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Brenda Hanning

Brenda Hanning
Photo: Alejandra Vallejo

The NICHD Office of Education was established in 2004 and has been thriving ever since. Brenda Hanning’s vision and passion have been the driving forces to achieve its mission every year—to support the training needs of our intramural scientists, fellows, and students at all levels. Countless lives have been positively impacted through her 12 years of service at NICHD, and we will forever be grateful for the knowledge she has imparted to us. Brenda’s influence carries on through our successes in various scientific careers. Whether it was one-on-one career counseling sessions she conducted or the many personal statements she has edited, Brenda was always supportive, encouraging, and truthful—wanting fellows to be prepared for what’s ahead in their careers.

Because of her strong commitment to training, the Division of Intramural Research has had 12 annual Fellows’ Retreats, offered 11 series of our postbac course “Being an Effective Scientist,” given 18 Mentor of the Year Awards, and published 79 issues of The NICHD Connection. She has also created new training initiatives related to science communication, interviewing, grant writing and review, teaching, and lab management while providing numerous resources so every fellow can build a portfolio of skills and abilities. In order to encourage grantsmanship, and in support of our career development, Brenda initiated the Fellows Intramural Grants Supplement Award. Moreover, she has been actively involved in the NICHD Developing Talent Scholars and Fellows Recruitment Incentive Award programs. Both were recently launched to promote the diversity in the scientific workforce, recruiting trainees from backgrounds underrepresented in science. 

Brenda Hanning has truly made a difference in DIR and the Office of Education will diligently work to continue all of her efforts.

“This is the best job at NIH, working on behalf of the fellows.”

Brenda Hanning

Brenda, we honor your service and best wishes on your retirement. It’s so well deserved! Enjoy our library of sentiments from current and former intramural scientists, expressing their gratitude.

Your impact reaches far!

We would like to take a moment to cherish our times together. We have enjoyed working with you and appreciate having had this wonderful opportunity to learn from you. Thank you for all the support you have provided us during the past years. Through your encouragement and guidance we have been able to excel at various projects. Your constant positivity and love for science and education is contagious and has made a tremendous impact on our NIH community. With you, we have shared a unique camaraderie, which we hope will continue in the years to come even though you shall not be here with us. We wish you well on your next endeavor, which will be challenging, although in all honesty sure sounds pretty awesome! Yes, retirement. Something we look forward to as well, someday…

Rim Mehari (NICHD Postbac Rep) and Fady Hannah-Shmouni (Clinical Postdoc Rep)

Brenda guided me through my stickiest and trickiest moments as a postdoc. Looking back, I think she was integral in my success. She is 100% genuine and I can't help but smile whenever I think of her.

Prasanna Satpute-Krishnan, Assistant Professor at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

Brenda has been an advocate for the NICHD Fellows Retreat. Through going to the retreat, I was able to talk with a faculty member at a predominantly undergraduate institution (PUI). I'm currently teaching at a PUI and finding this experience to be a great fit for my personality. Without Brenda, I don't know that I'd have found a job that I love as much as the one I'm doing right now.

At one of the retreats, out of concern for us fellows, Brenda provided information on resources for wellbeing and mental health. Scientists would benefit from mentors encouraging them to seek support and encouragement as we engage in our demanding work. Brenda brought this encouragement with warmth and positivity. Thanks, Brenda!

Alex Szatmary, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Bucknell University

Brenda was instrumental in providing opportunities to grow my resume beyond laboratory techniques and publications, enabling me to gain a position in my chosen profession.  I am incredibly thankful for her assistance, sincere caring, and sage advice.

Thomas Miller, Scientist I, Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC

If not for Brenda I would not have gotten my postdoc! She was so positive and welcoming when I met her, I felt like I was making a good choice in going somewhere where she would be resource outside of my lab.  Brenda still is a mentor to me today, years later as an Associate Professor.

Sydella Blatch, Associate Professor of Biology, Stevenson University

Brenda helped us in so many ways. She recognized that NICHD postdocs needed teaching experience and that IRTA fellows needed guidance analyzing primary literature, and from that we brainstormed the NICHD post baccalaureate course. That teaching experience was such a big help as we then applied for academic positions.

Mark Bayfield, Associate Professor, York University and previously the first course director for the NICHD postbaccalaureate course

Brenda had such a positive impact on me during my time at NIH. She always encouraged me to excel and provided an abundance of resources. Wishing her all the best.

Stephanie M. Cologna, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Illinois at Chicago

Brenda Hanning is such a special person. I called her my "angel" because if it weren't for her, I wouldn't have been able to conduct my thesis work for my Ph.D. at the NIH. I felt like I received so much support from her during the three years that I was there. She was always there when I called or emailed. She was always there to give sound advice. She was always there to comfort. I will always have a special place in my heart for Ms. Hanning. I hope you have a wonderful next chapter, Brenda!

Ashleigh Bouchelion, Howard University College of Medicine Class of 2017

Brenda was a great asset to all the trainees at NICHD, we were lucky to have her. She was always supportive and a kind and caring friend. Her retirement is a real loss to NIH.

Matthew Kohn, Science Officer, NYSTEM, New York State Department of Health

Brenda was such an incredible asset for me during my time at NICHD. The career development initiatives developed by Brenda and the Office of Education were an instrumental component to my postdoctoral training. I truly believe Brenda’s guidance and support were critical to my professional success. It’s hard to imagine NICHD without her, but I wish her the absolute best in her very well deserved retirement.

Kevin Francis, Assistant Scientist, The Children’s Health Research Center, Sanford Research and Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota

When I started as a postdoctoral visiting fellow in 2005, Brenda had just become the director of the Office of Education at NICHD but was already known as the go-to person in all career-related matters. Her support in the pursuit of even the most out of the ordinary career choice felt empowering and she encouraged me to explore and even create new alternative career opportunities. Brenda was known to know every postdoctoral fellow, graduate student, and postbac in NICHD by name and she always had time to check in when she randomly met one of us on campus. Coming from abroad and suffering culture shock, Brenda made me feel welcome on the huge NIH campus and its often intimidating scientific world, and without her knowing, she was an anchor in the transition to feeling at home in this country. Thank you, Brenda!

Claudia Gebert, Biologist, NICHD, Karl Pfeifer’s Lab 

Brenda involved me as a regular contributor to the NICHD Newsletter. This involvement has been very beneficial for me as it connected me to the community, exposed me to other committees and fellows activities, and boosted my confidence as a writer. 

Silviya Zustiak, Assistant Professor, Saint Louis University

Greetings from Stockholm!

When I received the news that Brenda Hanning will retire in the end of December, it brought back fond memories of my time at NICHD, and of course of Brenda! 

What a lady! As a visiting postdoctoral fellow from Australia, my time spent at NICHD spanned 2004 – 2009. I met Brenda by being part of organizing the NICHD retreats for fellows. We were both new to NICHD in our roles. Brenda has such a friendly, calm approach to all things and at that time it was a real inspiration for me to work with her. She represented a strong -willed, intelligent and resourceful career-minded woman that she instantly and unexpectedly became an informal mentor and coach to me.

During my time working with Brenda on the retreats and with summer student projects, we discussed science, education, and well a number of other issues related to careers and development. She has been my go to person for references and interview prep in all my career moves. She encouraged my acceptance of the Vinnmer Marie Curie Vinnova mobility grant for young professional female researchers to Karolinska Institutet in Sweden in 2009. In 2011, when I decided to move away from research and into education as a School Principal, Brenda was extremely supportive in that decision and encouraged me to combine my skills and passion to education and working with people. In line with Brenda’s wise words, I continue to promote sciences in schools and with outside communities such as Karolinska Institutet, Stockholms Universitet, and European Synchroton Radiation Facility in Grenoble. Thank you Brenda for your inspiration and continued support! Wishing you all the best in your retirement! Come and visit now you have some time ¿

Best wishes / Med vänlig hälsning

Rachel Heimeier, School Principal, Internationella Engelska Gymnasiet Södermalm

Brenda Hanning was a great source of support for my professional development during my time as a postdoctoral fellow at NICHD. She offered excellent advice and was always willing to help postdoctoral fellows with their career aspirations and was a great source of encouragement throughout the process.

Margaret Ochocinska, Program Director, NIH in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

I am so grateful that I met Brenda during my postdoc years at NICHD. Over the years, she helped me and multiple postbac and graduate students from our lab. NICHD wouldn’t be the same without Brenda!

Elena Makareeva, Staff Scientist, Section on Physical Biochemistry, NICHD

There is no doubt that I wouldn't be where I am without Brenda. She helped to expand my network, gave me the chance to lead, and opened doors to an experience that was critical for my transition to science policy.

Kristofor Langlais, Program Lead, Genomics and Health, Office of Science Policy, Office of the Director, NIH

Brenda has been for me an understanding friend, an always reliable resource, a guide, and a ready smile for many years. She has helped me, and been an invaluable advisor for students that have worked with me. Of course, I wish her all the best in her new adventures, but will acutely miss her ready counsel and reliable smile.

Dan Sackett, Senior Researcher and Trainee Advisor, NICHD

Invitation to Brenda's retirement celebration, showing one of her black and white photographs. Text reproduced below


Join us for a celebration to honor Brenda Hanning upon her retirement from the NIH.

When: Friday, January 7, 2017, from 3:30 to 4:30 pm

Where: Building 31, Room 6C6 (C-wing, 6th floor)

Light refreshments will be served.

Contact Francie Kitzmiller at or Sara King at with questions.