and challenges for the field.

Here are few ideas that caught my attention:

  • Several speakers emphasized that the quest for stimulating the innovative use of mathematics should not undermine the application of well established mathematical approaches in biology.
  • Dynamical systems theory, which describes how complex networks change over time, suggests that the architecture underlying a biological network’s control system may have been evolutionary selected to support the delicate balance between robustness and efficiency.
  • Methods for studying the spread of infectious diseases could also be used to study the spread of emotional states (depression, happiness, etc.).

If you are interested in mathematical biology, visit the meeting Web site—it will be updated soon with the meeting abstracts, slides and photos. If you would like to apply for funding for mathematical biology research, look for an announcement about the program’s next solicitation on the Feedback Loop around the end of July.

Hearings on Fiscal Year 2011 Budget

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Congressional hearings on the Fiscal Year 2011 President’s budget request for NIH are now under way. The hearing before the House subcommittee that handles NIH appropriations began at 10 a.m. today, and the Senate hearing will take place on May 5. The ultimate outcome will be a bill that appropriates funds for NIH, including NIGMS.

My written testimony and NIH Director Francis Collins’ written testimony on next year’s budget are now available.

A Meeting of Scientific Minds: Quantitative and Systems Pharmacology


Logo for Quantitative and Systems PharmacologyRegistration is now open for our second Quantitative and Systems Pharmacology Workshop, which will be held September 9-10 on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. The meeting is intended primarily for pharmacologists, pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic modelers, systems biologists and others working in fields relevant to this emerging discipline.

I first announced plans for the workshop on the Feedback Loop, and your comments both to the post and to the organizing committee helped us develop the agenda. This year’s scientific talks, researcher perspectives, panel discussions and poster presentations will focus on key questions related to the integration of pharmacology and systems biology and how it can aid our understanding of drug actions and drug discovery. Specific questions range from how we articulate a vision for systems pharmacology to what needs to happen to achieve that vision.

The meeting’s co-chairs, Peter Sorger of Harvard Medical School and Sandra Allerheiligen of Merck, Inc., along with the organizing committee have put together an exciting group of confirmed speakers who represent academia, industry and the many disciplines relevant to systems pharmacology. Please note that we are still adding specific talk titles and soliciting poster presentations.

Registration is free, but slots are limited—don’t postpone registering if you want to attend!

New Funding Initiatives at the Interface of Physics and Biology


NIGMS has joined two other NIH institutes and the National Science Foundation in issuing new funding opportunity announcements at the interface of the life and physical sciences. These new interagency initiatives offer an excellent opportunity for biomedical scientists to partner with colleagues in physics, engineering and computation to conduct innovative research with important health implications.

The first new announcement, Transforming Biomedicine at the Interface of the Life and Physical Sciences, targets translational research. It encourages quantitative scientists to team up with biomedical scientists (and potentially a commercial partner) to propose innovative ways to translate technological advances and basic knowledge into important new or improved clinical applications.

The second announcement, New Biomedical Frontiers at the Interface of the Life and Physical Sciences, targets discovery research. By bridging these scientific disciplines, this program aims to support cutting-edge science that has the potential to open up entirely new avenues for biomedical studies. We strongly encourage applications with multiple PIs who represent the physical, computational or engineering and life or behavioral sciences.

Deadlines to apply for both opportunities are May 18, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

I encourage you to take a look at the announcements and identify the types of projects that the participating organizations are seeking based on their research missions. NIGMS, for example, will consider projects that encompass cell biology, biomolecular modeling, nanotechnology, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology or biological chemistry.

If you have any questions about the programs, feel free to e-mail me.

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.

Blogging for One Year!

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Today marks the 1-year anniversary of our conversion of the NIGMS Feedback Loop from a thrice-yearly electronic newsletter into a blog. The year has passed quickly, but I think successfully.

Our inaugural post, Answering Your Recovery Act Questions, was the first of 16 entries related to the Recovery Act, and many of these led to extensive comments and replies. Throughout this extremely fast-paced period, the blog format served us all well: We provided you information in a timely fashion, and you helped us better understand what questions and concerns we needed to address.

The Feedback Loop has also covered many other topics. These are grouped into over 20 categories for easy browsing or searching. As of today, the site includes 86 posts by 28 NIGMS staff members.

During the last year, many people from the scientific community have told me how much they appreciate receiving information from us about NIGMS and NIH. The Feedback Loop is our major outlet for doing this, and we want make it as useful as possible to you and to us. Please don’t hesitate to comment on posts, e-mail me suggestions or other ideas or submit new post topics to the blog’s editor.

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.

Save the Date: Commemorating the Life and Accomplishments of Ruth Kirschstein


Ruth Kirschstein, M.D.Since I first wrote about the death of former NIGMS director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, plans have progressed for a daylong commemorative event on Monday, May 17, at NIH. The program will include several remembrances as well as scientific presentations and posters by recipients of the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award.

I will update you when the final program is available.