Blog

NIH-Wide Updates

NIH 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.

Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences

Fulfill your academic and professional goals with FAES courses and workshops! Registration is now open for Spring training workshops, with special tuition offers on course topics including introductions to R and Python as well as Python imaging. Also, summer courses begin June 12 and will be open for registration on April 15. Register for our information session on May 9 to learn more!

NIH UNITE: Ending Structural Racism (ESR) Activities

The NIH UNITE initiative identifies and addresses 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. The Co-Chairs Corner public webpage also provides regular updates on the initiative’s progress.

Graduate Student Elissa Moller Wins Best Speaker Award

Elissa Moller

Elissa Moller

Elissa Moller, a graduate student in the laboratory of Doreen Matthies, Ph.D., Stadtman Investigator in the Unit on Structural Biology, won the best student speaker award at the SMALP meeting

 on March 12, 2024. SMALP meetings bring together experts across the fields of biology, chemistry, and physics to discuss new tools and models for exploring membrane operation and manipulation.

Ms. Moller, who joins NICHD from her studies at the Institute for Physical Science and Technology at the University of Maryland, presented her work using cryo-EM and polymers to resolve structures of mechanosensitive channels.

Please join us in congratulating Ms. Moller on this outstanding achievement!


NIH-Wide National Minority Health Month Activities

April is National Minority Health Month (NMHM), a time to raise awareness about the importance of improving the health of racial and ethnic minority communities and reducing health disparities. The 2024 NMHM theme, Be the Source for Better Health: Improving Health Outcomes Through Our Cultures, Communities, and Connections, focuses on two topics critical to advancing health equity: Social Determinants of Health and Cultural Competency and Humility.

NIMHD is sponsoring events for NIH-wide participation:

  • Minority Health 5K Walk/Run/Roll: Thursday, April 11, 2024, 11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. NIH Main Campus, Bldg 1 front lawn.
    Register at https://forms.office.com/g/7ygV0ANUDs.
  • SPONSOR a Water Station on the Minority Health 5K Route! Show your office/lab spirit and camaraderie by sponsoring a water station and supporting the race participants. For more information, email Seppi Sami at Seppideh.Sami@nih.gov.  
  • NIMHD Fireside Chat with the Honorable Louis W. Sullivan, M.D., President Emeritus, Morehouse School of Medicine and Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Monday, April 22, 2024, 1:30–2:30 p.m.
    Videocast only. Learn more at: https://www.nimhd.nih.gov/programs/edu-training/nmhm.

NIH'S 30th Annual Take Your Child to Work Day and Earth Day Celebration

Thursday, April 25, 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
In-person and virtual activities for an educational day of discovery

The annual NIH-wide Take Your Child to Work Day (TYCTWD) event provides children grades 1–12 an opportunity to see how your efforts contribute to the NIH and inspire them to explore career paths in science and public service. The Office of Research Services is the primary sponsor of TYCTWD 2024.

For more information, please visit the TYCTWD website or email questions and comments to Take-Your-Child-To-Work@nih.gov


Save the Dates

Three-minute Talk (TmT) Competitions, May 31 and June 27

Every year, ICs across the NIH come together to host a speaking competition that showcases their fellows’ research in short format talks. The dates for our internal semi-final and the NIH-wide final competition are now set!

  • NICHD Three-minute Talk (TmT) Competition
    • Friday, May 31, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
  • NIH Three-minute Talk (TmT) Competition
    • Thursday, June 27, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Postbac Poster Days, May 1–2

Registration opens this month!

Postbac Poster Days provides an opportunity for NIH postbacs to discuss their research projects while simultaneously developing their communication and networking skills. To learn more and register, please visit the Postbac Poster Day website.

NIH Career Symposium, May 14–17 (All Virtual)

The NIH Career Symposium is scheduled for Tuesday, May 14, through Friday, May 17. Mark your calendars now—this is a great event that highlights the diversity of career choices available to biomedical researchers!

Rep Report logoAs the current NICHD Basic Sciences Institutes and Centers (IC) Representative, I represent NICHD postdoctoral fellows at the NIH Fellows Committee (FelCom) monthly meeting 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 Women Scientists Advisors (WSA) Scholar Symposium will be virtually held on Monday, April 29, 2:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. The zoom link can be found here.

WSA Scholars are selected from a pool of all the female Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) award winners by a panel of WSA institute representatives. The FARE award honors outstanding scientific research performed by intramural postdoctoral fellows. This year’s awardees can be found here.

The Career Development Committee is organizing an event focused on “Medical Writing in Pharmaceutical Companies” in April. Details will be announced through the Fellows Listserv (Fellow-L)


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

Megan Bohn, Ph.D.

Megan Bohn, Ph.D.

Like most of you reading this article right now, I was once an NICHD fellow trying my best to do significant research while simultaneously trying to figure out my career trajectory. In 2015, I completed my postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Karl Pfeifer, Ph.D. (Senior Investigator, Section on Epigenetics). I proceeded into a large career shift to academic administration, first at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, followed by a few years of intensive work on predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowship programs at the NIAID Training Office.

After eight years of devoting myself full-time to advancing biomedical trainees' careers and professional development, I now find my journey coming full circle back to NICHD, where I have just joined the Office of Education as its new deputy director. I've learned quite a bit along this journey, and this introductory article is an excellent time to share a few truths I've discovered that shape how I help fellows reach their dreams.

“I should be there by now” is a false belief that holds you back.

I've met hundreds of fellows over the years as they sought career coaching or even a friendly ear. I repeatedly hear fellows express the feeling that they're behind the curve—that they've failed to achieve some crucial milestone and that they're just hopelessly behind. This is simply not true, and it's certainly not helpful. When I work with fellows, I meet them exactly where they are and work with them to define their challenges and to align their career goals with the job market.

There are so many options available to today's young biomedical workforce. It can look like a huge, insurmountable mountain. The key is to climb the mountain one step at a time, always looking for ways to get to the next step. First, you should seek out people with the wisdom and support to help you take one step at a time.

Accurate self-awareness is key to improvement, but it's harder than you think.

This seems self-evident, but the ability to accurately self-assess interests, strengths, and weaknesses is key to any type of success. Some thought leaders on workplace satisfaction and productivity have proposed that relatively few of us are truly outstanding at self-awareness.1 The people who succeed in this skill perform better in the workplace, often leading to more creativity and job satisfaction.2 The first thing I do with fellows when they come to me for career coaching is to get to know them and get them to talk about their challenges and the problems they're trying to solve. We focus on three things:

  1. Skills (What are you good at?)
  2. Values (What’s important to you?)
  3. Interests (What motivates you?)

Paradoxically, I have often found that fellows feel compelled, perhaps even obligated, to pursue goals that don’t match their inner wishes. In a friendly conversational environment, we identify and discuss potential blind spots, false beliefs, and wrong assumptions. We work together to find paths that match the person.

Networking is important, and it's easier than you think.

Yes, many of us in science tend to be introverts, and the idea of going out and “working a room” might sound awful. The good news is that effective networking can look different from that. It's about systematically, consistently, and habitually creating small connections with people in your area of expertise or interests and being genuinely curious about what they know. For instance, if a fellow is interested in science policy, I'll work with that fellow to find ways to identify people in their larger peer network to contact for coffee chats or informational interviews. We don't try to network all at once over a short period. That's overwhelming. We make small goals of regularly reaching out to people every week and learning over a sustained amount of time. It adds up!

From my reflections above, you may notice that there is a method I use in working with fellows. It begins with getting to know them and figuring out what they perceive as their challenges and weaknesses. It moves next into identifying skills, values, interests, and exploring ways for those three attributes to work in unity to create a productive, meaningful professional life. In this method, we always work to find ways to break the journey down into manageable steps, setting specific goals that align with an overall larger objective.

I know this method works because it served me well when I was a postdoc myself. Using the resources from the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) and the NICHD Office of Education, I learned that my interests lie in improving aspiring scientists' training and career outlook and building on my existing skills such as organization, program management, teaching, and mentoring. I didn't do this alone, and I certainly didn't do it all in one day. My career breakthroughs have always come when I break down my challenges into manageable steps and seek guidance and mentorship along the way. I think you'll find that it will be similar for you, and my door is always open to help with the journey.

References

  1. Talesnik, Dana. “Eurick Explores Why Self-Awareness Matters.” NIH Record. June 28, 2019. https://nihrecord.nih.gov/2019/06/28/eurich-explores-why-self-awareness-matters.
  2. Eurich, Tasha. “What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It).” Harvard Business Review. January 4, 2018. https://hbr.org/2018/01/what-self-awareness-really-is-and-how-to-cultivate-it.

Self-Assessment Resources for All Training Levels (and Beyond!)

NICHD fellows are always welcome to schedule a time with the NICHD Office of Education staff to discuss self-assessments. Please reach out to Dr. Erin Walsh (erin.walsh@nih.gov) or Dr. Megan Bohn (megan.bohn@nih.gov) to schedule an appointment.

You also have access to a large array of self-assessment resources and related activities through the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE), including:

Updated Resource! OITE has recently updated their online career guides on informational interviews, cover letters, CVs, and interviewing. All updated guides are available for download at this link.

Outside the NIH: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) provides an online Individual Development Plan called myIDP. This career-planning tool begins with a skills, values, and interest assessment, which guides and helps establish potential career goals. 


If you’ve had a chance to meet Megan Bohn, Ph.D., the new deputy director for the NICHD Office of Education, then you’ll know why I’m so excited about her introduction article in this month’s issue. Dr. Bohn joins the office with a skill set honed to the unique needs of biomedical research trainees. Just check out the subtitles of the article she wrote:

  • “I should be there by now” is a false belief that holds you back
  • Accurate self-awareness is key to improvement, but it's harder than you think
  • Networking is important, and it's easier than you think

After you finish reading Dr. Bohn’s article, we invite you to check out a few self-assessment resources inside and outside NIH. And don’t forget to browse The Rep Report and April announcements for a healthy list of activities that might align with your self-identified values and interests (read Dr. Bohn’s article to see what I’m talking about).

I’ll keep my words brief so that you can get to it!

Your Editor-in-Chief,
Shana R. Spindler, Ph.D.

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.

Thursday, March 14, 1–2:30 PM (Virtual)

Overview of NIH Grant Writing
Led by Dennis Twombly, PhD, Deputy Director, NICHD Office of Extramural Policy

The NICHD Office of Education (OE), the Office of Extramural Policy, (OEP) and the Office of Health Equity (OHE) are collaborating to offer “Overview of NIH Grant Writing” led by Dennis Twombly, PhD, Deputy Director, NICHD Office of Extramural Policy, with invited extramural speakers.

The purpose of this workshop is to educate fellows about the extramural program, various funding mechanisms, and the application cycle (submission and review).

Specific topics include:

  • Applying for Extramural Grants: Process Overview, Tips & Strategies
  • The Role of the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) and the NICHD Scientific Review Branch (SRB)
  • The Role of the Program Officer (PO)
  • Opportunities for Intramural Fellows (e.g. K99)
  • Opportunities for fellows once they secure positions in the extramural community

Registration required. Email Veronica Harker (veronica.harker@nih.gov) for the registration link. If you will be applying for the K99 in 2024, please provide your estimated submission date.


Wednesday, March 20, 1 PM

Personal Statement Discussion and Feedback Session
Building 35, Room 620/630

Are you applying to medical school soon? Join Drs. Erin Walsh and Megan Bohn (Office of Education) for an opportunity to ask all your personal statement questions and receive feedback from us and your peers.

Email 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.

Congrats to NICHD Graduate Partnership Program (GPP) Graduates

Every year, GPP graduates are recognized at the annual NIH-wide Graduate Student Research Symposium. At this year’s Graduate Ceremony event on February 15, 2024, NICHD graduate students Zoe Elizabeth Piccus, Jeremie Oliver Piña, and Daniela Marta Roth received certificates for the successful completion of their dissertation research.

Dr. Zoe Elizabeth Piccus, a graduate of Brown University, studied under the mentorship of Claire Le Pichon, PhD, Unit on the Development of Neurodegeneration, NICHD.

Thesis title: “Mouse Models of Motor Neuron Disease Stemming from Unrestrained Sphingolipid Synthesis”

Dr. Jeremie Oliver Piña, a graduate of University of Utah, studied under the mentorship of Rena D’Souza, DDS, MS, PhD, Section on Molecules and Therapies for Craniofacial and Dental Disorders, NICHD, and David W. Grainger, PhD, Biomedical Engineering, University of Utah.

Thesis title: “Multi-omic Spatiotemporal Resolution of WNT-Mediated Signaling during Normal and Abnormal Palate Formation” 

Dr. Daniela Marta Roth, a graduate of University of Alberta, studied under the mentorship of Rena D’Souza, DDS, MS, PhD, Section on Molecules and Therapies for Craniofacial and Dental Disorders, NICHD, and Daniel Graf, PhD, Biomedical Oral and Maxillofacial Research Unit, University of Alberta.

Thesis title: “Revealing Physiology of Craniofacial Growth Zones Through Pathology”


FARE 2025 Travel Award Competition

The NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) competition is NOW OPEN. FARE recognizes outstanding scientific research by NIH intramural postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. Abstracts will be evaluated anonymously, and the top 25% of applicants will receive a $1,500 travel award to present their exciting and novel research at a scientific meeting during FY2025 (October 1, 2024, to September 30, 2025).

How to Apply:

Submit your abstract online via https://www2.training.nih.gov/transfer/fareapp until noon on March 14, 2024 (12:00 PM ET).

Who is eligible:

  • Intramural postdoctoral fellows (e.g. IRTA, CRTA, Clinical, Research, and Visiting Fellows) with less than six years total postdoctoral experience in the NIH intramural research program as of March 14, 2024 
  • Postdoctoral-level Special Volunteers (e.g. NRC, NRSA, or Jane Coffin Childs fellowships etc.)
  • Pre-doctoral IRTAs currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program and conducting their doctoral dissertation research at an NIH lab
  • Graduate students currently registered in the GPP (Graduate Partnerships Program) with the NIH

For more information, go to http://www.training.nih.gov/felcom/fare/faqs. For questions and concerns, contact the FARE 2025 committee at FARE@mail.nih.gov.


Save the Date: Postbac Poster Days, May 1–2, 2024

Registration opens this month!

Postbac Poster Days provides an opportunity for NIH postbacs to discuss their research projects and at the same time develop their communication and networking skills. For more information, please visit the Postbac Poster Day website for more information and to register.


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.

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 welcomes Laura Marler, PhD, as the new director of Office of Postdoc Services!

The FARE2025 Travel Award Competition is now open! Submit an abstract for a chance to win a $1,500 travel award to present your exciting and novel research at a scientific meeting during October 1, 2024, to September 30, 2025. Check out this month’s announcements and events for more information about the FARE competition and how to submit your abstract online.

The FelCom Outreach liaison is looking for stories from fellows. The training page on The Catalyst is going to address mentorship in the March/April issue and is currently seeking stories about mentor-mentee relationships at NIH that can be shared in the article. Whether your mentor is a supervisor, postdoc, or staff scientist, the stories will showcase the diverse experiences within the NIH community. Share your stories, both the triumphs and challenges, and let your voice be heard. If you're interested in sharing your story, reach out to Stacy Liang (shen-huan.liang@nih.gov).

The Service and Outreach Subcommittee will host a Science for Kids Day event on Saturday, March 23, and is asking for volunteers at this time. This outreach event is a collaboration with the Washington Center for International Education and aims to spark curiosity, foster creativity, and lay the foundation for science in kids in 4th and 5th grade of elementary school. If you are interested or need more information, please reach out to Alex Vendola (alex.vendola@nih.gov) or Rachel Keith (rachel.keith@nih.gov).

The Women Scientist Fellows Committee announced the following:

  • Save the date for Women Scholar Symposium: Monday, April 29, 2–4 p.m. (virtual).
  • Subscribe to our mailing list at WOMEN-FELLOWS@LIST.NIH.GOV.

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

Lab notebooks can’t communicate your research findings to the world—but you can. As an NICHD trainee, you have access to an abundance of opportunities to practice sharing your project ideas, results, and conclusions with your NIH colleagues. For your convenience, we’ve listed many of those opportunities below!

NICHD Intramural Annual Scientific Retreat

Every year, the NICHD intramural program organizes an annual retreat for intramural researchers—PIs and lab members—to celebrate achievements and spark new collaborations. In recent years, many of the Scientific Retreat presenters have been NICHD fellows!

NICHD Annual Meeting for Postdoctoral, Clinical and Visiting Fellows, Graduate Students and Postbacs

The main feature of the annual fellows' retreat is YOU! There are several formats to share your research findings and ideas—such as poster sessions, feature oral presentations, and short five-minute talks.  

SciBites

Want to talk about your research in a professionally produced short video? Check out SciBites, a series of easily digestible, “bite-size” videos about NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) research. For example, former NICHD graduate student Dr. Jeremie Oliver Piña (D’Souza lab) made this short video about his research on “cultivating clues to combat cleft palates.”

Three-minute-Talk (TmT) Competition

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 way to a broad scientific audience. This is a terrific opportunity for you to learn (and practice!) how to explain your research in a way that’s meaningful to scientists outside your specialized field—a skill that’s become increasingly important.

Summer Poster Day

Summer Poster Day is a chance for summer interns at NIH to present their research to a broad scientific audience. This exciting day offers an excellent opportunity for networking with colleagues and building critical science communication skills. 

Postbac Poster Day

Postbac Poster Day is an opportunity for early-career trainees to share their NIH research projects and at the same time develop communication and networking skills. All NICHD postbacs are encouraged to present at this annual event! 

Graduate Student Research Symposium

All graduate students performing their doctoral dissertation research at NIH are eligible and encouraged to participate in this annual event that showcases graduate student research through talks, posters, and networking.

NIH Research Festival

The Research Festival is an annual showcase of NIH intramural research. This event brings together researchers from across all NIH institutes for a multi-day opportunity to share research findings and form new collaborations. All members of the NIH Intramural Research Program are encouraged to participate. 

You might occasionally see NIH leadership in the news—like Anthony Fauci, MD, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaking with CNN during the COVID-19 pandemic or new NIH Director Monica Bertagnolli, MD, in an interview with The New York Times. Their media appearances help the public understand NIH’s mission and build more trust in what NIH does. 

Media 101: Defining the Media Landscape, a training course from the NICHD Office of Communications (OC), was offered to NICHD fellows on January 18, 2024, to provide more information about the process of reporting science in the media.

Paul Williams, Director of Communications at NICHD, kicked-off the course with his talk, “Why speak to the press?” As we all experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, science can be easily misunderstood. It is therefore crucial that NICHD communicates clearly and confidently about the public health significance of NICHD research, and speaking with the media helps NICHD gain access to large audiences. 

At the institute level, the OC issues news releases and other articles that highlight NICHD research findings, and they publish stories about individual NICHD researchers. NICHD also uses various social media platforms and newsletters to reach wider and more diverse audiences. 

But what is the procedure if a reporter requests an interview with someone at the NICHD? As a first step, always contact NICHD’s OC (nichdpress@mail.nih.gov or 301-496-5133) before proceeding. If you are interested in doing the interview, OC will help coordinate. If you aren’t interested and/or the request falls outside your area of expertise, OC can decline on your behalf and refer the reporter elsewhere.

If you accept the interview request, you will want to understand who reporters are and what they want to get out of the interview. For this, Elizabeth McMahon, MS, a writer and editor in the OC, led a session titled, “About reporters and newsrooms.” She introduced daily news cycles, deadlines, and the types of reporters you might meet. 

In terms of scientific knowledge, reporters are often representative of the general public, and usually hold non-STEM degrees. A reporter would want fast responses to their inquiries, meaningful quotes, and information for the takeaway message. Typically, a reporter will not submit questions in advance and prefers responses that avoid scientific terms, jargon, and passive voice.

To help you prepare to explain your science to reporters, Robert Bock, Press Officer in the NICHD OC, presented, “Explaining science to reporters,” during which he shared essential points to remember. He suggested that for an interview, you should:

  • Omit details and focus on the “big picture” 
  • Use simple words and active voice 
  • Replace commonly used medical terms with those that are easier to understand, such as saying “long-term” in place of “chronic” 
  • Relate scientific concepts to familiar ideas with metaphors and analogies  
  • Prepare 3 or 4 key messages or talking points that you want to get across 

As a wrap-up exercise, participants of Media 101 wrote a press release headline using the abstract of a recent publication from an NICHD intramural lab. After the exercise, the actual headline was revealed and compared to what participants suggested. Summarizing a research study in one sentence, using only general terms, was more challenging than it sounds!

This was an informative course that is ideal for those  interested in learning why and how NICHD communicates with the media, the role of the OC in this process, the media environment, and how to make your story easy to understand for general audiences.

Have you ever tried to explain the importance of your research to a non-specialist? It’s not an easy task. But next to the research itself, it’s one of the most important skills you can learn as a scientist. 

In serving as a science communicator for the past decade or so, I’ve made a fun observation about my interviews with highly specialized researchers. Often, some of the best quotes about their findings happen when the interview is over—after we’ve finished the “shop talk” and start chatting about life and shared interests.

Inevitably, after the formal part of the interview, researchers re-initiate talking about their work but in relation to a fun anecdote or something surprising about their research. They begin storytelling, and that’s when the meaningful communication happens. It’s in those moments that their work becomes captivating, relatable—and clearly impactful.

During a recent workshop on how to communicate with the media as a fellow, the NICHD Office of Communications shared tips about explaining your science to the media. Many of their tips align with storytelling: use simple words and active voice, relate concepts to familiar ideas, and have a few key ideas to get across. Check out Dr. Hyo Won Ahn’s recap for more guidance on talking about your work and what to do if a reporter contacts you!  

But you don’t need to wait until your work makes the news to talk about your research with others. You have many opportunities to share your ideas and findings with a broad audience without leaving the NIH campus. We’ve listed several programs that are exclusive to NIH fellows here. Do take advantage!

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.


Wednesday, February 14, 1–2:30 PM

Cut the Clutter: Writing with Greater Clarity
Megan Bohn, PhD, Deputy Director, NICHD Office of Education

Participants of this 90-minute workshop will learn practical ways to enhance their writing’s clarity while also exploring how writing can be turned into a habit that focuses thoughts and sharpens ideas.

Session Topics:

  • Writing is thinking on paper
  • Focused attention is a superpower
  • How to turn writing into a habit
  • How storytelling, wordcraft, cohesion, and coherence work together to create clarity
  • How will AI affect your writing?
  • Conveying the purpose and impact of your work

If you are interested in attending, please complete the RSVP form at this 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.

The 4th Cycle of the NICHD Early Career Awards is Open

The NICHD Office of the Director (OD) will be accepting applications for this competitive, internal funding opportunity aimed at promoting the research careers of early-stage intramural researchers in the basic, clinical, and translational sciences. The Early Career Awards program aims to support proposals that benefit the career development of the applicant.

Please check your email for details on this opportunity and the application process—information was provided to appropriate listservs in early January. Applications must be submitted to Ms. Olga Cherkasova (olga.cherkasova@nih.gov) by Monday, February 12, 2024, in order to be considered.


New Funding Opportunity for Staff Scientists and Staff Clinicians

The NICHD Office of the Scientific Director (OSD) will be accepting applications for the Career Development Awards for Staff Scientists and Staff Clinicians, an internal funding opportunity aimed at promoting the career development of Staff Scientists and Staff Clinicians in the basic, clinical, and translational sciences. All Staff Scientists and Staff Clinicians in the NICHD Divisions of Intramural Research and Population Health Research are eligible to apply. Please note, contractors are not eligible for this opportunity.

Please check your email for details on this opportunity and the application process—information was provided to appropriate listservs in early January. Applications must be submitted to Ms. Olga Cherkasova (olga.cherkasova@nih.gov) by Monday, February 26, 2024, in order to be considered.


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


Independent Research Scholar Program Application is Open

The Office of Intramural Research is now accepting applications for the 2024 Independent Research Scholars (IRS) program. The program supports recent doctorates and early-stage postdoctoral fellows, who have a demonstrated commitment to diversity, to transition to independent research positions. If you are considering this opportunity, please carefully review the IRS Program Information.

If you are planning to apply, please contact Dr. Erin Walsh (erin.walsh@nih.gov) as soon as possible to discuss your eligibility and establish a plan for your application package.

This is a fantastic opportunity for postdocs who are ready to take the next step in launching their independent research program.


Expand your Clinical Research Knowledge in 2024

The NIH Office of Clinical Research Education and Collaboration Outreach in the Office of Intramural Research offers 3 programs: Introduction to the Principles and Practice of Clinical Research Course (IPPCR), Principles of Clinical Pharmacology Course (PCP), and the Clinical Research Curriculum Certificate Program (CRCC).

2023–2024 Introduction to the Principles And Practice of Clinical Research Course

This free online course teaches registrants on how to conduct clinical research effectively and safely. Graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, medical, dental, pharmacy, and nursing students and other health professionals are encouraged to enroll. The optional course textbook, Principles and Practice of Clinical Research, Fourth Edition (2018) is available for purchase from several online book retailers and at the NIH Building 10 FAES bookstore. For questions, contact the course coordinator at ippcr2@mail.nih.gov.

2023–2024 Principles of Clinical Pharmacology Course

This free online lecture series covers the fundamentals of clinical pharmacology as a translational scientific discipline. Topics include pharmacokinetics, drug metabolism and transport, drug therapy in special populations, drug discovery and development, and pharmacogenomics. This course will be of interest to graduate students, postdocs, medical and pharmacy students, scientists, and health professionals interested in expanding their pharmacology knowledge base. For questions, contact the course coordinator at odpcp@mail.nih.gov.

NIH Clinical Research Curriculum Certificate (CRCC) Program

  • Now Available

NIH staff, contractors, and trainees can earn a formal certificate from the NIH Office of Clinical Research, Office of the Director, by completing a clinical research curriculum. The Clinical Research Curriculum Certificate (CRCC) program was developed for NIH employees (staff, contractors, and trainees) who are currently engaged or interested in clinical or translational research. For questions, please email crcc@mail.nih.gov.


Intramural AIDS Research Fellowship Application is Open

Applications are due on Friday, March 15, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. (ET)

Are you looking for an opportunity to gain experience in grant writing while competing for an intramural funding award? The Intramural AIDS Research Fellowship (IARF) program is a collaborative effort of the Office of AIDS Research, the Office of Intramural Training & Education, and the Office of Intramural Research, designed to further cross disciplinary research into HIV and AIDS at the NIH. The aim of the program is to recruit graduate students and postdoctoral researchers from all scientific disciplines to the broad field of AIDS research and to provide a grant-writing opportunity for intramural fellows whose work can be directly related to HIV and AIDS. The fellowship is open to all graduate (predoctoral level) students and post-doctoral fellows who are part of the Intramural Research Program (IRP) at NIH. FTE employees such as Research Fellows and Clinical Fellows are NOT eligible for the fellowship. There are no citizenship requirements. Awardees will be individuals who show outstanding scientific potential through both a creative and thoughtful research plan and a well thought out career development plan. 
 
You can also read more about the program at https://www.training.nih.gov/fellowship-awards/intramural-aids-research-fellowship.


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.)
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.


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.

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 Research (OIR) is now accepting applications for the 2024 Independent Research Scholars (IRS) program:

The program supports recent doctorates and early-stage postdoctoral fellows who have a demonstrated commitment to diversity to transition to independent research positions. Eligible candidates can have no more than 4 years total postdoctoral training (and no more than 3 years of postdoctoral training at the NIH) as of January 1, 2024. Candidates must be US citizens or US permanent residents.

Applications are due March 1, 2024. After discussing with your PI/mentor, be sure to schedule a meeting with Drs. Walsh and Bohn if you are planning to apply (erin.walsh@nih.gov, megan.bohn@nih.gov). All applications must be reviewed by the IC scientific director. More information and application details can be found on the IRS program website. Address questions to Dr. Charles Dearolf, OIR Director of Program Development and Support (dearolfc@od.nih.gov).

The NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education encourages you to mentor a summer intern participating in this year’s Summer Internship Program (SIP).

The deadline to apply for a summer intern is April 1, 2024. If you are interested in applying or have any questions, please feel free to send an email to Dr. Ulli Klenke (mentoraward@od.nih.gov).

How the Summer Internship Program works:

    • OITE selects interns at the high school, community college, four-year College/University, and graduate student (data science) levels. Most have limited research experience. They will be matched with a mentor and placed in their research group. OITE will provide funding for the intern’s salary.
    • The research group will be expected to provide research supplies, as needed, to successfully complete the project. 
    • The mentor will establish a project, assist the intern with the development of scientific and professional skills, and prepare them for presentations at an end-of-summer poster session.  

 Requirements to apply as a mentor: 

    • All postbacs, grad students, postdocs, fellows, staff scientists, and interested principal investigators on all NIH campuses are eligible to apply.
    • Applicants must plan on working on-campus at least four days per week during the summer.
    • Applicants must commit to be available and host a student for the full 9-week program from June to August.
    • Selected applicants will be required to participate either in a mentoring certificate program in the spring or attend a full-day mentor training in March/April. In-person attendance is expected (Zoom will be available if you are outside of the Bethesda area).

The Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) committee reports that, tentatively, abstract submission for this year will be open from Monday, February 12, to Thursday, March 14. Please be on the lookout, as advertisements for the FARE 2025 Awards will be going out soon.

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

The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) reports the following fellowship opportunities:

The L’Oréal USA For Women in Science program awards five women postdoctoral scientists annually with grants of $60,000 each for their contributions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields and commitment to serving as role models for younger generations. Applications are due by 5:00 pm ET on Friday, February 16, 2024.


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

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.

Reflecting the breadth of research in the NICHD Division of Intramural Research, the 2024 award-winning projects span the molecular underpinnings of mitosis to system-level influences on the progression of disease. We invite you to learn more about this impactful work, as the four current IRF recipients have graciously shared their research projects below—with a peek into what excites them about their work.

Learn more about what it takes to write a winning grant application from the 2023 IRF award winners: Grant Writing Wisdom from IRF Recipients

Please contact the IRF awardees at the email addresses below to ask additional questions or for a list of publications related to their work:

Aurora Kraus, PhD

Laboratory of Brant Weinstein, PhD, Section on Vertebrate Organogenesis

Aurora Kraus

Aurora Kraus, PhD

Visualizing traumatic brain injury in the adult zebrafish

Many people suffer long-term consequences after head injury, and persistent vascular dysfunction is a contributing factor.1 The goal of this project is to examine immune responses to mild traumatic brain injury and decipher how brain vessels are involved in these immune responses.

We are using zebrafish to perform these studies. The zebrafish is a model organism with a thin, optically clear skull that permits direct, high-resolution microscopic imaging of brain injury sites in living animals. This project establishes zebrafish as an important, comparative model to understand how endothelial and immune cells communicate after injury.

I love microscopy and watching cells interact. The zebrafish is an amazing model for longitudinal, live imaging of the meninges with many transgene reporters, and I am excited to observe putative cell-cell interactions in real-time.


Tanmay Mondal, PhD

Laboratory of Anirban Banerjee, PhD, Section on Structural and Chemical Biology

Tanmay Mondal

Tanmay Mondal, PhD

Development of orthogonal fluorescence-based assays to study substrate S-acylation: A novel direct method

I am developing novel assays for studying protein S-acylation, a widely prevalent form of protein modification whereby lipids are added to proteins by a family of transmembrane enzymes. Protein S-acylation is by far the most common form of protein lipidation2—with 23 zDHHC enzymes catalyzing the S-acylation of nearly 6000 substrates3,4—and has been linked to a wide range of diseases including neurological disorders,5 neuropsychiatric diseases, diabetes, and several forms of cancer.6

To date, there are very few studies investigating substrate S-acylation by zDHHC enzymes using in vitro biochemical methods, and there are no selective inhibitors of zDHHC enzymes. The development of these assays for substrate S-acylation is an unmet need that could provide novel insights into substrate recognition by zDHHC enzymes as well as open up de novo approaches for discovering selective zDHHC inhibitors.

For the development of these fluorescence-based assays, I am using sidechain modified peptide fragments of substrates, which I am synthesizing. Simultaneously, I am developing an orthogonal protein S-acylation assay using click chemistry, a kind of chemical reaction that can be carried out in complex aqueous mixtures, including cellular lysates. These novel assays will help shed light on critically important questions in the field of protein lipidation and will hopefully lead to therapeutic approaches for combating human diseases.


Matthew Manion, PhD

Laboratory of Timothy Petros, PhD, Unit on Cellular and Molecular Neurodevelopment

Matthew Manion

Matthew Manion, PhD

Differential activity of the transcription factor Nkx2.1 in embryonic mouse brain, lung, and thyroid

The transcription factor Nkx2.1 is critical for development of the lung, thyroid and brain, 7–14 and humans with certain NKX2.1 variants have altered function of these three organs.7–10 One outstanding question in developmental biology is how a single transcription factor regulates distinct gene pathways in different tissues during development. Nkx2.1 represents an excellent opportunity to study this phenomenon in more detail.

My project uses sequencing data to compare gene expression and regulatory factors in the developing brain, lung, and thyroid to understand how Nkx2.1 regulates different gene cascades of each of these organs. We believe that this type of study represents a critical step forward for understanding normal development of the brain and other organs, and how perturbations in gene regulation contribute to physical and neurological conditions. 

I come from a neuroscience background. I was drawn to this line of research because it relates to developmental neuroscience, but it also expands out into development of other organs, and I was intrigued by the idea of gene regulatory factors common to organs as different as the brain, lungs, and thyroid.


Sanjana Sundararajan, PhD

Laboratory of Mary Dasso, PhD, Section on Cell Cycle Regulation

Sanjana Sundararajan

Sanjana Sundararajan, PhD

Spindle Assembly Checkpoint Proteins at Interphase Nuclear Pores

The Spindle Assembly Checkpoint (SAC) is a safety mechanism activated by cells during chromosome segregation and is silenced only when all sister chromatids are correctly attached to the mitotic spindle; SAC therefore prevents premature chromosome segregation and ensures mitotic fidelity.15,16 Despite the evolutionarily conserved localization of SAC proteins to interphase Nuclear Pore Complexes (NPCs),17–20 their significance there remains surprisingly unexplored.

Accurate chromosome segregation during cell division is imperative for maintenance of genomic stability and to prevent developmental disorders and cancer. My project aims to delineate how SAC proteins are bound at NPCs and identify their roles prior to mitosis at these channels. This will elucidate why these proteins are stationed at pores in such an evolutionarily conserved manner and expand upon our understanding of how events prior to mitosis contribute to genomic stability.

This research blends my love for studying chromosome segregation and my keen interest for understanding mechanisms that orchestrate the cell cycle!


Footnotes

1 Griffin AD, et al. (2019). Traumatic microbleeds suggest vascular injury and predict disability in traumatic brain injury. Brain 142(11):3550–3564.

2 Jiang H, et al. (2018). Protein Lipidation: Occurrence, Mechanisms, Biological Functions, and Enabling Technologies. Chemical Reviews 118(3):919–988.

3 Stix R, Lee CJ, Faraldo-Gomez JD, Banerjee B. (2020). Structure and Mechanism of DHHC Protein Acyltransferases. Journal of Molecular Biology 432(18):4983–4998.

4 Malgapo MIP, Linder ME. (2021). Substrate recruitment by zDHHC protein acyltransferases. Open Biol 11(4):210026.

5 Cho E, Park M. (2016). Palmitoylation in Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Pharmacol Res 111:133–151.

6 Lobo S, in Unravelling Cancer Signaling Pathways: A Multidisciplinary Approach. (2019), Chapter 3, p. 51–87.

7 Krude H, et al. (2002). Choreoathetosis, hypothyroidism, and pulmonary alterations due to human NKX2-1 haploinsufficiency. J Clin Invest 109(4):475–480.

8 Kusakabe T, et al. (2006). Thyroid-Specific Enhancer-Binding Protein/NKX2.1 Is Required for the Maintenance of Ordered Architecture and Function of the Differentiated Thyroid. Mol Endocrinol 20(8):1796–1809.

9 Guan L, et al. (2021). Thyroid Transcription Factor-1: Structure, Expression, Function and Its Relationship with Disease. BioMed Res. Int., 2021:9957209.

10 Mu D. (2013). The complexity of thyroid transcription factor 1 with both pro- and anti-oncogenic activities. J Biol Chem 288(35):24992–25000.

11 Orquera DP, et al. (2018). NKX2.1 is critical for melanocortin neuron identity, hypothalamic Pomc expression and body weight. bioRxiv 460501. Preprint at https://doi.org/10.1101/460501.

12 Orquera DP, et al. (2019). The Homeodomain Transcription Factor NKX2.1 Is Essential for the Early Specification of Melanocortin Neuron Identity and Activates Pomc Expression in the Developing Hypothalamus. J Neurosci 39(21):4023–4035.

13 Kimura S, et al. (1996). The T/ebp null mouse: thyroid-specific enhancer-binding protein is essential for the organogenesis of the thyroid, lung, ventral forebrain, and pituitary. Genes Dev 10(1):60–69.

14 Minoo P, Su G, Drum H, Bringas P, and Kimura S. (1999). Defects in tracheoesophageal and lung morphogenesis in Nkx2.1(-/-) mouse embryos Dev Biol 209(1):60–71.

15 Foley EA and Kapoor TM. (2013). Microtubule attachment and spindle assembly checkpoint signalling at the kinetochore. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 14(1):25–37.

16 Musacchio A and Salmon ED. (2007). The spindle-assembly checkpoint in space and time. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 8(5):379–93.

17 Campbell MS, Chan GK, and Yen TJ. (2001). Mitotic checkpoint proteins HsMAD1 and HsMAD2 are associated with nuclear pore complexes in interphase. J Cell Sci 114(Pt 5):953–63.

18 Lee SH, et al. (2008). Tpr directly binds to Mad1 and Mad2 and is important for the Mad1-Mad2-mediated mitotic spindle checkpoint. Genes Dev 22(21):2926–31.

19 Lince-Faria M, et al. (2009). Spatiotemporal control of mitosis by the conserved spindle matrix protein Megator. J Cell Biol 184(5):647–57.

20 Scott RJ, et al. (2005) Interactions between Mad1p and the nuclear transport machinery in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Mol Biol Cell 16(9):4362–74.