Blog from December, 2023

Planning to Apply for an NIH Research Grant?

In collaboration with three other institutes, we are again offering our popular NIH Grant Writing Course! Led by Dr. Paula Gregory (Associate Dean for Faculty & Research Development, School of Biomedical Sciences; Director, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs University of North Texas Health Science Center), this course will help students prepare a successful NIH grant proposal, with special emphasis on the career transition “K” grant series.

In a small-group setting (via Zoom), classes will combine didactic presentations with group discussions, assignments, and proposal writing. There will also be an NIH mock study section. During the process of scoring real grant applications, trainees will learn about the review process and the key aspects of a successful application.

NICHD has four slots available. If you would like to join this course, please contact Dr. Erin Walsh (erin.walsh@nih.gov) with your plans for grant applications (e.g., K99) in the next year.

All sessions are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. via Zoom. Below is the (tentative) schedule:

  • March 7 & 8
  • March 21 & 22
  • April 11 & 12

Hear from NICHD fellows who recently completed the course: Tips from Fellows: Paula Gregory Grant Writing Course & Workshops


Call for Applications for Center on Compulsive Behavior Fellowships 2024

The Center on Compulsive Behavior (CCB) will fund outstanding candidates, both clinical and basic science researchers, who are interested in studying topics aligned with the mission of the CCB and with a strong desire for interactions and collaboration with the labs in the IRP. Applications are open for postdoctoral fellows in the IRP within their first twoyears, or incoming postdoctoral fellows joining an IRP laboratory before September 30, 2024.

Additional information and the call for applications can be downloaded from the CCB Fellowship Program website. Application submission closes by 6 p.m. on Monday, January 15th, 2024.


NICHD Annual Postbac Seminar Series: Professional Development and Career Exploration

Our Annual Postbac Seminar Series continues into the new year! Join us on Tuesdays from 1 to 2 p.m. (schedule and details below). The intent is to create a comfortable environment within a small group of peers to help postbacs improve their analytical skills as scientists, while expanding their knowledge of biomedical research and its relevance to human health.

Currently there are about 85 postbacs conducting clinical and basic science research in our intramural laboratories. During your one or two years of training here at the NICHD, we want you to have an enriched research experience, while at the same time growing more prepared and excited about your chosen career path.

This series also focuses on professional development:

  • Learning how to present your science
  • Exploring different career trajectories
  • Meeting physicians and scientists from various clinical or research settings
  • Preparing for the medical or graduate school application cycle (including interviews!)

Have an idea for a seminar topic? Know somebody who would make a great speaker for the series? We want to hear from you! Email Dr. Erin Walsh (erin.walsh@nih.gov) with your thoughts.

Schedule of Topics (All sessions are on Tuesdays from 1 to 2 p.m.)
January 9Career Consultant, Lauren CelanoHow to evaluate, build and highlight transferable and career relevant skillsVirtual
January 16Office of Education Director, Erin Walsh, PhDThe Medical School Application ProcessBldg. 35A, Room 610
January 23Career Consultant, Lauren CelanoBuilding a positive online personal brand (LinkedIn)Virtual
February 20NICHD Clinical Director, Catherine Gordon, MD, MSClinical Research Careers: Meet the NICHD Clinical DirectorBldg. 35A, Room 610
February 27Office of Education Director, Erin Walsh, PhDThe Medical School Personal StatementBldg. 35A, Room 610

If you are interested in attending, please email Ms. Veronica Harker (veronica.harker@nih.gov) to register and let her know which sessions you plan to attend. Zoom links will be distributed a few days prior.


Three-Minute Talks (TmT) Competition 2024

Now Seeking Postdoc & Clinical Fellows, Graduate Students & Postbacs

  • Learn how to explain your research effectively to a broad scientific audience, in three minutes or less, with one-on-one professional training from public speaking coach Scott Morgan.
  • Get the chance to win up to $1,000 for use towards approved training or scientific conference participation.
  • Visit the NICHD TmT Program website for more details: up to 10 DIR fellows (postbac, predoctoral, postdoctoral, visiting and clinical) are invited to compete for these science communication honors.
2024 TmT Program Timeline and Details
Wednesday, January 31

Deadline to Enter

  • The submission form, competition rules and judging criteria are available at the NICHD TmT Webpage.

Monday, February 5
10 AM (Zoom)

Three-Minute Talk Training/Introductory Workshop

  • Tips on scientific storytelling with only one slide
  • Speaking in plain language while addressing the human health relevance for your research
  • Creating effective visual aids

March, April, May
Dates TBD

Individual Coaching/Practice Sessions

  • Meet one-on-one with public speaking coach Scott Morgan
  • Practice your talk and obtain feedback on oral presentation skills and speech development

June
Date TBD

NICHD TmT Competition

  • Top three will each be awarded $500 for approved training/travel
  • Finalist (Top Score) will be chosen to advance to the NIH-wide competition

June
Date TBD

NIH TmT Competition

  • NICHD finalist has a chance at additional $500 award if their score is within the top three overall

(With NICHD, NHGRI, NHLBI, NIDCR, NIDCD, NIAMS, NEI, NIDDK, NIAID, NINDS, NLM and NIEHS)


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

Tuesday, January 9, 1 PM (Zoom)

Building Transferrable and Career Relevant Skills
Lauren Celano, Propel Careers

Join us for our next career development webinar, Tuesday, January 9, 1 p.m.

“How to Evaluate, Build, and Highlight Transferrable and Career Relevant Skills” will be led by Lauren Celano, CEO and co-founder of Propel Careers, a life science search and career development firm focused on connecting talented individuals with entrepreneurial life sciences companies.

This comprehensive seminar is appropriate for NIH trainees at all levels. Lauren Celano will provide insight on how to evaluate the transferable skills that are valued in various scientific careers, highlighting the essential non-scientific skills you can build while performing research, and demonstrating ways to apply these skills in your desired career to achieve your goals. Advice will be provided for various career paths, including research and non-research roles. Lauren will also provide guidance on how to package scientific and non-scientific skills on resumes, cover letters, and during interviews.

If you are interested in attending, please email Veronica Harker (veronica.harker@nih.gov) for the sign-up link.


Thursday, January 18, 10–11 AM

Media 101: Defining The Media Landscape (via Zoom)
Registration required

The NICHD Office of Communications has developed a new media training course, for anyone interested in an introduction to media relations at NIH.

Participants will get an introduction into the current media landscape, such as: defining newsworthiness, learning the structure and priorities of a newsroom, understanding reporters’ deadlines, knowing what to do when contacted by the media, and communicating complex scientific findings to the public. The course includes speaker presentations and individual/group exercises that will enable participants to practice explaining study findings in lay-friendly language.

This is a basic introduction on the importance of communicating science to the public and what that looks like in practice at NIH. You’ll also learn tips on how to explain study findings in a lay-friendly manner.

Sign up information has been distributed via email. Please contact Dr. Linda Huynh (linda.huynh@nih.gov) if you have questions.


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.

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 hyowon.ahn@nih.gov.


FelCom is recruiting!
Please submit a statement of interest to FelCom co-chairs Vasty Osei Amponsa (vasty.oseiamponsa@nih.gov) and Meghan Yamasaki (meghan.yamasaki@nih.gov) if you are interested in running for one of the following positions.

  • Health and Recreation co-chair (2 positions)
  • Social Committee co-chair (1 position)
  • Outreach co-liaison (1 position)
  • Recreation and Welfare Committee & Health and Wellness Council Liaison (1 position)

The Fellows Safety Committee has a number of subcommittee chair and IC liaison (including NICHD) positions open. Please contact Anna SantaMaria (anna.santamaria@nih.gov) for more information.

The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) is partnering with SciPhD to provide free, permanent license of their online web application tool Flamingo™ to all NPS members. This tool helps with job searches and offers career-focused resources. For a free license, you will need to fill out a form on the NPA website and attend a one-hour online Flamingo orientation session offered monthly by SciPhD. All NIH postdocs/fellows get NPA affiliate individual memberships for FREE! Join now!

The Women Scientist Fellows Committee shared a summary of their first listening session held on Friday December 1, 2023. The concerns raised focused on parenting and healthcare, hidden workloads, lack of quiet private spaces, relative speaking time for women and gender minorities at work, and gender-neutral restrooms.

The Child Care Board reported that it has been working on a survey (that will be available soon) to understand the role that COVID has had on working families.


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

NICHD fellows joined together at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., on October 27, 2023, to attend the 18th Annual Meeting for Postdoctoral, Clinical, and Visiting Fellows and Graduate Students and Postbacs. During a series of career round table discussions, fellows had the opportunity to visit with career speakers from research programs in academia and government, industry, and science administration.

We followed up with the speakers to capture important information about their favorite career features, their best advice, and the most frequently asked questions during the retreat.

Want to read more about the 2023 fellow’s retreat? Check out the December 2023 issue for the full retreat recap! 


Erika Barr, PhD

Erika Barr

Erika Barr, PhD

Health Scientist Administrator–Program Officer
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Dr. Barr has a passion for increasing the number of underrepresented individuals in the biomedical sciences, and she continues to pursue this work in the Office of Health Equity as a program officer and intramural division liaison.

What is your favorite feature about your career?

Throughout my career, my favorite feature has been mentoring students and witnessing their growth from being early learners in research to successful STEM professionals.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a similar career?

If you have an interest in increasing diversity or working with students who are from disadvantaged/underrepresented backgrounds—get involved now. Become a mentor; volunteer at local school science fairs; and share your career/educational path to encourage other students.

What was the most common question asked about your career during the retreat?

The most common question was “How did you know what you wanted to do with a PhD in biology?” I never really “knew” what I wanted to do. However, I used my experiences to determine what I was passionate about and decided to pursue a career that involved mentoring, increasing diversity in STEM, and ensuring that all have access to opportunities in STEM.


Shilpy Dixit, PhD

Shilpy Dixit

Shilpy Dixit, PhD

Program Officer
National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Dr. Dixit strives to elevate the critical relationship between sleep and circadian biology research and health outcomes through coordination across NIH and other Federal agencies, academia, and public stakeholders.

What is your favorite feature about your career?

As a program officer, I can engage with biomedical research and science on a much broader scale and identify trends and opportunities emerging in the field. This is helpful when mentoring early career scientists and when designing programs to grow the research field.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a similar career?

Leveraging your network is critical at any career stage, so set up informational interviews to make those connections and learn more about different positions out there.

What was the most common question asked about your career during the retreat?

The most common question I get is “How…?” And I always hated when someone would say something like “Oh, I was in the right place at the right time.” The key is positioning yourself to be in the right place and trusting that this is the right time. Stay open to different possibilities; talk to people about what they do and how they like it; participate in different opportunities to broaden your network; and recognize that you can say “no” if that option is not for you. It will make it easier to say “yes” to the right thing at the right time. 


Charly Guardia, PhD

Charly Guardia

Charly Guardia, PhD

Earl Stadtman Tenure-track Investigator
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

As an Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator, Dr. Guardia studies the molecular mechanisms that control autophagy response during placental development in homeostasis and disease. His research plan focuses on generating a comprehensive understanding of placental-specific autophagy processes and the connection with the secretory pathway during placental development and function.

What is your favorite feature about your career?

Having the freedom to explore new and exciting ideas and techniques is one of the things I enjoy most about my job. It is also rewarding to see my trainees' progress!

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a similar career?

Make your own “scientific brand” by identifying your own niche and ideas and be cognizant of your own strengths and weaknesses. Don't be afraid to try new things and be flexible enough to change directions if things don't work out. It is your own journey and experiences that make you unique, so use that power to push your career forward. Take action to build resilience, and make sure you always have a backup plan, a backup plan, and a backup plan!

What was the most common question asked about your career during the retreat?

The most common question was: “Is it difficult to make it in a new field when you don't have much experience in it?” Because I am an outsider to my new field, I used that to highlight my uniqueness. It helped me persuade other scientists that there is a new, exciting, innovative way to approach similar or even new questions—and that also the same old problems can be viewed in a new light.


Collins Jones, PhD

Collins Jones

Collins Jones, PhD

Biotechnology Program Coordinator
Montgomery College

As a biotechnology program coordinator, Dr. Jones works closely with Maryland biotech companies including MilliporeSigma, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Catalent, Kite, BioNTech, Qiagen and RegenxBio, to develop and maintain industry-specific curricula. In addition, he serves as a member of the Montgomery County Life Science Business Incubator Review Board, provides training nationwide to a diverse portfolio of firms and organizations, and serves as a consultant for several incubator companies.

What is your favorite feature about your career?

I enjoy interacting with students, starting them on a career path and, for me, job security. Many of my former students are now in management positions and are making more than $130,000 per year before bonuses. I really like interacting with the biotech industry to develop and implement curriculum that aligns with the workforce needs of the industry. As an example, I am currently creating a hands-on cell and gene therapy certificate program at the request of the local cell and gene therapy industry. The players in industry and academia have provided input for the curriculum, and now I must take that input and develop a lecture and lab course that prepares students to enter that specific biotech workforce sector.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a similar career?

Try to land an adjunct professor position if you want to be a teaching professor. Community colleges generally have open adjunct positions and often offer courses in the evening, so one can put in a full day at the lab and then teach a class. When you teach, try to make it interesting and applicable to the real world—use examples from what you do at your job to make it meaningful to the students. Be willing to stay after class to help students (it helps on the student reviews, which are valued during the hiring process).

What was the most common question asked about your career during the retreat?

Many of the questions can be condensed into: “How were you able to develop additional external consulting opportunities, and what can I do to achieve the career I want?”

In a nutshell, there are two components to my answer. First, networking in multiple venues is critical. Besides meeting lots of people, networking also includes spending time with and helping others get where they want to go in a career, and personally being open to learning. Second, the success of the students I placed in industry created opportunities for me with respect to consulting.

My career has taken lots of twists and turns, I am not sure if that was by chance or subconsciously deliberate. A common thread is recognizing that the skill set you have developed can be applied across many different areas of science. When you interact with industry, think first about how you have applied your skills, methods, and knowledge to solving different challenges in human health, as opposed to the specific research that you did. Often, companies hire you more for your skill set than your specific research. There are of course exceptions.


Kate Monzo, PhD

Kate Monzo

Kate Monzo, PhD

Professor of Biology
Montgomery College

Dr. Monzo teaches introductory biology for majors and non-majors, Principles of Genetics, and Fundamentals of Scientific Research. She is also a co-coordinator for the STEM Scholars Honors Program and course coordinator for non-major biology and genetics.

What is your favorite feature about your career?

There are always new students to work with, different teaching methods to explore, and exciting collaborations to make. I enjoy having so many opportunities to flex my academic and scientific muscles.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a similar career?

Take care to think deeply about the student population you are interested in teaching. I have no doubt NICHD postdocs are capable of teaching any biological topic, but people who are interested in teaching should make sure to consider the needs of their future students.

What was the most common question asked about your career during the retreat?

A common question was “How can a research scientist with limited teaching experience find opportunities to teach?” The most important thing to do is demonstrate your interest in teaching. Remember, teaching is not a default career pathway! You should attend workshops offered by NIH and professional organizations in your field. Take time to read about pedagogy—inclusive teaching practices are very important. Try to connect with teaching faculty for mentorship opportunities.


Kyle O’Connell, PhD

Kyle O'Connell

Kyle O'Connell, PhD

Bioinformatics Data Scientist
Deloitte Consulting

As a data scientist with expertise in genomics and bioinformatics, statistical modeling, and evolutionary biology, Dr. O’Connell works at the intersection of bioinformatics, cloud, and AI initiatives across federal health care clients.

What is your favorite feature about your career?

I love that I get to keep learning. Consulting requires staying one step ahead, and I like how this pushes me to keep up with both the science and the technology. I also love getting to work on a variety of problems. One day I may be doing Cloud engineering while another I am calling variants on viral DNA sequences. This variety makes me think in different ways and keeps me interested.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a similar career?

Focus on building key skills. If you want a technical role, then be able to speak the language of the technical people in the target company. Also, be able to speak to your science in a way your mother would understand, or the way you would present to a diverse university department. Recruiters won’t understand your science, and a lot of business people won’t either, but they will think it is interesting and an asset if you can speak to it in a way they understand.

What was the most common question asked about your career during the retreat?

Many people asked about my work-life balance. I said I have better work-life balance since leaving academia because I am not up every night trying to finish another paper—as if getting one more paper was finally going to make me the right fit for the next job. My work metrics are more clearly defined, so it is easy to decide what I should and should not work on, which allows me to work fewer hours.


Natalie Porat-Shliom, PhD

Natalie Porat-Shliom

Natalie Porat-Shliom, PhD

Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator
National Cancer Institute

As an Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator, Dr. Porat-Shliom studies mitochondrial biology in the liver using intravital microscopy. Prior to her current position, Dr. Porat-Shliom received the NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) for her postdoctoral work at NCI using intravital microscopy to study mitochondria in the salivary gland.

What is your favorite feature about your career?

Science is a field where learning never stops, and I find joy in expanding my knowledge and skills. I also find the process of uncovering new knowledge and contributing to our understanding of the world to be intellectually stimulating.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a similar career?

We frequently fall into the trap of thinking that career paths are linear, but in truth, they resemble a tangled ball of yarn. To navigate your way, you must keep moving forward; those knots won't untangle on their own. Keep in mind that it's perfectly acceptable to discover that the thread you've been following isn't the right fit for you. In that case, simply choose another strand and continue your journey.

What was the most common question asked about your career during the retreat?

One recurring theme of our discussions revolved around the significance of obtaining a grant in the pursuit of a faculty position. In my perspective, the importance of securing a grant cannot be overstated for several reasons. Beyond merely showcasing your capability to acquire financial support, it also underscores your proficiency in grant writing—an art distinct from manuscript composition. Gaining proficiency in grant writing is a vital component of scientific training that is often underemphasized during postdoctoral training.

In the more than 13 years that I’ve served as Editor in Chief for this publication, I’ve never met two fellows’ retreat career speakers who have had the exact same career trajectory. That’s about a hundred people who all took a different path through their STEM training and professional careers—and I would bet that the same diversity of experiences applies beyond NICHD career discussion sessions.

Some of those speakers knew exactly where they wanted to end up in their professional lives, but others had no idea where their destination would be. Through a series of trial and error, they eventually found a career they loved.

I say this to remind fellows that science can be explored and championed in more than one way—and there’s no “right” way to do it. But don’t take my word for it. Our career round table speakers from the 2023 annual fellows’ retreat have shared highlights from their current positions to help fellows learn about the many professions in science.

And as always, the Rep Report and the January Announcements and Events list NICHD-hosted and NIH-wide career development opportunities that can help you find the next stop on your career journey. As the round table speakers noted, take advantage of the NIH programs available to you!

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 shana.spindler@nih.gov. 

Postbac Elena Evans Receives Reviewer's Choice Abstract Award at American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting 

Elena Evans, postbac fellow in the laboratory of Joan Marini, MD, PhD, Section on Heritable Disorders of Bone and Extracellular Matrix, was selected as a Reviewer’s Choice Abstract Awardee at the 2023 American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) annual meeting in Washington D.C. During the event, which was held during the first week of November, Ms. Evans presented a poster titled “Breeding scheme affects mouse model for atypical type VI osteogenesis imperfecta with Ifitm5/BRIL p.S42L.“


Intramural Research Fellowship Winners Announced

The Intramural Research Fellowship (IRF) is a competitive research funding opportunity for NICHD postdoctoral, visiting, and clinical fellows. Its main objective is to promote grant writing among intramural trainees, while enhancing awareness of the various components of an NIH grant application.

Congratulations to the FOUR awardees for Fiscal Year 2024:

  • Aurora Kraus, PhD (Weinstein Lab)
  • Sanjana Sundararajan, PhD (Dasso Lab)
  • Tanmay Mondal, PhD (Banerjee Lab)
  • Matthew Manion, PhD (Petros Lab)

Check back in a future issue for more information about their work!


Call for Applications for CCB Fellowships 2024

The Center on Compulsive Behavior (CCB) will fund outstanding candidates, both clinical or basic science researchers, who are interested in studying topics aligned with the mission of the CCB and with a strong desire for interactions and collaboration with the labs in the IRP. Applications are open for postdoctoral fellows in the IRP within their first 2 years, or incoming postdoctoral fellows joining an IRP laboratory before September 30, 2024.


Additional information and the call for applications can be downloaded from the CCB Fellowship Program website. Application submission closes by 6 p.m. on Monday, January 15, 2024.


American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mass Media Science & Engineering Summer Fellowship  

Applications due January 1!

From the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship website:

“This highly competitive program strengthens the connections between scientists and journalists by placing advanced undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate level scientists, engineers, and mathematicians at media organizations nationwide. Fellows work as journalists at media organizations such as National Public Radio, Los Angeles Times, WIRED, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and NOVA…

…For 10 weeks during the summer, the AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellows collaborate with media professionals at radio and television stations, newspapers, and magazines. As part of their job, the scientists and their journalist-hosts strive to make science news easy for the public to understand.”

For additional information about the program visit aaas.org/mmfellowship.


Save the Date for Media 101: Defining the Media Landscape

Thursday, January 18, 2024

The NICHD Office of Communications has developed a new media training course, for anyone interested in an introduction to media relations at NIH. Media 101 will be offered for the first time on Thursday, January 18, 2024, 10–11 a.m., via Zoom.

Participants will get an introduction into the current media landscape, such as: defining newsworthiness, learning the structure and priorities of a newsroom, understanding reporters’ deadlines, knowing what to do when contacted by the media, and communicating complex scientific findings to the public. The course includes speaker presentations and individual/group exercises that will enable participants to practice explaining study findings in lay-friendly language.

This is a basic introduction on the importance of communicating science to the public and what that looks like in practice at NIH. You’ll also learn tips on how to explain study findings in a lay-friendly manner.

Sign up information has been distributed via email. Please contact Dr. Linda Huynh (linda.huynh@nih.gov) if you have questions.


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.

December 6 and 8: The SciPhD Workshop Series

This series is for those who are interested in industry or academia and provides all fellows with the foundation to select an exciting career path, a strategy to pursue that path, and a means to become successful. Human Workflows, LLC, has offered the SciPhD content to over 120 institutions over the past 8–10 years, preparing thousands of academic scientists to successfully transition to professional careers.

Registration information was circulated via email. Please contact Ms. Veronica Harker (veronica.harker@nih.gov) to obtain the link.

Wednesday, December 6, 10 AM–Noon & 1–3 PM 

The Business of Science: Landing Your First Job
Building 45 (Natcher), Balcony A
Registration required

This workshop will help you plan for your next positions on several levels. We will help prepare you for finding jobs and analyzing job ads such that you can determine your skill matches and qualifications.

Friday, December 8, 10 AM–Noon & 1–4 PM 

The Essentials of Managing a Team and Running a Project Successfully
Building 45 (Natcher), Balcony A
Registration required

You will gain an understanding of the critical skills necessary for managing and working in teams and meeting goals and deadlines within a budget.


Monday, December 18, 1–3 PM

How to Write a Resume: Inside Tips You Need to Hear From a STEM-Education Hiring Manager
Josh Henkin, PhD, Career Coach and STEM Hiring Manager
Natcher, Room E1/E2
Registration required*

What does a hiring manager look for in a resume? What is the best way for you to communicate your technical and transferable skills to a mixed audience in a manner that conveys you have what it takes to do the job?

This workshop will provide tips and best practices for creating an effective resume that will help you get noticed by employers.

*Registration information was distributed via email. Please contact Ms. Veronica Harker (veronica.harker@nih.gov) to obtain the registration link.


Tuesday, December 19, 1–2 PM

General Overview of Career Opportunities for Biomedical Scientists
Lauren Celano, CEO and co-founder of Propel Careers
Registration Required*

This comprehensive seminar is appropriate for NIH trainees at all levels and will provide an overview of career opportunities for graduate trained students with emphasis on the various skills, aptitudes, competencies, and personalities that thrive in sectors including academia, industry, government and non-profit. For each sector, the following will be explored:

  • Research and non-research career paths
  • The importance of transferable skills and how to highlight these for specific roles
  • Advice on networking to identify career opportunities
  • Ways to utilize informational interviewing
  • Tips to effectively tailor resumes and cover letters

*Registration information was distributed via email. Please contact Ms. Veronica Harker (veronica.harker@nih.gov) for the registration link.


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.

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 hyowon.ahn@nih.gov.


The Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) reports that the 2024 Summer Internship Program (SIP) application cycle has begun, and OITE will be sending out notifications about the Summer Mentor Award. Watch out for the announcement and apply if you are interested in mentoring a summer intern!

The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) hosts the 2024 NPA Annual Conference on March 15–16, 2024, in Seattle, Washington. Join NPA for their largest national conference and networking event dedicated to the postdoctoral community.

Postdocs, grad students, administrators, faculty, and those from associations, corporations, and government are invited to join for two days of sessions, networking, and professional development opportunities. Harmit Malik, PhD, a professor in the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, will deliver a keynote speech at the event. NPA members must log in before registering to receive a member discount on registration fees. Early-bird registration ends Friday, December 15, so register now!

All NIH postdocs/fellows get NPA affiliate individual memberships for FREE. Join now!

The Training Directors Committee reported that the Beyond Sciences Initiative will have their annual conference (online) on March 2, 3, and 30, 2024. Conference topics include infectious diseases, cancer, chronic diseases, global health, biotechnology, and bioinformatics. This is targeted for young scientists (at no cost), and participants can join the live conference via the Zoom link provided following registration.

The NIH Federal Credit Union has a new initiative to support fellow banking—more details can be found at the NIH Fellows Advantage Program website.


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

A look back at Intramural NICHD fellow accomplishments during 2023

Please submit your accomplishments for publication in the newsletter throughout the year to shana.spindler@nih.gov.

The Fellows’ Annual Meeting

The NICHD Office of Education hosted a fully IN-PERSON 18th Annual Meeting for Postdoctoral, Clinical & Visiting Fellows, Graduate Students & Postbacs on October 27, 2023. The day included:

  • A keynote lecture on the twists and turns of a scientific and clinical career by Guoyang Luo, MD, PhD, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at INOVA Health System and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine
  • Ten career-focused Q&A tables with representatives from research programs in academia and government, jobs in industry, science administration, and teaching programs
  • An NICHD Office of Health Equity presentation
  • Featured five-minute scientific talks by NICHD fellows

Check out a full recap of the day’s events according to three different training level perspectives in this issue.


NIH-Wide Recognition

Congratulations to the 11 NICHD fellows who received a 2024 Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE), an NIH-wide competition that recognizes the important research of intramural fellows. NICHD had the 4th highest number of applicants and awardees! See a complete list of NICHD winners in the September 2023 issue.

Congratulations to the 16 NICHD postbacs who received an Outstanding Poster Award for scoring within the top 20% of all posters at the 2023 Virtual Postbac Poster Day, held April 19–20, 2023. See a complete list of NICHD winners in the June 2023 issue.

NICHD had five new K99 recipients this year:

  • Shu Yang, PhD (Lilly lab)
  • Jarred Whitlock, PhD (Chernomordik lab)
  • Leah Greenspan, PhD (Weinstein lab)
  • Joyce Thompson, PhD (Rocha lab)
  • Diana Elizondo, PhD (Yanovski lab)

Velencia Witherspoon, PhD (Basser lab) departs for the R00 phase of the K99 grant this year.

Julian Rey, PhD (Basser lab) and Jong Park, PhD (Weinstein lab) began their NIGMS Postdoctoral Research Associate Training (PRAT) Fellowship in September 2023.

Adam Caccavano, PhD (McBain lab) received a Seed Grant from the Center on Compulsive Behaviors (CCB) in collaboration with Katherine Savell, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Neuronal Ensembles in Drug Addiction Section of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Eastman Lewis, PhD (Buonanno lab) received a Brain and Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator Grant.

Jong Park, PhD (Weinstein lab) placed first place overall at annual NIH-wide 2023 Three-minute Talks (TmT) Competition, held June 22, 2023. Check out the I am Intramural blog post for a recap of the event.

Wei-Lun Huang (Gandjbakhche lab) received an Elevator Pitch Competition award at the 19th Annual NIH Graduate Student Research Symposium on February 15, 2023.


NICHD Award Programs

Mor Alkaslasi (Le Pichon lab) and Ryan Dale, PhD (Bioinformatics and Scientific Programming Core) received the 2023 Mentor of the Year Awards for Fellow and Investigator, respectively.

Regina Stasser de Ganzalez (Banerjee lab) and Sarah Alsuleiman (Machner lab) joined NICHD as Developing Talent Scholars awardees. Samra Beyene (Petros lab) continued her second year in the program.

Sarah Sheppard, MD, PhD, MS, received the 2023 FRIA award for her support of postdoc Luciana Daniela Garlisi Torales, MD.

Four fellows received an Intramural Research Fellowship for fiscal year 2024:

  • Aurora Kraus, PhD (Weinstein lab)
  • Sanjana Sundararajan, PhD (Dasso lab)
  • Tanmay Mondal, PhD (Banerjee lab)
  • Matthew Manion, PhD (Petros lab)

Program Specific Awards

Shreeta Chakraborty, PhD (Rocha lab) received the best platform presentation award by a trainee at the 44th annual David W. Smith Workshop on Malformations and Morphogenesis at the end of August.

Leah Greenspan, PhD (Weinstein lab) was featured as a Pathway to Independence Fellow in the September 2023 issue of Development.

Lingyu Bao, PhD (Shi lab), and Zhaoyi Peng, PhD (Shi lab), received an Outstanding Trainee Poster award at the American Thyroid Association Annual Meeting, September 27–October 1, in Washington, D.C.

Yuta Tanizaki, PhD (Shi lab) was one of two recipients of the 2023 Incentive Award from the Japanese Society of Comparative Endocrinology.

Elena Evans (Marini lab) was selected as a Reviewer’s Choice Abstract Awardee at the 2023 American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., held November 1–5.


A big THANK YOU to our 2023 newsletter contributors:

Hyo Won Ahn, Libby Barksdale, Julie Bocetti, Katherine Lamb Brooks, Mick Craig, Ryan Dale, Julia Grafstein, April Johnston, Nita Kanney, Peyton Lee, Leah Meuter, Thien Nguyen, Raghib Nihal, Jeremie Oliver, Leah Pappalardo, Jong Park, Ashley Pratt, Julian A. Rey, Mallory Smith, Shana Spindler, Nichole Swan, Joyce Thompson, Erin Walsh, Jarred M. Whitlock, Zélia Worman, Shu Yan

DIR fellows enjoying a little costume fun during Halloween, with Dr. Philip Adams, who heads the Group on Gene Regulation in Bacterial Pathogens

Group photo of fellows in Halloween costumes


Dr. Adams with a fellow, both dressed in Barbie-related costumes

Dr. Adams and fellows wearing Barbie-related costumes


Dr. McBain chats with fellows at the poster session

Fellows at the poster session

A fellow discusses his poster with his peers

Fellows at the poster session

Office of Education Director Erin Walsh chats with a fellow

A fellow wearing glasses, a black blazer, and gray plaid pants, poses next to her poster

Fellows at a very busy poster session

Fellows discuss a research poster

A fellow with blonde and pink hair poses in front of her research poster

A fellow discusses a scientific art project with Nichole Swan

Fellows in discussion at their round tables

Fellows at a very busy poster session

A fellow in a dark gray blazer gestures to her poster as another fellow listens

Many fellows interacting at the poster session

A fellow gestures to his poster as he explains his research to onlookers

A Postbac Perspective

Isabella Cisneros

Isabella Cisneros

On a warm October morning, I walked into the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center with fellow NICHD trainees for the 18th Annual Fellows Retreat, the first in-person iteration of the retreat since the pandemic. The venue was suffused with the excitement of the day ahead as presenters set up posters and attendees grabbed coffees on their way in.

The retreat kicked off with opening remarks from NICHD Scientific Director, Chris McBain, PhD, who highlighted the Division’s successes over the past year. Dr. McBain praised the diversity of science across the Division and encouraged attendees to learn about their colleagues’ work. Following opening remarks, Guoyang Luo, MD, PhD, an obstetrics and gynecology physician-scientist with INOVA Healthcare, gave a keynote address on the nonlinearity of his career path and provided attendees with advice on how to approach their own careers based on his experiences.

The nonlinear nature of a career in science was a central theme of the retreat—and one I found frequently resurfaced in discussions with career speakers following the keynote address. As a postbac, I was grateful to have access to professionals across the spectrum of science careers and to hear about the wide-ranging experiences that others have had.

Following the career discussions, Program Officer Erika Barr, PhD, spoke on behalf of the NICHD Office of Health Equity. She discussed how trainees can contribute to equity, advocating for a bench to bedside to curbside approach. In the spirit of this approach, which aims to bring translational research into communities to help combat health disparities, Dr. Barr encouraged trainees to consider how we can maximize the impact of our research and shared an opportunity to join the Office of Health Equity Advisory Committee. I appreciated the opportunities that Dr. Barr and others highlighted throughout the retreat, and I hope to see trainees engage with them outside of their research.

One of the highlights of the retreat was the five-minute presentations given by the fellows. The diversity of research that Dr. McBain described at the start of the retreat was on full display during these talks, and it was incredibly exciting to hear about the work happening across the division. Three of these talks were given by postbacs—Avani Modak and Sean Lee from the Farrell lab and Allison Saul from the Rogers lab—which were impressive in their accessibility and research design.

I was particularly interested by the optogenetics tools being used by the Rogers lab to manipulate and investigate important signaling pathways during development, which Ms. Saul described in her talk. Outside of the talks, postbacs continued to shine in the poster session, which ran the gamut of models and research topics.

In reflecting on the day’s events, I found myself returning to something that Dr. McBain said during his remarks: “The science we do is incredible, [and] we can’t do that without you.” As a relatively new postbac, it was inspiring to see the research being done in NICHD and to know that I am contributing to it.

To all the new trainees who have joined NICHD throughout these last few months, I wish you all the luck and success, and I am so glad to be your colleague. Here’s to another year of remarkable science and fostering community!

Guoyang Luo, MD, PhD

Guoyang Luo, MD, PhD

Erika Barr, PhD

Erika Barr, PhD



Lessons from the Career Roundtables: A Graduate Student Perspective

Leah Pappalardo

Leah Pappalardo

“Science feels like I’m in love,” said Natalie Porat-Shilom, PhD, Stadtman Investigator in NCI’s Center for Cancer Research Thoracic and Gastrointestinal Malignancies Branch, as she shared her story with trainees during the roundtable portion of the NICHD fellows’ retreat. During roundtable discussions, professionals from research, industry, science administration, and teaching programs sat at tables where trainees could join them for a seated discussion. This segment of the retreat provided valuable insight for graduate students like me who want to have all the facts before committing to a career path.

Dr. Porat-Shilom described the excitement she felt while writing her K99 grant and explained how a good scientific question can carry you through the grueling process of the faculty job search. She embodied the archetype of the passion-fueled scientist.

From another perspective, Kyle O’Connell, PhD, a bioinformatics data scientist at Delloitte, may tell you that sometimes love for research is not enough. Dr. O’Connell left the underfunded field of reptile research for an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellowship at the State Department. However, while he was waiting for his security clearance—with a baby on the way—an enticing opportunity arose in the private sector. Dr. O’Connell decided to forgo the fellowship to pursue industry. Based on his experiences, he confirmed that there’s a whole world of gratifying careers in science.

While Dr. O’Connell chose not to continue with the AAAS fellowship, Shilpy Dixit, PhD, a program officer (PO) in the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), toted the fellowship as the premier steppingstone into government. The fellowship places PhDs into agencies where they use their expertise to inform areas such as policy. It can lead to permanent jobs, but it also grants you access to a tight networking community.

Dr. Dixit’s fellowship at the NIH led to her current position where she performs many roles, one of which is grant writing and review. Despite her previous resistance to grant writing, she found that she loves this part of her role. Dr. Dixit emphasized that POs want to help you write your grant at any stage. If you are a postdoc with a vague idea for your K99, contact the PO in that field.

Kate Monzo, PhD, an associate professor at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, represented career paths in teaching. At the career discussion session, she used a a QR code that linked to a list of resources for attendees, reflecting the technology-friendly teaching style she adopted during her career. The classroom that Dr. Monzo described sounded radically different from those just a decade ago.

I learned that teachers today can effectively teach virtually and incorporate “active learning” and “structured remote” principles in their curricula. If you want to go into teaching, Dr. Monzo suggests pursuing one of the many mentorship programs where you can gain hands-on experience under a current professor. Dr. Monzo’s strategy as a teacher is full of constant problem-solving and adaptation, and requires a strong dedication to the craft, much like what is required in research.

Each of the representatives faced their own challenges and trade-offs before settling into a career. Importantly, each person landed in a position that they find rewarding enough to represent at a fellow’s retreat. As a current graduate student, it was encouraging to see that whether my next steps are fueled by passion or circumstances, the skills that I am learning can lead to a fulfilling career.

Fellows sitting at round tables at the conference center

Thien Nguyen, PhD

Retreat Chair Thien Nguyen, PhD



Unraveling the Ball of Yarn: A Postdoctoral Reflection on Individual Paths in Science

Ian Trees

Ian Trees, PhD

As I reflect on the recent NICHD Fellows’ Retreat, the first in-person gathering since 2019, a vivid metaphor keeps coming to mind: life as a tangled ball of yarn. This imagery, evoked during Dr. Natalie Porat-Shilom's career path introduction, beautifully encapsulates the non-linear, intricate, and personal nature of scientific careers, much like the unique paths we all tread at the NIH.

The significance of our return to an in-person retreat, especially outside the day-to-day familiarity of the NIH campus, cannot be understated. This change of scenery seemed to underscore the retreat's theme – a departure from the conventional, a step toward broader horizons. For many young scientists, this retreat was more than a gathering; it was a rite of passage, a debut on a significant stage, marking a pivotal moment in their burgeoning careers.

The retreat focused on trainees. This spotlight on the new generation of scientists brought an energy of potential and promise, best encapsulated in the words of our scientific director, Chris McBain, PhD, who reminded us that “the work you do is momentous” and encouraged us to explore realms of science outside of our comfort zones.

The reminder from Erin Walsh, PhD, Director of the NICHD Office of Education, that the NIH and NICHD are dedicated to supporting trainees set a tone of empowerment and support. This message was further echoed in the keynote by Guoyang Luo, MD, PhD, of INOVA Healthcare, who emphasized the non-linear nature of scientific careers and the balance between personal life and professional advancement. This emphasis on non-linearity and balance reflects the Office of Education’s commitment to fostering an environment that acknowledges and supports the diverse needs and aspirations of each individual scientist.

The array of NICHD alumni sharing their diverse career trajectories, from academia to industry and government, not only reinforced the non-linear nature of scientific careers but also stressed the importance of equity in scientific career development. Each story highlighted that just as every career path is distinct, so are the backgrounds, needs, and aspirations of each individual scientist. This diversity demands a broader, more inclusive approach to career support and development that acknowledges and nurtures these unique journeys.

Building on this foundation, Erika Barr, PhD, a program officer within NICHD, discussed the formation of an NICHD Innovative Culture Advisory Committee. This initiative reflects NICHD’s commitment to promoting equity and inclusion within the scientific community and supports the creation of a nurturing and equitable environment.

As we delved into standards, metrics, and tools to track and share progress in pursuing equity, it became evident that this pursuit extends beyond simple demographic representation. Equity is about fostering an environment where each scientist can thrive, where the tangled yarn of each career can be unraveled and appreciated for its unique pattern and contribution to the scientific world.

The NICHD scientific retreat was more than a gathering of minds; it was a celebration of individual paths and a call to action for equity in science. It was a reminder that while our journeys are diverse and non-linear, they are all threaded together in the grand tapestry of scientific endeavor. As we forge ahead in our respective paths, let's remember the power of individuality in our collective pursuit of knowledge and progress.

Chris McBain, PhD

Scientific Director Chris McBain, PhD

Dr. Erika Barr engages with fellows

Retreat Chair Thien Nguyen, PhD

Fellows during Dr. Erika Barr's talk

Fellows during Dr. Erika Barr's talk


I was thrilled to meet so many fellows at the annual fellows’ retreat in October. I heard from several trainees that this was their first in-person retreat since joining NICHD! Three fellows have written beautiful reflections on the day—from the perspectives of a postbac, a graduate student, and a postdoctoral researcher. Their sentiments coalesce on a central theme: the non-linear nature of a career in science.

As the retreat highlighted, every year has the potential to bring something new. As this year ends, we celebrate the many accomplishments of NICHD fellows in our 2023 Year in Review, including a genuine thank you to the fellows who supported this newsletter with research achievements, career stories, and wonderful articles.

That said, the year isn’t quite over yet. Check out The Rep Report and the December announcements and events for several career-building opportunities and events still to come.

If you’re looking for something new—perhaps a fun writing opportunity—we always welcome new and returning voices, so please reach out if you’d like to contribute to this publication! I hope to meet many more of you in the new year.

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 shana.spindler@nih.gov.