Blog

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. 

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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, November 7, 1–2 PM

Postbac Seminar Series: “Interviewing for Professional School”
With Public Speaking Coach Scott Morgan
Building 45, F1/F2 Conference Room

Join us (in-person!) for Scott Morgan’s workshop “Interviewing for Professional School.”

This is a fantastic workshop for learning interview strategies and gaining confidence if you plan to apply to graduate or medical/professional school.

In this highly interactive session, you will learn:

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

To register, please email Ms. Veronica Harker (veronica.harker@nih.gov) for access to the Google document online.


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 Shi Lab is on a Winning Streak!

Three NICHD fellows in the laboratory of Yun-bo Shi, PhD, Section on Molecular Morphogenesis, recently received recognition for their endocrinology research. Please join us in congratulating them on their impressive achievements!

Lingyu Bao, PhD, and Zhaoyi Peng, PhD, received an Outstanding Trainee Poster award at the American Thyroid Association Annual Meeting, September 27–October 1, in Washington D.C. Their abstracts were selected for the award by the American Thyroid Association Trainees and Career Advancement Committee as well as the Program Committee.

Dr. Bao presented “Defects in thyroid hormone transporter due to slc7a5 knockout causes Paneth cell dedifferentiation toward stem cells.”

Dr. Peng presented “Protein arginine methyltransferase 1, a coactivator for thyroid hormone receptor, regulates adult intestinal epithelial cell proliferation and enteroendocrine cell differentiation.”

Yuta Tanizaki, PhD, was one of two recipients of the 2023 Incentive Award from the Japanese Society of Comparative Endocrinology for his work “Study of thyroid hormone function in tissue/organ development.” Dr. Tanizaki will present his award-winning lecture after the award ceremony during a conference at Kyushu University later this year.

Lingyu Bao, PhD

Lingyu Bao, PhD

Zhaoyi Peng, PhD

Zhaoyi Peng, PhD

Yuta Tanizaki, PhD

Yuta Tanizaki, PhD


Let Us Know About Your Recent Accomplishments 

We’d love to recognize your great news from 2023—from winning a poster award to landing a new job! Please email a brief description of your accomplishment(s) to our editor, Dr. Shana Spindler (shana.spindler@nih.gov), and we will include them in our December issue.


The Fellows Editorial Board (FEB) is Recruiting New Members

What is FEB? FEB offers fellows a free, confidential scientific document-editing service to NIH and FDA fellows. If you are an NIH or FDA fellow, you are eligible for active membership on FEB. Joining the Board gives fellows editorial training and experience. Active members participate in all FEB activities including reviewing submitted documents, following an editorial process, preparing final reports, and weekly meetings.

If you are interested in becoming a member, please complete the membership registration form.

Visit our website or email for more information.


Feature Your Image on the Annual Report

The NICHD Division of Intramural Research (DIR) will feature exciting scientific images, from basic and clinical research laboratories, on the cover and web site of the 2023 DIR Annual Report. To submit images for consideration, please email your file to Nicki Swan (jonasnic@mail.nih.gov) or contact her if the file is too large to send by email. All entries are due by December 29, 2023!


Help Us Innovate: Join the Innovative Culture Advisory Committee (ICAC)

NICHD staff are a rich source of new ideas to advance our mission. To support an innovative culture as part of NICHD’s focus on improving administrative efficiency under its Strategic Plan, the Institute is forming the Innovative Culture Advisory Committee (ICAC). The ICAC will be the governing body responsible for overseeing the Institute’s strategic goals and activities to sustain and promote a culture of innovation. Members will help foster an environment where employees have opportunities to propose new ideas and are engaged in a culture of continuous improvement.

You must be passionate about innovation and have worked at NICHD full-time for a minimum of six months to apply for membership. Members will serve as key contacts for staff who seek to share and develop innovative ideas and promote administrative innovation across the institute. 

To nominate yourself or a colleague, please complete a brief application by close of business on December 1.

Please contact NICHDInnovativeCulture@nih.gov with any questions or concerns.


NIH UNITE: Ending Structural Racism (ESR) Activities

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

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

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

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


ATTENTION!

We’ve created a new page on the Newsletter Wiki for Selected FelCom Events. Near the beginning of each month, we’ll post same-month events that are announced during the monthly FelCom meetings. Check in regularly!

The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) will host the NPA International Equity Summit on Thursday, November 9, 1–5 p.m. ET to address barriers that disproportionately impact international scholars. The summit is open to everyone, and membership with the NPA is not required to attend. It is the hope of the NPA and its allies that these conversations will lead to further discussions about specific issues and actions toward greater equity for international scholars in the postdoctoral community. Follow this link to register.

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

The Service and Outreach Subcommittee is planning a Weed Warrior volunteering event to remove invasive plants in one of Montgomery County’s parks on November 18, 9–11 a.m. If interested, please contact Alex Vendola (alex.vendola@nih.gov) or Rachel Keith (rachel.keith@nih.gov).

The Career Development Committee is arranging a series of events, called “Careers in Scientific Administration,” to introduce administrative jobs for scientists. The event will occur at the end of this month, and a date will be finalized soon and announced on listservs. Please join if you are thinking about your next career position! For more information, please contact Abraham Trujillo Hernandez (abraham.trujillohernandez@nih.gov) or Sharmina Deloer (sharmina.deloer@nih.gov).


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

The NIH Pathway to Independence Award, also known as the K99/R00, helps early-career scientists transition from a postdoctoral training position to that of an independent investigator. Considered one of the most prestigious funding opportunities available for both domestic and international fellows, the award provides funding for one to two years of postdoctoral training and three years of independent research as a principal investigator.

Read below for more information about this year’s NICHD award-winning projects, plus a fun fact about each K99 recipient.

Diana Elizondo, PhD

Diana Elizondo, PhD

A fun fact about Dr. Elizondo: “I enjoy baking cinnamon banana bread during cold weather mornings.” 

“Delineation of macrophage-derived transglutaminases' role in adipose tissue health and inflammation in obesity.”

Unhealthy obesity is characterized by impaired adipose tissue growth and function, and altered inflammatory states. Invariably, this condition promotes the development of metabolic disorders. Although the pathological burden is well established, the underpinning molecular mechanics that drive deregulation of immunometabolic activities remain unclear. We show that transglutaminases are novel soluble modulators of immunometabolism that can shift obesity into a metabolically unhealthy state. Importantly, we identified macrophages as key  sources of transglutaminases in obesity—thereby extending the importance of the transglutaminase-producing macrophage subsets as pivotal players governing the shift towards unhealthy obesity. We hypothesize that myeloid-cell derived transglutaminases serve as pivotal modulators in balancing obesity health. To address this hypothesis, we will evaluate the mechanisms by which transglutaminases regulate adipose tissue health in obesity via employment of vector-based delivery of shRNA silencing of transglutaminases in diet-induced obese mice in vivo. Concomitantly, we will develop a novel lentiviral-based conditional knockout mouse model, as a tool to concretely evaluate the role of transglutaminase-producing immune cells in modulating the immunometabolic environment of obesity. Completion of this work will unravel the immunometabolic regulatory network orchestrated by specific transglutaminase-producing immune cell subsets in modulating the adipose tissue microenvironment during obesity.




Leah Greenspan, PhD

Leah Greenspan in Peru with a monkey on her head

A fun fact about Dr. Greenspan: “I enjoy extreme activities when I travel, including hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, backpacking in Denali National Park in Alaska with no set trail and only a compass and a map, and rappelling down waterfalls in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal.”

“Dissecting vascular reperfusion and remodeling after injury in zebrafish”

Two percent of the total US population is plagued by open chronic wounds, with defective vascular reperfusion acting as a major contributor to failed wound closure. Delayed vascular regrowth and remodeling after cutaneous injury is prevalent in aging and diabetic adults, but the mechanisms that are altered under these conditions are not well understood. I have established a new reproducible cutaneous wound model in zebrafish using a rotary tool. Using this injury system along with the long-term live imaging capabilities of adult zebrafish and the many novel tools available in this model, I seek to uncover how changes in endothelial cell responses to cutaneous injury contribute to the vascular defects seen in aging and diabetic wounds compared to normal vessel development and regrowth. My studies will reveal key regulators of vascular regrowth after injury and provide crucial insights toward establishing new vascular reparative therapies.



Joyce Thompson, PhD

Joyce Thompson, PhD

A fun fact about Dr. Thompson: “In my spare time I enjoy baking, reading, painting, photography, and gardening. But my favorite thing has to be trying new food and discovering flavors from across the globe!”

“The role of transcription factor co-binding in regulating progenitor plasticity and lineage emergence during mammalian embryogenesis”

All mammalian life begins as a single cell. During the course of development, this single cell is transformed into a multicellular embryo comprising of an entire repertoire of cell-lineages. Defects in the formation of any of these lineages lead to developmental anomalies and can even be detrimental in some cases. My research focuses on understanding how the first few cell-lineages of life arise from common progenitor populations, in the very early mouse embryo. By employing genomics assays my research aims to decipher how transcription factors regulate the genome to orchestrate the timely and accurate emergence of cell-lineages during embryonic development.



Jarred Whitlock, PhD

Jarred Whitlock, PhD

A fun fact about Dr. Whitlock: “My wife and I turned our basement into a home tiki bar during the pandemic to create an escape from work from home/lab schedules. It’s been a fantastic tool for community building and reminding us that the people we spend our lives with are more important than the work we also love.”

“Resolving the mechanism of osteoclast multinucleation and signaling in bone remodeling”

Bones are living tissues, continuously remade on-site by teams of multinucleated osteoclasts that resorb old bone and osteoblasts that deposit new bone. The number of nuclei within a multinucleated osteoclast determines its resorption capacity, and many skeletal pathologies—such as fibrous dysplasia, osteopetrosis, osteoporosis, and metastatic bone disease—are underpinned by perturbations in the number/size of osteoclasts, resulting in skeletal dysfunction in more than 200 million individuals. Gaps in our fundamental understanding of how osteoclasts form, function, and coordinate with osteoblasts to maintain skeletal integrity have stymied the identification of novel, targeted therapies. My lab will uncover a mechanistic understanding of how osteoclasts form, function, and coordinate with osteoblasts by exploiting a protein manager of osteoclast formation and rare disease models as guides. Filling these fundamental gaps in the understanding of skeletal biology will provide a battery of mechanistic targets to tune osteoclast function, promote bone regeneration, and address the growing metabolic skeletal pathology in our aging population.




Shu Yang, PhD

Shu Yang, PhD

A fun fact about Dr. Yang: “I love coffee. My favorite coffee is from the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe region. But the most tasteful coffee I ever had was from the Galápagos Islands.”

“How does the GATOR2 complex regulate lysosomal functions?”

Lysosomes are central to metabolic homeostasis. They are the main organelles that break down macromolecules to provide nutrients such as amino acids for cell growth. Lysosomes protect cells by digesting excess or unwanted cell parts. They also destroy invaded pathogens such as bacteria or viruses and  help to trigger programmed cell death under certain conditions. Lysosomal functions and physiology are tightly controlled by upstream signaling pathways. The MiT/TFEs transcriptional factor family promotes the transcription of a program of lysosomal and autophagic genes and is often deregulated in cancer. I discovered that the GATOR2 complex, an activator of the metabolic regulator TORC1, maintains lysosomal function by protecting MiT/TFEs from proteasomal degradation independent of TORC1 signaling. I determined that in GATOR2 knockout cells, members of the MiT/TFEs family are degraded by the proteasomes, resulting in lysosome dysfunction. Additionally, I demonstrated that the GATOR2-dependent regulation of MiT/TFEs is conserved in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and in translocation renal cell carcinoma and has roles in promoting the growth of those cancer cells. My research interest is to investigate the detailed mechanisms of this GATOR2-dependent regulation of MiT/TFEs, and how this pathway affects cancer metabolism.


Headshot of Ian Trees, PhD

Ian Trees, PhD

As I stepped into the grand hall of the John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center, I was met with an unmistakable buzz of excitement and happy chatter. The venue, a 500,000-square-foot emblem of scientific endeavor, boasted an atrium and adjacent rooms—each adorned with a myriad of NICHD posters summarizing countless hours of meticulous research. This year marked a poignant milestone, with the NICHD Scientific Retreat returning in person after three years of fully virtual activities. The event, held on September 26, was made even more special with a spotlight placed on junior scientists, who enjoyed the honor of presenting the results of their innovative research to the entire division.

The retreat kicked off with a message from Dr. Diana Bianchi, Director of the NICHD, underscoring the NICHD’s 2025 Strategic Plan and igniting a spark of interdisciplinary camaraderie that persisted throughout the program. Then, NICHD Scientific Director Dr. Chris McBain offered heartfelt remarks that brought a palpable sense of community to the hall. As Dr. McBain explained, NICHD intramural researchers published nearly 250 studies in 2023 to date, and he commended NICHD junior scientists for their substantial impact NIH-wide. For example, NICHD postdoctoral fellow Dr. Jong Park (Section on Vertebrate Organogenesis) received first place at the NIH Three-Minute Talk competition; the institute is currently supporting a record five K99 grants; and 16 of the top-ranked posters at the NIH Postbac Poster Day belonged to NICHD postbacs.

As a junior scientist and retreat presenter, the Scientific Retreat served as an arena to both learn and contribute. The sessions were an exciting ride of intellectual stimulation, diving deep into the realms of genetics, endocrinology, cellular biology, epidemiology, and beyond.

Dr. Catherine Gordon, NICHD Clinical Director, delivered the first keynote comprising her insights on bone density and marrow composition in adolescents, which was met with sweeping applause. What followed was a procession of presentations that illustrated the quantity and quality of research being conducted at the NICHD.

A couple of highlights for me included Dr. Abhishek Mukherjee’s (postdoctoral fellow, Section on Neural Developmental Dynamics) graphic showing the formation of epithelial cell clusters in zebrafish, which was nothing short of poetic and elucidated the intricate choreography of biology and mechanics. And Dr. Eastman Lewis’ (research fellow, Section on Molecular Neurobiology) talk on the excitatory and inhibitory signals in the prefrontal cortex captured the audience’s attention, even with the lure of an impending lunch break. He reminded us that “it takes your prefrontal cortex not to leave my talk and go eat!”

Dr. Erin Walsh, Director of the Office of Education, presented the 2023 NICHD Mentor of the Year awards to Dr. Ryan Dale (Head of the Bioinformatics and Scientific Programming Core) and Ms. Mor Alkaslasi (Graduate Student, Unit on the Development of Neurodegeneration). During this particularly uplifting portion of the program, Dr. Walsh acknowledged the struggles of both mentors and mentees in the past few years, a journey that every scientist in the room has navigated in one way or another.

Mor Alkaslasi holding her framed award certificate

Fellow Mentor of the Year

Mor Alkaslasi, Graduate Student, Unit on the Development of Neurodegeneration

Photo courtesy of Ms. Alkaslasi

Ryan Dale holding his framed award certificate

Investigator Mentor of the Year

Ryan Dale, PhD, Senior Scientist, Bioinformatics and Scientific Programming Core

Photo courtesy of Dr. Dale

The sequence of informative talks continued as Dr. Ursula Kaiser, Chair of the NICHD Board of Scientific Counselors and Professor of Medicine at Harvard, delved into the genetics and epigenetics of puberty during the second keynote. Dr. Kaiser’s talk unraveled the complex genetic and hormonal interplay of puberty onset, connecting molecular intricacies to real-world implications I was particularly impressed during the final session of the day, when Dr. Kiyohito Taimatsu (postdoctoral fellow, Section on Vertebrate Organogenesis) dazzled attendees with a vibrant three-dimensional reconstruction of a zebrafish pharynx after utilizing a novel agent that he developed to make the surrounding bone and tissue transparent.

Each talk and poster during the NICHD Scientific Retreat was a thread in the rich tapestry of innovation that the Division of Intramural Research embodies, showcasing not just the depth of our scientific pursuit but the breadth of fields and ideas therein. The blend of seasoned insights from established scientists and fresh perspectives from junior researchers enriched the scientific dialogue.

As Ms. Amaressa Abiodun, one of the event’s primary organizers, aptly noted, “being together and the genuine happiness of seeing each other [shows] how important being at a venue is for building camaraderie—and maybe even the wellness of the attendees.” As I reflect on the retreat, the words of Dr. McBain echo in my mind, urging us to “step back from the science for a moment to appreciate the incredible research we do.”

The Scientific Retreat was more than a congregation of scientists; it was a celebration of the spirit of inquiry, the joy of discovery, and the promise of science fostering a better understanding of life’s complex phenomena. As a proud member of the vibrant scientific community that is the NICHD, the future seems nothing but promising.


Thank you to the 2023 Scientific Retreat Steering Committee and OSD Staff

A big thank you to the following individuals for making the 2023 Scientific Retreat a great experience for the NICHD training population.

  • Bobby Cheon, PhD, Earl Stadtman Investigator, Social and Behavioral Sciences Branch, DiPHR
  • Elizabeth DeVilbiss, PhD, MPH, MS, Research Fellow, Office of the DiPHR Director
  • Ritu Gupta, PhD, Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow, Section on Nutrient Control of Gene Expression
  • Pedro Rocha, PhD, Investigator, Unit of Genome Structure and Regulation
  • Amaressa Abiodun, Program Specialist, Office of the Scientific Director, DIR

Let us pause the regular Letter from the Editor to emphasize four important resources available to NIH fellows. If you are feeling overwhelmed by world events or experiences in your personal life, please remember the following offices and programs are here to assist you.

Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE)
https://www.training.nih.gov
The OITE mission is to enhance the training experience of students and fellows on all of the NIH campuses.
 
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
https://www.ors.od.nih.gov/sr/dohs/EAP
The purpose of the EAP is to help employees and fellows deal with personal and/or work-related issues that might adversely impact their job performance, health, and wellbeing in a confidential and neutral manner.
 
The NIH Civil Program
https://www.hr.od.nih.gov/hrguidance/civil
The Civil Program’s mission is to foster civility throughout the NIH community. Contact the Civil Program if you become aware of a workplace situation involving uncivil behavior, such as harassment, sexual harassment, inappropriate conduct, intimidation, bullying, or other unproductive, disruptive, and/or violent behaviors.
 
Ombudsman
https://www.ombudsman.nih.gov
The purpose of the Office of the Ombudsman is to reduce disputes and enhance conflict management at the NIH. They offer several services, including consultation, coaching, mediation, facilitation, and training activities.

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.