Blog from June, 2021

Wednesday, July 14, 1–3 PM

Informational Session for 2021 PRAT applicants (Virtual)
Led by Dr. Erin Walsh 

The NIGMS Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) Program supports postdoctoral fellowships within the NIH Intramural Research Program. Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States with no more than two years of postdoctoral experience at NIH by the time of appointment to the PRAT program. The deadline is October 4. More information about the program can be found at http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Training/Pages/PRAT.aspx. 

Postdoc applicants must apply with the NIH Fi2 funding mechanism, and all applications must be submitted via grants.gov. If you are planning to apply, the Office of Education is offering this session to discuss in detail how to prepare for the application submission, and more importantly, provide you with some valuable documents. 

Please email Ms. Veronica Harker (veronica.harker@nih.gov) if you plan to attend.


Monday, July 12, 1:30–3 PM

Public Speaking Workshop: Giving Scientific Talks
Led by Public Speaking Coach Scott Morgan 

“Speaking about Science” is a highly interactive workshop led by public speaking coach Scott Morgan. The core of this workshop is a nine-step preparation process that ensures a clear and engaging talk for a variety of audiences. Learn strategies for improving your delivery of lab talks or giving presentations at big meetings. 

Topics include: presenting data, identifying theme and focus, creating effective visual aids, and beginning and ending a talk. Participants in this program can also schedule an individual one-hour coaching session prior to a scheduled presentation.

Trainees at all levels, including our 2021 summer interns, are encouraged to attend! 

To register for this workshop, please email Ms. Katherine Lamb (katherine.lamb@nih.gov).


Monday–Thursday, July 19–22, All Day

2021 Virtual Graduate & Professional School Fair

This year the Graduate and Professional School fair is virtual, with live workshops on the 19th and online exhibitor sessions on the 20th, 21st, and 22nd. More than 270 institutions have registered to participate! For more information and registration, please visit: The 2021 Virtual Graduate & Professional School Fair.


Ongoing Events Around Campus 

NIH-Wide Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) Events
For more information and registration, please visit Upcoming OITE Events 

NIH Library Training and Events
For more information and registration, please visit the NIH Library Calendar.

Congratulations to Our 2021 TmT Program Awardees

Three-minute Talks 2021 logoWe are excited to announce that Dr. Susanna Mitro, DIPHR postdoctoral fellow in the Grantz Laboratory, placed 2nd overall in the NIH-wide 2021 TmT Competition with her talk “Healthy pregnancies: Do uterine fibroids change over gestation?” Congratulations, Dr. Mitro!

Dr. Mitro joined our second NICHD finalist, Dr. Jennifer Panlilio (Burgess Laboratory, DIR) in the TmT competition on June 25, 2021 alongside fellows from NHGRI, NIDCR, NEI, NIAMS, NCATS, NIDCD, NINR, NIAID, and NIDDK. Congratulations to both of our NICHD finalists in this year’s competition. 

We also want to congratulate all NICHD TmT semi-finalists this year on a job well done. Our semi-finalists include: 

  • Mor Alkaslasi (Le Pichon Laboratory, DIR) 
  • Dr. Aoshu Zhong (Storz Laboratory, DIR) 
  • Dr. Jessica Gleason (Grantz Laboratory, DIPHR)
  • Dr. Thien Nguyen (Gandjbakhche Laboratory, DIR) 
  • Dr. Abhinav Sur (Farrell Laboratory, DIR) 
  • Dr. Svetlana Semenova (Burgess Laboratory, DIR) 
  • John Millerhagen (Gandjbakhche Laboratory, DIR)

The NICHD Virtual Summer Internship Program is in Full Swing!

We are happy to welcome our summer trainees to the NICHD intramural research program. If you have any questions, please reach out to the NICHD Office of Education via the Summer Mailbox (NICHDSUMMER@mail.nih.gov).


Science Writing Opportunities for All Fellows

Have you always wanted to try science writing? If you would like to write an article or suggest a topic for this newsletter, please contact our editor, Dr. Shana Spindler (shana.spindler@nih.gov). Have a great summer all!


Next Month: Virtual Summer Presentation Week, August 3‑5

If you are a summer intern, Summer Research Presentation Week is your time to share the research and creative projects you have been conducting at the NIH with the broader NIH community and your family and friends! At the same time, you will develop your communication and networking skills.

Registration will close Wednesday, July 7th. Please visit the OITE Virtual Summer Presentation Week website for more information.


Next Month: Job Interviewing Workshop 

Monday, August 9, 1–2:30 p.m.
Led by Public Speaking Coach Scott Morgan 

If you are actively looking for a job this year, we strongly recommend you attend this informative and dynamic workshop. During this session you will learn tips for perfecting the broad interviewing skills needed to secure scientific positions (job talks, chalk talks, and the interview itself) and increasing your comfort level and confidence. You will have the opportunity to analyze expected questions, themes, and dilemmas through interactive exercises and peer review.  

Participants can also schedule an individual one-hour coaching session with Scott prior to a scheduled job interview. To register for this virtual workshop, please email Ms. Katherine Lamb (katherine.lamb@nih.gov).

Rep Report logoAs the current NICHD Basic Sciences Institutes and Centers (IC) Representative, I represent NICHD postdoctoral fellows at the Fellows Committee (FelCom) meeting every month and share the latest news with you here. Do you have a concern or question that you want brought up at the next meeting? Contact me at lauren.walling@nih.gov!


The Visiting Fellows Committee is looking for new members to join their social subcommittee. Please contact Vrushali Agashe (vrushali.agashe@nih.gov) or Zeni Wu (zeni.wu@nih.gov) if you are interested!

The Committee on Scientific Conduct and Ethics has decided to add a new survey for fellows following the annual  discussion of ethics cases.  These case study discussions are part of our mandatory Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training and are organized and run at the affinity group level. The survey is being added to allow fellows an opportunity to provide feedback on the moderator and on how the session went overall. You can find more information about the ethics cases at https://oir.nih.gov/sourcebook/ethical-conduct/responsible-conduct-research-training/annual-review-ethics-case-studies.

Thank you to the FARE Committee for their hard work organizing the FARE award this year and thank you to everyone who applied. There were 193 awardees this year, representing the top 25% of applications reviewed. The committee is also discussing flexibilities with using the 2021 awards due to COVID-related travel restrictions, so keep an eye out for updates on this in the future. You can find more information about the FARE award or the committee at https://www.training.nih.gov/felcom/fare.

The National Postdoctoral Association recently issued formal comments to the US Department of Homeland Security calling for them to make the immigration process simpler, smoother, and faster for postdoctoral fellows. They asked for them to allow postdocs to apply for premium processing and allow more exemptions to the H-1B visa cap. For more information regarding visas and immigration, check out the Visiting Fellows page at https://ors.od.nih.gov/pes/dis/VisitingScientists/Pages/default.aspx.

FelCom will not meet in July, so the next Rep Report column will be in September. I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their summer!

Seventeen years—that’s a long time. The very same week that Brood X cicadas emerged from their 17-year slumber in early May 2004, I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder. As I walked before friends and family, little did I know that on the other side of the country billions of cicadas were setting the stage for a spectacle I would later witness as a Washington, DC-area science writer, 17 years in the making. 

A lot happened in my professional life between the Brood X arrivals. Like I said, 17 years is a long time. I received my doctoral degree from UCLA, did a brief postdoctoral fellowship in the Chitnis lab (NICHD), and then I began the juggling act of raising two children while pursuing a science writing career. These past 17 years have been challenging, no doubt, but the winding path from one contract to the next is an adventure that I love.

I feel fortunate to have found a career path in science that suits me, and according to the former trainees at this year’s fellows retreat, I’m not alone. In this issue, our 2021 career speakers share what they love about their professions and answer commonly asked questions during the retreat. And for our fellows interested in a clinical career, Dr. Chelsi Flippo recounts fond memories from her three-year pediatric endocrinology fellowship at NIH.

I have been so impressed by the exciting goals and career trajectories of our past and present NICHD fellows. I truly can’t wait to see what the next 17 years have in store, when we meet our little cicada friends once again.  

Your Editor in Chief,
Shana R. Spindler, PhD

Do you have questions, comments, or ideas? Please contact our editor at shana.spindler@nih.gov.

NICHD fellows joined together virtually on May 25, 2021, to attend the 16th Annual Meeting for Postdoctoral, Clinical, and Visiting Fellows,  Graduate Students and Postbacs. During a one-hour “Career Focus” break-out session, fellows had the opportunity to chat with 10 different career speakers in their virtual rooms. We followed up with our speakers to learn more about their favorite career features and the most frequently asked questions during the retreat!

Colin Echeverría Aitken, PhD

Colin Echeverría Aitken, PhD

Colin Echeverría Aitken, PhD

Assistant Professor, Vassar College

What I do: I am an assistant professor of biology at Vassar College, a small liberal arts college. I split my time between teaching (introductory biology, biochemistry, RNA biology, etc.) and running a lab investigating the mechanisms of translation initiation in eukaryotes.

Fun fact about me: I am a proud Colombian-American who loves cycling, soccer, and cooking with my kids.

My favorite feature of my career: Working with motivated undergraduates and helping them discover and develop their own talents.

My most common question: How much teaching experience did I have before applying for my job?
Some, but not a ton. I had worked as a teaching assistant (TA) in one class during graduate school, taken a workshop on inclusive pedagogy (at NIH), and led/run a seminar course for postbaccalaureate students (at NIH). It is possible to get a faculty position at a liberal arts institution without a ton of teaching experience, as long as you make the most of the experience you have had (and sell it well) and demonstrate a genuine interest in (and potential for) teaching in your application, interviews, and teaching demonstrations.



Stephanie M. Cologna, PhD

Stephanie Cologna with a koala

Stephanie M. Cologna, PhD

Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

What I do: I am an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I also have appointments in Biological Sciences and Neuroscience.  I direct a research program and teach. 

Fun fact about me: I recently went to Australia and got to hold a koala!

My favorite feature of my career: My favorite feature of my career is being able to strategize new ideas with my lab and seeing their ideas work!

My most common question: The question I get asked the most is "Did you know you wanted to be a PI?"
The answer is no! I came to realize I love research, learning, and mentoring.



Patrick McCarter, MS, PhD

Patric McCarter

Patrick McCarter, MS, PhD

Data Scientist, Cone Health

What I do: I am a data scientist and machine-learning engineer.

Fun fact about me: My most exciting educational experience was spending one month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, conducting geophysics research.

My favorite feature of my career: The thing I love most about my career is that I am able to communicate and provide actionable recommendations to anyone in the organization. My role allows me to be an active participant in all aspects of our organization, including the day-to-day workings of finance, marketing, logistics, and operations, to even being able to bring ideas and insights directly to our CEO.

My most common question: How do I transition into a bioinformatics or data scientist role if my background is non-quantitative/not computation?
I would say to never discount your scientific and technical expertise. Your technical expertise and your greater experience will be an asset to any role you take that requires rigorous scientific thinking. The second piece of advice that I give is to find a project or problem of interest and use it as a guide to hone your computational/quantitative skills. Read quantitative articles on that subject and work on recreating the methods that you see, starting with the simplest and most common, and then work your way up to the more difficult and exotic methods.



Brian Rafferty, PhD

Brian Rafferty

Brian Rafferty, PhD

Assistant Professor, Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York (CUNY)

What I do: As a professor at a community college, my responsibilities include teaching four classes per year, mentoring students who are part of my research team, and various administrative duties (committees, meetings, tutor liaison, assessment coordinator, course coordinator, deputy chairperson).

Fun fact about me: I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career until after I completed my postdoc. Erin Walsh and I worked in the same lab while she was an undergrad and I was a grad student at Binghamton University.

My favorite feature of my career: I get to impact students doing the little things that normally would go unnoticed at large colleges/universities. Having small class sizes at our college allow us to get to know students at a deeper level and provide guidance/opportunities which are better aligned for them.

My most common question: How much do I make, and how much do I teach?
The salaries at CUNY range based on your rank, so I am at the top end of the assistant professor scale which is just over $86,000, but we can earn more through summer and overload courses. Our contractual teaching load is 24 contact hours an academic year, which for biology courses is four courses, each course having three hours of lecture and a three-hour lab per week. A benefit of our college is that we can condense our schedules to three teaching days a week, which frees up days for other responsibilities.



Joe Sanchez, PhD

Joe Sanchez

Joe Sanchez, PhD

Director, Science Engagement STEM Programs, AstraZeneca

What I do: I am responsible for private-public biopharmaceutical ecosystem development and STEM educational programming for AstraZeneca, North America.

Fun fact about me: I’ve lived in a dozen different US cities and never attended the same school two years in a row until high school! I believe this is what led to my resilience and adaptability.

My favorite feature of my career: My current job is actually my passion, and what I have always done with my discretionary bandwidth no matter what job roles I’ve had.

My most common question: How do you know what career move to make?
You don’t. In the end, careers are supposed to resemble a biochemical pathways poster. You just have to trust that you have plenty of time to try many different things and that there is no such thing as a “right move” or a “wrong move,” only “right moves” and “left moves.” Everyone ends up right where they’re meant to be, eventually (smile).



Ashim Subedee, PhD

Ashim Subedee

Ashim Subedee, PhD

Academic Innovative Lead, Small Business Education and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED), NIH

What I do: I lead the Academic Innovation team at the NIH Small business Education and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) Office and oversee and coordinate programs at NIH to foster academic innovation and early-stage product development including the coordination of NIH’s Proof-of-Concept Network that spans more than 100 universities and research institutions across 34 states and Puerto Rico.

Fun fact about me: Even though I grew up in Nepal (surrounded by the Himalayas), I touched snow for the first time in Washington, DC and, no, I haven’t climbed Mount Everest; though I did hike up Kyanjin Ri (15655 ft).

My favorite feature of my career: I get to support researchers as they turn their discoveries into healthcare solutions and enable the development of innovative technologies from academics as well as startups to help patients and improve human health.

My most common question: How did you make the transition from doing bench research to supporting healthcare product development?
I started my career transition with a non-research policy/management fellowship right after my PhD, called the Presidential Management Fellowship. The fellowship allowed me to learn the ins and outs of the NIH and FDA, gain leadership and management skills, learn about science policy and management, and figure out the right role for me at the NIH. The transition didn’t just happen overnight; I prepared for it over the years during graduate school by networking with tons of people, being involved in extracurricular activities, getting exposure to non-research/non-academic career paths, and invaluable support from many mentors.



Candace Tingen, PhD

Candace Tingen

Candace Tingen, PhD

Program Official, NICHD Gynecologic Health and Disease Branch

What I do: I am a program official (program officer/program director) for the Gynecologic Health and Disease Branch NICHD. My responsibilities include providing technical leadership, guidance, and management of a research grant portfolio that focuses on the physiology and pathophysiology of human female reproduction and benign gynecologic diseases, including uterine fibroids and menstrual disorders.

Fun fact about me: Twins run in my family: my mom and aunt both had a set of boy/girl twins, and so did I!

My favorite feature of my career: I love being able to interact with the science and the investigators. I hear about new ideas and breakthroughs before anyone else!

My most common question: How can I, as an intramural fellow, gain experience that could help me get a PO position?

  1. Go to USAjobs.gov and search for “Health Scientist Administrator (Program Officer)” like this one GS-12/13/14 Health Scientist Administrator (Program Officer/Scientific Review Officer). By going through the application process (you don’t need to actually submit!), you can see the qualifying questions that will be asked. Look at each question and try to think of experiences you can gain that will allow you to honest say you have done them IN SOME FORM.
  2. You can go ahead and take the NIH Core Curriculum and other PO training, which will be beneficial in showing your interest, initiative, and knowledge of the basics.
  3. You work at NICHD already, so take advantage of that and look for opportunities (like a tiny detail for a couple hours a week) to crossover and work with the Division of Extramural Research (DER) in some capacity.


Jolien Tyler, PhD

Jolien Tyler

Jolien Tyler, PhD

Advanced Biosystems and Customer Support Service Manager, Nikon

What I do: A little bit of everything. I manage the Nikon Instruments field service team and the Quality Control staff for advanced biosystems, which includes confocal and super-resolution. 

Fun fact about me: I was born in the Netherlands and speak English, Dutch, and Spanish.

My favorite feature of my career: My position affords me the privilege of helping to improve and streamline our internal processes. Instead of being frustrated by issues, I am able to communicate these to our management and institute meaningful change for the better.

My most common question: Variations on “How did I get from PhD to where I am now?”
A bit of serendipity and a lot of networking. Events like this one and conferences are a great place to “meet and greet,” learn about career paths, and find out who is hiring. The skills you learn during your PhD training are applicable outside of the research realm—knowing how to process, analyze, and present data to a broad audience is very valuable!



Jeremy Weaver, PhD

Jeremy Weaver in the lab

Jeremy Weaver, PhD

Research & Development (R&D) Scientist, ThermoFisher

What I do: I design and perform experiments to develop and improve products for use in protein biology.

Fun fact about me: Despite being two years out of my postdoc, I’m still the youngest employee in R&D at my site. Also, I’m growing a butterfly garden in my backyard.

My favorite feature of my career: I am encouraged to innovate—and not just around the product area that I work in. I’ve submitted new product ideas for instruments and consumables that are being developed in other states and countries.

My most common question: How do you make yourself stand out in a pool of applicants?
Everyone can pipette—for PhD level scientists, the putative employer is looking for someone with bonus skills. These skills can be obtained through many different avenues: formal training, serving on the PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization), or organizing the fellows retreat can all be communicated in ways that show leadership, collaboration, or business acumen. Your resume should be very blunt about having these skills.

Chelsi Flippo

Chelsi Flippo, MD

Clinical Corner logo

Chelsi Flippo, MD, joined the NIH in 2018 as a clinical fellow in the Pediatric Endocrinology Inter-Institute Training Program. She received her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine and then completed a pediatrics residency at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Dr. Flippo studies hypercortisolemic states, including Cushing’s disease and functional hypercortisolemia. In particular, she is interested in the utility of plasma copeptin as a potential marker for remission in Cushing’s disease.

We asked Dr. Flippo a few questions about her clinical interests and perspectives to learn more about the person behind the degree. Meet Dr. Flippo:

What influenced you to go into pediatric endocrinology?

Early in residency, I was fortunate to work with several wonderful pediatric endocrinologists, but Dr. Katherine Beckwith-Fickas was a new pediatric endocrinology faculty member who was full of enthusiasm and inspired me to consider endocrinology. I was intrigued by the variety of pathology in pediatric endocrinology and enjoyed the continuity that the specialty allowed, particularly with patients with diabetes mellitus. There was one patient who helped confirm that I should pursue my specialty—a teen female who presented overnight with acute onset lower extremity weakness. We ordered thyroid function tests after noting that her potassium was low, and she was ultimately found to have Graves’ disease resulting in thyrotoxic periodic paralysis. It was a fascinating case to me then and is still now.

How has your perspective of clinical research evolved from the first year to the third year of your NIH fellowship?

I began my fellowship with limited clinical research experience, so I was thrilled by the opportunities for research available at NIH. From first to third year, I’ve learned to appreciate the many team members required to successfully complete a well-designed study, analyze the data, and present the results. It has been an honor to be a part of the NICHD’s efforts to expand scientific knowledge in the field of pediatric endocrinology.

What is your most memorable experience while at the NIH?

Last fall I saw a young boy in clinic with Dr. Deborah Merke and Dr. Ashwini Mallappa for evaluation of precocious puberty. The patient had been evaluated at multiple pediatric endocrinology centers with no definitive cause determined. His primary pediatric endocrinologist, our team at NICHD, and several other centers who had evaluated him worked in a collaborative fashion to brainstorm possible causes, further evaluations, and management. In addition to pediatric endocrinology, his multi-center team involved specialists in urology and pathology. We now believe we have determined the cause of precocious puberty in this young boy’s case, and we look forward to publishing the results soon. The experience of working with all of these team members to provide answers for him and his family has been deeply rewarding.

What are your future goals following your fellowship?

I am thrilled to be starting a clinical position with the Pediatric Subspecialists of Virginia (Inova Fairfax) in August to practice the specialty that continues to challenge and excite me every day.

Do you have any hobbies outside of your research and medical work?

In regard to my life outside of fellowship, my interests are painting, running, and traveling. My most recent travel adventure was to Alaska to visit my sister, where we went camping, kayaking, and hiking on glaciers. My fiancé Luis and I adopted a dog named JoJo several months ago, and last month we bought and moved into our new home. Therefore, our dog and an ongoing list of home improvement projects have kept me quite busy in my spare time recently!

NICHD Office of Education Welcomes Veronica Harker and Katherine Lamb

We are pleased to introduce our two new Office of Education program coordinators: Veronica Harker and Katherine Lamb. They join us with a wealth of experience, and we’re excited to welcome them into the NICHD Family!

Veronica Harker

Veronica Harker

Veronica Harker is an Anglo-Indian American who grew up in a British colonial town in South India. She was raised in a large, close-knit family and attended boarding school at a British convent run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, where she and several of her sisters spent nine months of each year.  As a young adult, Veronica studied secretarial sciences, but found greater satisfaction and joy in teaching preparatory for first grade students, mostly non-English speaking four- and five-year-olds.  She also enjoyed teaching English as a second language to Iranian women whose husbands were on agricultural assignment in India.

Veronica was the first member of her family to immigrate to the US and paved the way for her parents and six siblings and their extended families to join her.  Her life in America has expanded over a 38-year career in a healthcare organization, where she started as a housekeeper and worked her way to corporate headquarters.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Veronica authored an autobiography, and was delighted to have it published in April of 2021.

Veronica has always been a caregiver at heart and continually seeks to help and support those in need. As a breast cancer and a COVID-19 survivor, she hopes to find comfort and fulfillment in the knowledge that she is contributing, in some small way, by working for an organization which pursues, as their topmost priority, the health and well-being of people from all walks of life.

Katherine Lamb

Katherine Lamb

Katherine Lamb joins the NICHD Office of Education bringing her management and administration experience from commercial, government and non-profit organizations. Most recently, Katherine served as the Deputy Director for the White House Internship Program and Volunteer Management office, bolstering her enthusiasm for professional development and public service.

Bringing her training-focus mindset to the NIH, Katherine hopes to cultivate an environment that best serves the trainee’s academic and professional experience. She looks forward to creating opportunities to promote career development and provide guidance to fellows and students, helping them navigate future opportunities.

Katherine received her bachelor’s degree in art history from Florida State University and master’s degree in arts management from George Mason University.



Congrats to the 2021 Virtual Postbac Poster Day Winners!

Congratulations to the following NICHD postbacs (and their mentors) for scoring among the top 20% of NIH postbacs in the 2021 Virtual Postbac Poster Day competition on April 27–29, 2021:

  • Allison Goldstein (Dr. Brant Weinstein)
  • Bakary Samasa (Dr. Brant Weinstein)
  • Daniel Tetreault (Dr. Gisela Storz)
  • Eliana Ramirez (Dr. Jack Yanovski)
  • Fountane Chan (Dr. Judith Kassis)
  • Kevin Choi (Dr. Anirban Banerjee)
  • Kyla Roland (Dr. Henry Levin)
  • Megan Ezeude (Dr. Brant Weinstein)
  • Neha Akella (Dr. Andres Buonanno)
  • Nickolas Chu (Dr. Harold Burgess)
  • Reeya Patel (Dr. Stephen Gilman)

To score posters, teams composed of graduate students, postdocs, and NIH scientific staff reviewed poster content, poster appearance, and student presentation for all postbac participants. A total of 65 NICHD postbacs participated in the day!


Mentor of the Year Awards: Accepting Nominations Now!

Mentor of the Year Awards poster

Do you have an outstanding mentor?

The time has come for you to nominate your fellow or PI for the 2021 NICHD Mentor of the Year Awards. This is your chance to recognize an individual in the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) or Division of Intramural Population Health Research (DIPHR) whose mentoring has made a difference in your life at the NIH!

Below is the link to obtain information about the NICHD’s two annual intramural Mentor of the Year Awards, one for a fellow and one for an investigator. Please submit your nomination form and a 500-word (maximum) narrative electronically to Dr. Erin Walsh (erin.walsh@nih.gov).

The submission deadline is Friday, June 25, 2021.

Please contact the Office of Education if you have any questions about the nomination instructions or selection process. Information available at: Mentor of the Year Awards


2021 Virtual Graduate & Professional School Fair—Open for Registration

The 2021 Virtual Graduate & Professional School Fair: This year the fair is scheduled for July 19–22, with live workshops on the 19th and online exhibitor sessions on the 20th, 21st, and 22nd. More than 270 institutions have registered to participate!


SAVE THE DATE! Public Speaking Workshop: Giving Scientific Talks

Monday, July 12, 1:30 – 3 PM
Led by Public Speaking Coach Scott Morgan

“Speaking about Science” is a highly interactive workshop led by public speaking coach Scott Morgan. The core of this workshop is a nine-step preparation process that ensures a clear and engaging talk for a variety of audiences. Learn strategies for improving your delivery of lab talks or giving presentations at big meetings.

Topics include: presenting data, identifying theme and focus, creating effective visual aids, and beginning and ending a talk. Participants in this program can also schedule an individual one-hour coaching session prior to a scheduled presentation.

Trainees at all levels, including our 2021 summer interns, are encouraged to attend!

To register for this workshop, please email Ms. Katherine Lamb (katherine.lamb@nih.gov).



SAVE THE DATE! Informational Session for Future PRAT Applicants

Wednesday, July 14, 1–3 PM (Virtual)
Led by Dr. Erin Walsh

The NIGMS Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) Program supports postdoctoral fellowships within the NIH Intramural Research Program. Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States with no more than two years of postdoctoral experience at NIH by the time of appointment to the PRAT program. The deadline is October 4. More information about the program can be found at http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Training/Pages/PRAT.aspx.

Postdoc applicants must apply with the NIH Fi2 funding mechanism, and all applications must be submitted via grants.gov.

If you are planning to apply, the Office of Education is offering this session to discuss in detail how to prepare for the application submission, and more importantly, provide you with some valuable documents.

Please email Ms. Veronica Harker (veronica.harker@nih.gov) if you plan to attend.


SAVE THE DATE! Virtual Summer Presentation Week

August 3–5, 2021

If you are a summer intern, Summer Research Presentation Week is your time to share the research and creative projects you have been conducting at the NIH with the broader NIH community and your family and friends! At the same time, you will develop your communication and networking skills.

Registration will open Tuesday, June 8th and close Wednesday, July 7th. Please visit the OITE Virtual Summer Presentation Week website for more information.


SAVE THE DATE! Job Interviewing Workshop

Monday, August 9, 1–2:30 PM
Led by Public Speaking Coach Scott Morgan

If you are actively looking for a job this year, we strongly recommend you attend this informative and dynamic workshop. During this session you will learn tips for perfecting the broad interviewing skills needed to secure scientific positions (job talks, chalk talks, and the interview itself) and increasing your comfort level and confidence. You will have the opportunity to analyze expected questions, themes, and dilemmas through interactive exercises and peer review.

Participants can also schedule an individual one-hour coaching session with Scott prior to a scheduled job interview. To register for this workshop, please email Ms. Katherine Lamb (katherine.lamb@nih.gov).

Monday, June 7, 2–4 PM

Virtual Grant Writing Session for IRF Applicants
Led by Triesta Fowler, MD
 

In 2018, DIR launched the Intramural Research Fellowship (IRF), a competitive research funding opportunity for NICHD postdoctoral, visiting, and clinical fellows. Its main objective is to promote grant writing among our intramural trainees, while enhancing awareness of the various components of an NIH grant application. For all prospective applicants, the Office of Education will offer a training session to cover various components of an NIH grant, details about the application and review processes, and tips on preparing an IRF application.

Attendance at this virtual training session is a requirement for submission. For more information on the IRF, please visit NICHD Intramural Research Fellowship. The IRF submission date is Wednesday, September 8, 2021.

Please email Ms. Veronica Harker (veronica.harker@nih.gov) if you are planning to attend the training session.

As a new requirement for this cycle, in order to apply for this award, you must also submit a brief statement of intent to Dr. Triesta Fowler (fowlerlt@mail.nih.gov) by Friday, June 4th (copying your NICHD mentor to confirm their support). This statement should be submitted as a pdf document and should provide a brief summary (½–1 page maximum) of your IRF research proposal and a running title for the application. Please note that the details of your proposal do not need to be solidified for this statement of intent—rather, this should be a brief introduction and summary of the project you are planning.


Friday, June 25, 10–12 PM

Three-minute Talks 2021 logoNIH-Wide TmT Competition

In addition to two NICHD finalists, up to two fellows each from NEI, NHGRI, NIAMS, NIDCR, NIDCD, NINR, NIDDK, NIAID and NCATS, will compete. NICHD fellows who score in the top three at the final competition will receive an additional $500 award for approved travel/conference registration or training. We will announce this event throughout DIR and DIPHR—be sure to invite your lab mates and friends/colleagues!

Zoom information will be circulated throughout the DIR and DIPHR a few days prior to the event.


Ongoing Events Around Campus

NIH-Wide Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) Events
For more information and registration, please visit Upcoming OITE Events.

NIH Library Training and Events
For more information and registration, please visit the NIH Library Calendar.

June is a great month. The longest day of the year beckons the warmth of summer. Outdoor activities abound. And, most importantly, the NICHD Office of Education welcomes our Summer Internship Program trainees!

This summer’s virtual environment creates new learning opportunities for summer trainees. The NICHD Office of Education and the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education have planned a superb line up of career development workshops and activities. Take it from our current trainees, a fully virtual environment can be a valuable and fulfilling experience.

I’d like to personally invite our summer interns to contact me (shana.spindler@nih.gov) with any ideas for The NICHD Connection newsletter or interest in writing an article. To help summer interns learn about our content, we’ve included a few of our regular columns, including our Hot Off the Press, Clinical Corner, and Rep Report columns—and of course our June Announcements and Events. Check out our newsletter archives for an additional decade worth of examples.

To our newest trainees, most senior fellows, and everyone in between—have a great summer!

Your Editor in Chief,
Shana R. Spindler, PhD

Please send questions, comments, and ideas to our editor at shana.spindler@nih.gov.

The NIH Summer Internship Program is fully virtual this year. What does that mean for our NICHD trainees? It means our summer interns are going to receive top-notch mentorship, research training, and career development experiences throughout the summer—without having to deal with metro area traffic!

Over the past year, many NICHD trainees have worked through a completely virtual experience. To welcome our incoming summer interns, we asked the students from our NICHD-Howard University partnership to talk about their virtual experiences so far. Check out their words of advice and inspirational messages below!


Morgan Ford

Morgan Ford

My best piece of advice about virtual training:

Working with Dr. Ajay Chitnis at the NIH was an incredible experience. Given the success of our relationship for the past year, I can confidently provide insight into how our virtual training experience worked out so well.

This was a flawless experience for the two of us because of our speedy email responses and communication skills. During a time when in-person meeting is not possible, it is important to be open and honest with one's mentor/mentee. Dr. Chitnis and I exchanged emails and phone numbers at the beginning of the sessions and have been very communicative about availability since. Being that we had ample access to reach out to each other, Dr. Chitnis also performed weekly check-ins to see how I was progressing with both enjoying and understanding the topic. While an in-person mentor-mentee experience would have been great, Dr. Chitnis made the process better than I ever imagined.

—Morgan Ford, Rising Junior, Biology/Criminology Double Major at Howard University




Ayanfeoluwa Kolawole

Ayanfeoluwa Kolawole

An impactful moment from my virtual training experience:

The transition to the virtual experience can be very stressful or very rewarding. My experience with Dr. Henry Levin has been the latter. Since January 2021, I have had the opportunity to be mentored by Dr. Levin in his NICHD laboratory, which focuses on the biology of transposable elements.

The only thing I knew about transposable elements was that they are mobile DNA. Initially, having to learn more about them and their potential impact in resolving recombination intermediates virtually seemed like a stretched goal However, my experience with Dr. Levin has done more than achieve this goal by also helping me grow as a person.

One of many experiences that had this impact on me was in one of our Zoom meetings. On that particular Monday, I was fed up with trying to understand the concept behind transposition and homologous recombination assays. To add to my stress, we were having Internet connection issues. Dr. Levin noticed and asked me to do the weirdest thing I had ever done. He told me to turn off my microphone and leave the video on. He then gave me a phone number to call and stayed on the call with me explaining the concept until I understood it and could confidently explain it to him. And I finally understood it!

That one experience not only assured me that Dr. Levin is interested in my growth as a researcher, but it also revealed his selfless trait as an individual, which I strive to embody.

—Ayanfeoluwa Kolawole, Rising Junior, Biology Major at Howard University (Premed)




Alexa Moore

Alexa Moore

My best piece of advice about virtual training:

My best piece of advice with learning virtually this past semester is to be comfortable with unpredictability. As I am a very detail-oriented and organized person, I often have my days planned down to the hour: it gives me a sense of comfort and allows me to maximize my efficiency. However, learning virtually this semester has forced me to adapt from my “normal” and be comfortable with the unknown—a lesson that is not just applicable to the online learning setting but also life in general.

With online learning, many factors are added in: possible technical difficulties, schedule delays, and limited accessibility to certain people. Many times this semester, these factors played a part in my learning, which I am grateful for. With this, I have had the opportunity to attend and participate in some important meetings, be extended special internship opportunities, and meet some exceptional people.

—Alexa Moore, Rising Junior, Honors Biology Major at Howard University



Summer Internship Program Links to Like!

Check out these Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) resources for NIH summer interns:

Leah Meuter

Leah Meuter

Clinical Corner logoAs we are all aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a massive cultural shift in medicine to deliver virtual care—an impact that is predicted to outlive the virus itself.1 While the rapid implementation of telehealth led to many published views on policy changes, insurance coverage, and barriers to patient access, there seemed to be little to no literature on how providers could effectively enhance the provider-patient relationship over a virtual platform.

Together with the guidance of my principal investigator, Dr. Karel Pacak (a practicing physician), and Katherine Wolf (current medical student), we created a commentary article that discusses telemedicine with both provider and patient considerations.2 Please see Table 1 of the publication for a general overview.

We cover three topics in this article that we termed “virtual-clinical values.” Here are the basics:

Ⅰ. Appearance

Research in traditional settings suggests that appropriate attire can establish patients’ trust and increase their willingness to share their medical concerns with their providers.3 Clinicians should maintain business professional attire under a white coat. Clothing with large patterns or logos should be avoided, as well as excessive jewelry or accessories, as these items can cause both visual and audio disturbances.  

Ⅱ. Communication

Current research suggests that a provider-patient relationship can be established over telemedicine if strong communication skills are used.4 We discuss verbal techniques (patient-centered questioning and shared decision making) as well as non-verbal techniques (head-nodding, upright posture, and appropriate facial expressions) that should be practiced regularly during a virtual visit. Providers should note that eye contact, a vital non-verbal communication tool, is established by looking into the camera on their device or desktop, instead of looking at the patient’s eyes on the screen.

Ⅲ. Environment

Providers should strive to give virtual care from a neutral, uncluttered space to reduce distractions. Providers should be cognizant of patient privacy concerns and encourage the use of headphones or chat features if needed.

Throughout this article, we consider how health care professionals can continue to build trusting and meaningful professional relationships with their patients, even over a telemedicine platform. As our nation adapts to the seemingly new normal of virtual medical care, we must ensure that maintaining professionalism and patient respect is at the forefront of our efforts.  

References

  1. “COVID-19 makes telemedicine mainstream. Will it stay that way?” American Medical Association. Accessed June 1, 2020, at https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/digital/covid-19-makes-telemedicine-mainstream-will-it-stay-way.
  2. Meuter L, Wolf K, Pacak K. (2021). “Maintaining professional encounters and enhancing telemedicine interactions with core virtual-clinical values.Endocr Pract. 27(1):77–79. doi: 10.1016/j.eprac.2020.11.006.
  3. Rehman SU, Nietert PJ, Cope DW, Osborne Kilpatrick A. (2005). “What to wear today? Effect of doctor’s attire on the trust and confidence of patients.Am J Med. 118(11):1279–1286.
  4. Elliott T, Tong I, Sheridan A, Lown BA. (2020) “Beyond convenience: patients’ perceptions of physician interactional skills and compassion via telemedicine.Mayo Clin Proc Innov Qual Outcomes. 4(3):305–314.

Hot Off the Press logoThe combination of basic science and clinical research is important for understanding the mechanisms of disease in the development of treatments. Dr. Forbes Porter’s laboratory in the NICHD Division of Intramural Research performs research at the intersection of basic and clinical science in the fight against neurodegenerative disease, specifically Niemann-Pick type C (NPC).

NPC is a rare—always fatal—autosomal, recessive neurodegenerative disease caused by point mutations in NPC1 or NPC2 genes that result in defects in intracellular cholesterol trafficking.  In humans, deleterious mutations in both copies of either gene (most commonly in NPC1) result in neurodegeneration and symptoms such as seizures and learning disabilities, as well as severe cirrhosis and liver failure. 

Dr. Wei-Chia Tseng, a postdoctoral fellow in the Porter lab, uses zebrafish in his research to better understand and find treatments for NPC. Dr. Tseng joined the NICHD in 2015 after receiving his PhD from the University of Georgia in cellular biology. At the time, the Porter lab was interested in using a model other than mice and mammalian cell lines to study NPC. Relying on experience from his graduate work, Dr. Tseng initiated NPC studies in fish, which are cheaper to maintain and more numerous than mouse colonies.

In a 2018 publication, Dr. Tseng and his collaborators established zebrafish as a model to study NPC and screen for NPC drugs.1 Dr. Tseng’s most recent publication reports on the role of Npc2 in development.2  

“One cool thing about my most recent publication is that we studied the maternal effect of NPC2,” Dr. Tseng said. The maternal effect refers to proteins and molecules that are present in the egg prior to fertilization and are important in the first 24 to 48 hours post-fertilization in zebrafish. 

Dr. Tseng thought about maternal effects during his previous study of NPC1, but they were unable to obtain maternal-zygotic npc1 mutants. “We just couldn’t get the mature [npc1 mutant] fish to breed,” Dr. Tseng explained. “But we were lucky enough to find fertile npc2 mutant females—not many, but a few.”

He found that maternal Npc2 contributes to the initial hours of zebrafish development. Maternal-zygotic npc2 mutants had defects in otic vesicles, heads, brains, body axes, and lacked circulating blood cells. Dr. Tseng showed that these features were due to decreased cholesterol bioavailability. In addition, he revealed a downregulation of Notch signaling in these mutants. His results offer insight into how cholesterol bioavailability affects embryonic development. “No one has looked at cholesterol transport that early in embryonic development,” Dr. Tseng exclaimed

As a “developmental biologist at heart” in a clinically focused lab, Dr. Tseng expressed his gratitude to Dr. Porter for allowing him the freedom to make discoveries about how biological systems work.


References

  1. Tseng WC, Loeb HE, Pei W, Tsai-Morris CH, Xu L, Cluzeau CV, Wassif CA, Feldman B, Burgess SM, Pavan WJ, Porter FD. (2018) “Modeling Niemann-Pick disease type C1 in zebrafish: a robust platform for in vivo screening of candidate therapeutic compounds.Dis Model Mech. 11(9):dmm034165.
  2. Tseng WC, Johnson Escauriza AJ, Tsai-Morris CH, Feldman B, Dale RK, Wassif CA, Porter FD. (2021). “The role of Niemann-Pick type C2 in zebrafish embryonic development.Development. 148(7):dev194258. doi:10.1242/dev.194258.

Rep Report logoAs the current NICHD Basic Sciences Institutes and Centers (IC) Representative, I represent NICHD postdoctoral fellows at the Fellows Committee (FelCom) meeting every month and share the latest news with you here. Do you have a concern or question that you want brought up at the next meeting? Contact me at lauren.walling@nih.gov!


The Visiting Fellows Committee is looking for new members! Please contact Vrushali Agashe (vrushali.agashe@nih.gov) or Zeni Wu (zeni.wu@nih.gov) if you are interested!

FAES discussed the Fellows Health Insurance Plan for next year. No major changes have been discussed other than plans for increasing access to mental health services.

The Health & Recreation Subcommittee invites you to join their upcoming events! They plan weekly virtual game nights on Zoom, monthly trail runs (the next one is June 5th), virtual yoga, biking, and nature walks. For more information, join their Slack page: Health & Recreation Subcommittee Slack Page

The Career Development Committee has upcoming career panels planned. On June 10th at 12 p.m., the panel will focus on careers in non-profits, and in August, it will feature careers at the FDA. Keep an eye out for more information in an email from OITE!