Blog from June, 2023

Dr. Jong Park

Jong Park, PhD

We are excited to announce that Jong Park, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Weinstein lab, placed 1st overall in the NIH-wide 2023 Three-minute Talks (TmT) Competition with his talk “A Gill Model of Lung Gas-exchange Blood Vasculature.”

Dr. Park joined the TmT competition as the NICHD finalist on June 22, 2023, alongside fellows from NHGRI, NIDCR, NIAMS, NEI, NCATS, NIDCD, NIAID, NIDDK, NIEHS and NLM.

The TmT competition is an annual science communication program at the NIH. The competition fosters an environment for fellows to convey their research in a concise and meaningful way to a broad scientific audience.

The 2023 event opened with welcoming remarks from Megan Bohn, PhD, NIAID Predoctoral/Postdoctoral Program Coordinator and Nina F. Schor, MD, PhD, NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research. After 11 intriguing three-minute talks from fellows, Lisa Federer, PhD, Acting Director in the National Library of Medicine’s Office of Strategic Initiatives, described her career experiences in her talk “The Accidental Data Librarian: A Journey to Data Science.”

We also want to congratulate this year’s 2nd and 3rd place NICHD TmT awardees—from our internal competition on June 8—on a job well done:

  • 2nd place winner: Leah Greenspan, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Weinstein lab
  • 3rd place winner: Sanjana Sundararajan, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Dasso lab

Thank you to all our 2023 TmT Program participants! Your presentations and slides were fantastic. It truly was another successful year for the TmT.

2023 NICHD TmT Participants:

  • Sarah Alsuleiman (Postbac, Machner lab)
  • Priscilla Clayton, PhD (Postdoc, Yeung lab)
  • Jong Park, PhD (Postdoc, Weistein lab)
  • Allison Saul (Postbac, Rogers lab)
  • Resmi Raju, BDS, MDS, PhD (Postdoc, D’Souza lab)
  • Aurora Kraus, PhD (Postdoc, Weinstein lab)
  • Leah Greenspan, PhD (Postdoc, Weinstein lab)
  • Ian Trees, PhD (Postdoc, Yeung lab)
  • Saikat Ghosh, PhD (Postdoc, Bonifacino lab)
  • Alan Kessler, PhD (Postdoc, Maraia lab)
  • Sanjana Sundararajan, PhD (Postdoc, Dasso lab)
  • Sabrina Bouchard (Postbac, Machner lab)
  • Muthulakshmi Sellamani, PhD (Postdoc, Leikin lab)
  • Kathryn Wagner, PhD (Postdoc, Grantz lab)

Friday, July 14, 3 PM

NICHD Fellow Social Event poster, info duplicated in textNICHD Trainee Outdoor Social Event

Join us in-person event to meet other fellows in the institute for networking, socializing, and team building!


  • Group games
  • Light refreshments
  • Game prizes

Weather permitting, we will meet at the grass field next to building 41, Bethesda campus. We have a back-up location reserved, indoors, in case of rain (to be announced, if necessary).

If you are interested in joining, please email Ms. Veronica Harker ( for the link to the Google doc for sign-ups.

Thursday, July 20, 1 PM

NICHD Summer Webinar Series (Session I)
Academic Job Market Overview
Daniel Olson-Bang, PhD
STEM Career Services, LLC

Beginning an academic job search can be daunting—from submitting numerous documents, to first- and second-round interviews, and more. We will discuss various aspects of this process and consider establishing an appropriate timeline, plus steps you can take to make yourself an excellent candidate.

Please email Ms. Veronica Harker ( to receive the Google document for registering. A Zoom link will be provided to you before the session.

Tuesday, July 25, 1 PM

Scientific Presentations Workshop: Speaking About Science
With Public Speaking Coach Scott Morgan
Building 35, Room 610
Scientific Presentations Workshop

The Office of Education is offering a science communications workshop for ALL trainees! Led by Public Speaking Coach Scott Morgan, “Speaking About Science” will address the main elements for effectively presenting your science.

Plus, participants will have the opportunity to schedule an individual one-hour coaching session with Scott prior to a scheduled presentation.

“Speaking about Science” is highly interactive and has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from fellows who completed it in the past. 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.

All trainees (including our summer interns!) are welcome and will certainly benefit!

Please email Ms. Veronica Harker ( to receive the Google document link for registration.

Wednesday, July 26, 1–2:30 PM

Informational Session for 2022 PRAT Applicants
Led by Dr. Erin Walsh
Location (in person): To be announced

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. More information about the program can be found at

Postdoc applicants must apply with the NIH Fi2 funding mechanism, and all applications must be submitted via by October 3, 2023. Postdoc IRTAs who began their NIH intramural training on or after July 1, 2022, may be eligible (please visit the NIGMS PRAT website for specific eligibility criteria).

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

Please email Ms. Veronica Harker ( for the registration link if you plan to attend.

This event will take place in person, on the NIH Bethesda campus. Location to be announced as soon as it is finalized.

Ongoing Events Around Campus

NIH-Wide Office of Intramural Training and Education 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.

Summer Webinar Series

The Academic Job Search, Application and Interview Process
Daniel Olson-Bang, PhD
STEM Career Services, LLC

Join us for a new webinar series this summer, ideal for those of you planning for the academic job market!

On behalf of STEM Career Services, Dr. Daniel Olson-Bang, an adjunct professor and academic career/professional development director, will lead four sessions to guide you through the entire process.

Academic Job Market Overview (Thursday, July 20, 1 p.m.)

Beginning an academic job search can be daunting—from submitting numerous documents, to first- and second-round interviews, and more. We will discuss various aspects of this process and consider establishing an appropriate timeline, plus steps you can take to make yourself an excellent candidate.

Crafting Effective CVs and Cover Letters for Academic Positions (Thursday, August 3, 1 p.m.)

Hiring committees are responsible for reviewing and scoring applicants for a given position. Ultimately, impactful materials make the difference between moving on and being thrown into the “no” pile. This session will offer tips about what makes great application documents that stand out, as well as strategies to move your candidacy to the next stage.

Teaching, Research and Diversity Statements (Thursday, August 17, 1 p.m.)

The complexity of the Research, Teaching, and Diversity Statements often requires the subtlest and precise crafting. The Research Statement highlights the value of your work to date, but more crucially, tells the committee about your bright future. Diversity Statements attest to the ways in which you support diversity, inclusion and equity in all that you do—whether in the lab, the classroom, or in service. A commonly misunderstood document, the Teaching Statement reveals your burgeoning identity in the classroom. Learn how to make these essential documents core to an unforgettable package.

Academic Interviewing (Thursday, August 31, 1 p.m.)

All interviews are stressful, but academic interviews offer complexities and challenges that are unlike other types. This session will walk you through types of academic interviews and the committee’s expectations as it moves towards a final selection.

For those of you who complete the series, Office of Education Director Dr. Erin Walsh will be available to provide individualized guidance and support as you prepare your application materials (this cycle or next). This includes one-on-one meetings and review/feedback of your drafts. 

Please email Ms. Veronica Harker ( to receive the Google document for registering. A Zoom link will be provided to you before each session.

Do You Have an Outstanding Mentor?

Mentor of the Year Awards poster, content recreated in textThe time has come for you to nominate your fellow or PI for the 2023 NICHD Mentor of the Year Awards. This is your chance to recognize an individual whose mentoring has made a difference in your life at the NICHD!

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 Ms. Veronica Harker (

The submission deadline is Monday, July 31st.

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.

Science Writing Opportunities for Al Fellows 

Have you always wanted to try science writing? If you would like to write an article this summer or suggest a topic for this newsletter, please contact our editor, Dr. Shana Spindler (

Save the Date: Graduate & Professional School Prep

Tuesday, August 1, 1 p.m.
“Interviewing for Professional School”
Scott Morgan, Public Speaking Coach
Building 35, Room 610

Join us (in-person!) on Tuesday, August 1, 1 p.m., for Scott Morgan’s workshop “Interviewing for Professional School.”

Those of you planning for the graduate or medical/professional school interview trail, this is a fantastic workshop for learning interview strategies and gaining confidence.

In this highly interactive session, you will learn:

  • Tips to help you prepare for your interviews and present yourself professionally
  • Types/examples of questions you can expect
  • Strategies for delivering your best answers
  • Types of questions to ask your interviewers
  • Adapting your interviewing skills to virtual platforms

To register, please email Ms. Veronica Harker ( for access to the Google document online.

Save the Date: Annual NICHD Grant Writing Workshop

Wednesday, August 2 (Virtual)
Paula Gregory, PhD, University of North Texas

For those of you interested in grant writing and NIH funding opportunities, join us on Wednesday, August 2, for a virtual one-day workshop!

Led by Dr. Paula Gregory, Professor, Physiology & Anatomy, Associate Dean for Faculty & Educational Development, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of North Texas, this one-day workshop will provide participants with the concepts and structure to plan and prepare a successful grant proposal. Through didactic presentations and active discussions, participants will learn to develop a rigorous research approach and a well-defined career development plan.

Session 1: 9–11 a.m.:

  • Strategizing: Using NIH Resources (Success Rates, NIH RePORTER, Sample grants)
  • Writing a Successful Specific Aims

Session 2: 1–2:30 p.m.

  • Writing the Major Components of a Career Development Grant: Candidate, Goals, Training Plan
  • Mentor Components of the Proposal: Mentor Letters and Biosketch
  • Writing the Significance and Innovation
  • Writing the Science: Research Approach

Session 3: 2:30–3:30 p.m.

  • The Grant Review Process
  • The Reviewer Perspective: Discussion of Sample Grant

Question & Answer Session: 3:30–4 p.m.

To register for this workshop, please email Ms. Veronica Harker (, and she will provide the sign-up link.

Save the Date: Summer Poster Days, August 3–4

This year, the NIH Summer Poster Day will be hybrid! The in-person poster day is scheduled for August 3 and 4 at the Natcher Conference Center (Main Bethesda Campus, Building 45) on the main campus in Bethesda. The virtual poster day is scheduled for August 3.

Registration is now open. We highly encourage all summer interns to present their work during this event. For registration, all the interns need to submit is a title. The deadline for summer interns to submit poster titles for NIH Summer Poster Day 2023 is Friday, July 7, at 5:00 PM. Note that OITE will present a workshop entitled “Creating and Presenting a Dynamic Poster” on July 11.

You can read more about Summer Poster Day at 2023 NIH Summer Poster Day. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Dr. Yewon Cheon ( or Alexis Schirling (

NIH UNITE: Ending Structural Racism (ESR) Activities

The NIH UNITE initiative was established to identify and address structural racism within the NIH-supported and the greater scientific community.

The ESR Intranet includes various resources like the ToolkitNewsletterFAQs, and other information.

UNITE Milestones and Progress and the Co-Chairs Corner (public ESR webpages) are other avenues to stay informed on UNITE efforts.

Rep Report logoAs the current NICHD Basic Sciences Institutes and Centers (IC) Representative, I represent NICHD postdoctoral fellows at the NIH 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, Hyo Won Ahn, at

FelCom has several open positions—Check them out and get involved!

For more information about these positions, please email Vasty Osei Amponsa (

If you are interested in running for one of the positions, please submit a statement of interest to both FelCom Co-Chairs: Vasty Osei Amponsa ( and Marja Brolinson (

Need tips about drafting a statement of interest? Have questions about the overall selection procedure? Please reach out to me directly (, and I will be happy to help!

The Visiting Fellows Committee (VFC) is recruiting for the following positions. If you have any questions about these positions, contact Sanam Yaghoubi, graduate student at NCI (

Did you know that there are several ways to stay informed on postdoc activities and events?

Our last “Life Outside Lab” column was in October 2020. That’s much too long ago! I’m pleased to announce that after more than two and a half years, the column has returned with a full spread of photos from last month’s NICHD trainee lunch on the South Lawn of Building 10.

“As it turns out, Francis Collins’ band was performing for a pediatrics group!” said Erin Walsh, PhD, Director of the Office of Education, in an email exchange about the event. “With the farmer’s market and food vendors very active, and the sun shining bright, I think everyone was glad to be out!”

That, to me, sounds like a lovely afternoon—and a great opportunity to chat with fellow trainees about their research and career ambitions. These trainee lunches are a fabulous way to meet other scientists and compare notes about the wealth of research and clinical opportunities available during and after NICHD training. Stay tuned for more trainee social events with the Office of Education this summer—planning is underway.

On professional development front, did you know that a medical degree (MD) isn’t your only option? For our feature article this month, we highlight the physician (PA) career field. Former fellow Leah Meuter describes what it’s like attending PA school at Stanford University School of Medicine. Learn about the benefits of a PA degree and what inspired Ms. Meuter to choose that career path.

We also have several great announcements, including TmT competition news, the monthly Rep Report, and a slew of July events to check out. And if you attend any more fun outings this summer, please send in photos. Let’s keep this “Life Outside Lab” column active!

Your Editor in Chief,
Shana R. Spindler, PhD

This newsletter is for NICHD fellows and by NICHD fellows. We want to hear from you! Please send your questions, comments, and ideas to our editor at

Leah Meuter

Leah Meuter

Leah Meuter completed her postbaccalaureate fellowship at NICHD from July 2019 to July 2021 in the laboratory of Karel Pacak, MD, DSc, PhD, Senior Investigator in the Section on Medical Neuroendocrinology. While there, she worked as part of a translational research team that investigated and clinically evaluated, treated, and managed patients with rare neuroendocrine tumors called pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas. Now, Leah is a second-year physician assistant (PA) student at Stanford University School of Medicine.  

Check out our Q&A with Leah to learn more about what inspired her to pursue the PA profession and her experience so far in PA school.

What is a Physician Assistant?

According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), “PAs (physician associates/physician assistants) are licensed clinicians who practice medicine in every specialty and setting. Trusted, rigorously educated and trained healthcare professionals, PAs are dedicated to expanding access to care and transforming health and wellness through patient-centered, team-based medical practice.”

The AAPA states that a PA’s specific duties depend on the work setting, their experience level, their specialty, and state laws. Generally, PAs can:

  • Take medical histories
  • Conduct physical exams
  • Diagnose and treat illness
  • Order and interpret tests
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Prescribe medication
  • Counsel on preventive care
  • Perform procedures
  • Assist in surgery
  • Make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes
  • Do clinical research

What was your inspiration for joining a PA program?

I learned about the PA profession in a summer research position during my undergraduate training. The principal investigator of the project, one of my mentors, recommended I look into the profession. I was extremely interested and spent the entire summer educating myself about the career path and what coursework I needed to complete before graduating. The PA profession is great for people who want to provide high quality medical care to patients, work as part of a healthcare team, and swiftly transition into the workforce. Moreover, PAs have lateral mobility, meaning they are able to work in different subspecialties throughout their career without additional schooling. My patient-focused and clinical care duties at the NIH solidified my decision to pursue this career.

What was the application process like for PA school?

Each PA school has its own unique requirements, but most require basic science prerequisites (general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry), standardized test scores (Graduate Record Examination, GRE; Physician Assistant College Admission Test, PA-CAT), and patient care experience. I took the GRE, so I cannot speak in detail on the PA-CAT. Since the GRE does not directly assess knowledge relevant to the medical field, the PA-CAT was created as a more specialized standardized test that would more accurately assess an applicant’s knowledge relevant to the field. The PA-CAT is not broadly accepted/required yet, but it is something that I believe some schools will look for in the future. 

All schools require a bachelor’s degree, but as long as you meet the science prerequisites, you do not necessarily need a Bachelor of Science. The most unique part of the process is that applicants must have hundreds to thousands of patient care hours by the time they apply. Since the PA program is accelerated (2 to 3 years), PA schools need to be confident that applicants have a foundation of patient care experience by the time they apply. Each school differs on what they count as patient care experience, but I applied with clinical research hours as well as medical assistant hours.

The average PA school applicant applies to eight programs. I applied to eight schools and interviewed at six programs. There is a standardized application and supplemental application component for each school. Once your application is reviewed, each school’s interview team will either decline your application or invite you for an interview. During my application year, all interviews were online due to COVID-19, but traditionally the applicant would travel to the school to interview.

What is a typical day like while in a PA program?

PA school is broken down into didactic and clinical years. During the didactic year, most programs have class 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with tests most weeks. My current program is unique, in that they give us more flexibility in our didactic schedule, which allows me to take elective classes outside of my core curriculum and get more involved in leadership opportunities. During clinical year, we have four-week rotations in core and elective specialties in a variety of settings.

What’s the next step after you graduate from PA school?

Once I graduate, I will take the PA board exam (Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, PANCE), obtain the necessary state licensure, and start applying for jobs.

Were there any workshops or programs at the NIH that helped you prepare for your PA program?

My experience at the NIH prepared me well for PA school. Learning how to work as part of a team and establishing a strong work ethic early in my career was invaluable. I also completed the NIH Academy, which I highly recommend.

Where do you currently seek mentorship?

I seek mentorship through my education and work experiences. I am lucky that my NICHD advisor (Dr. Pacak) provided amazing mentorship while I was at the NIH, and he continues to be present as a mentor in my life. I am continuing to establish a mentoring network while in PA school. My program has many mentorship opportunities; examples include Educators for Care (E4C), where PA students are paired with a practicing PA, and Women and Medicine (WAM) where female students are paired with female healthcare providers.

Do you have any final tips for fellows who are thinking about pursuing a similar career track?

Say yes to as many opportunities as you can early in your career. Doing so will help you discover what you like or dislike, what comes easy or hard for you, and what you are curious about. It will also help you build a network of colleagues and mentors to help you in your career. No one is successful on their own—ask for help when you need it. Having good mentors can significantly enhance your professional development.

  • Outside Building 10 on the NIH Campus
  • Tuesday, June 13, 2023 

Fellows gather outside at a picnic table
Fellows gather outside at a picnic table
Fellows gather outside at a picnic table
Erin Walsh with Veronica Harker and her son Justin Harker

Dr. Francis Collins' rock band plays outside of Building 10

Former NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and other members of the Affordable Rock ’n’ Roll Act band were giving a live performance for the Camp Fantastic BBQ event at the Clinical Center South Entrance on June 13.