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Updated: 1 hour 43 min ago

Webinar for Bridges Applicants

Mon, 2018-08-06 09:29

Are you preparing an institutional Bridges to the Baccalaureate or Bridges to the Doctorate grant application? If so, you may have questions about the funding opportunity announcements, data tables, and FORMS-E application package required for the upcoming September 25 receipt date.

We’re offering a webinar to discuss these topics:

Thursday, August 16, from 2:00-3:30 p.m. ET

You may send questions to us (Mercedes Rubio or Patrick H. Brown) before the webinar or post them live in the chat box during the event. If you’re away from your computer, you can access the webinar from a mobile device or listen to a voice-only option by dialing 1-800-857-5163 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the participant passcode 2222558.

NIGMS Staff Participating in the August 16 Webinar:

Mercedes Rubio, Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program Director
Patrick H. Brown, Bridges to the Doctorate Program Director
Rebecca Johnson, Scientific Review Officer
Justin Rosenzweig, Grants Management Specialist

We look forward to talking to you about the Bridges programs. Slides will be posted on the Bridges to the Baccalaureate and Bridges to the Doctorate websites following the event.

Give Us Your Input on Strategies for Advancing Sepsis Research Supported by NIGMS

Mon, 2018-07-23 13:23

Although NIGMS is not the only source of federal funding for sepsis research, the Institute supports a substantial portfolio of research that includes both fundamental and clinical studies, from the molecular to the organismal, that emphasizes the host’s response rather than causative factors such as infection or injury. In an effort to more rapidly move NIGMS’ sepsis research program and its translation forward, we’ve issued a Request for Information (RFI) to obtain feedback, comments, novel ideas, and strategies that address the challenges and opportunities in sepsis research to accelerate advances in detection of and treatment for this condition.

We invite key extramural community stakeholders, including clinicians, researchers in academia and industry, and scientific societies and advocacy organizations, as well as from interested members of the public, to provide input. Topics that could be addressed include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The current barriers that hinder advancement of research related to sepsis;
  • Gaps in currently supported research areas and approaches;
  • Utility of current animal models, including the possible use of research organisms other than the standard mouse models;
  • The appropriate mix of fundamental and clinical sepsis research; and
  • The need, if any, for shared resources.

Responses can be submitted via an online form and can be anonymous. The due date for providing input is August 31, 2018.

If you have any questions about the RFI, please let me know.

Encouraging News for Women Entering Academia in the Biomedical Sciences

Mon, 2018-07-16 15:22

A recent analysis by NIGMS staff has uncovered some promising results for women entering academic positions in the biomedical sciences. The study, which published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that once men and women receive their first major NIH grant, their funding longevity is similar. The data contradict the common assumption that, across all career stages, women are at a large disadvantage compared to men.

NIGMS Deputy Director Judith H. Greenberg on key findings in the paper.

The results of the analysis should be encouraging for women interested in becoming independent investigators, since the likelihood of sustaining NIH grant support may be better than commonly perceived. You can read the full study, “NIH Funding Longevity by Gender,”  in the current edition of PNAS.

NIGMS Grantees Receive Top U.S. Mentoring Award

Fri, 2018-07-06 09:13

I’m pleased to congratulate six members of the NIGMS community who are among the recipients of the 2018 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring . They include:

The award recognizes outstanding mentors whose efforts encourage the next generation of innovators and help to develop a science and engineering workforce that reflects the diverse talent of our nation, key goals of a number of programs here at NIGMS.

Awardees received a Presidential certificate and a $10,000 grant to continue their mentoring activities at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., last month. Please join me in congratulating all winners of this prestigious honor.

Ming Lei to Direct Research Capacity Building Division

Mon, 2018-06-11 11:17

I’m pleased to announce that Ming Lei will join NIGMS later this month as the new director of our Division for Research Capacity Building. Ming is a molecular geneticist with extensive experience overseeing fellowship, career development, and training and education grant programs.

Ming is currently deputy director of the Center for Cancer Training and chief of the Cancer Training Branch at the National Cancer Institute, which he joined in 2008 as a program director. His experience before that includes leading the Genes and Genome Cluster in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the National Science Foundation, serving as an associate professor of microbiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and working as a research scientist in the Division of Biotechnology at the Monsanto Corporation in St. Louis, Missouri.

Ming’s expertise in managing far-reaching and complex programs, and his ability to effectively engage with scientists and other stakeholders, make him an ideal choice for this key position and a valuable addition to our senior leadership team.

Please join me in welcoming him to NIGMS.

For more about Ming, see our news announcement.

Analysis of NIGMS Support of Research Organisms

Tue, 2018-06-05 17:46

NIGMS is committed to supporting a wide-ranging portfolio of biomedically relevant fundamental research. As we discussed in a previous Feedback Loop post, we see this approach as the best way to increase our understanding of life. For many years, one important dimension of diversity in our scientific portfolio—the organisms scientists use to conduct their research—was limited by technical considerations. However, recent advances such as the decreasing cost of genome sequencing and the development of the CRISPR system for genetic modification now make it possible to use an expanded range of research organisms.

Applying these new technologies to the broader universe of Earth’s species, some of which have been the subject of research for many years and some of which have only recently attracted academic attention, presents an opportunity for a fresh perspective on the nature and behavior of living systems. In recognition of this opportunity, and as an extension of the recent portfolio analysis of NIH support for a subset of traditional model organisms presented by NIH’s Office of Extramural Research (OER), we decided to explore NIGMS’ support for investigator-initiated research using a subset of organisms for which historical application numbers are low. The 17 research organisms listed in Table 1 below were suggested for analysis by NIGMS program staff, who encountered them as the subject of one or more applications to NIGMS since 2008. On average, the number of applications per organism was never greater than three per year. Although this is not meant to be a comprehensive list of the rare research organisms supported by NIGMS, it spans the phylogenetic tree and is thus representative.

Myxococcus xanthus
“Rhodospirillum centenum” OR “Rhodospirillum rubrum”

“Methanococcus” OR “maripaludis”

“Zoothamnium” OR “giant ciliate”

“Echinoidea” OR “Strongylocentrotus purpuratus” OR “sea urchin”
“Cnidaria” OR “Hydra”
“Euprymna scolopes” OR “bobtail squid”
“Tribolium castaneum” OR “red flour beetle”

“Ciona intestinalis” OR “Ciano savignyi” OR “sea squirt”
“Ginglymostoma cirratum” OR “nurse shark”
“Myxini” OR “Hagfish”
“Takifugu rubripes” OR “Japanese puffer” OR “Tiger puffer” OR “pufferfish” OR “puffer fish”
“Ambystoma mexicanum” OR “axolotl”
Anolis carolinensis OR “Anolis carolinesis” OR “Carolina anole”
“Taeniopygia guttata” OR “zebra finch” OR “zebrafinch” Table 1. Seventeen Research Organisms in this Analysis and Associated Keywords
Applications were first identified by searching the text of the entire NIGMS portfolio of Research Project Grant (RPG—defined here as R01, R37, R35, DP2, R15, R24, R21, and R00 mechanisms) applications from Fiscal Years (FY) 2008 through 2016 for keywords associated with each of the 17 species (Table 1). Each application identified in this manner was read by at least two curators to confirm the use of the research organism in question. If the initial coding did not produce a consensus, the discrepancy was resolved by further discussion. This manual curation approach is consistent with the methodology employed in the above-mentioned analysis of traditional research organisms presented by OER, so the two datasets could be compared.

Figure 1. R01 Applications Received and Awards Made by NIGMS (FY 2008-2015) for Traditional and Rare Research Organisms. The 17 non-traditional research organisms designated here as rare are listed in Table 1. Five applications proposed simultaneous research on two of the research organisms shown (two on both axolotl and Carolina anole, two on both sea squirt and Methanococcus, and one on both lamprey and Japanese puffer), but were only counted once each for purposes of calculating award rates. Blue bars, applications that were not awarded; orange bars, awarded applications. Excludes American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) applications.

Figure 1 shows the number of R01 applications received and awards made by NIGMS to study the widely used research organisms Drosophila melanogaster, Xenopus laevis/tropicalis, and Danio rerio (Zebrafish) from FY 2008 to 2015; in comparison, the use of our selected 17 research organisms in R01 applications over the same time period has been relatively rare (n = 152). Consistent with existing data on trans-NIH award rates, NIGMS R01 applications that propose to study the widely used models enjoy a higher combined award rate than the overall average (Table 2; Fisher’s exact p-value < 0.0001).

Although the sample size is small, R01 applications proposing to study rare research organisms have an award rate similar to applications on Drosophila, Xenopus, and Zebrafish or the overall NIGMS R01 pool (Table 2; Fisher’s exact p-value = 0.13 and 0.50, respectively). This conclusion, which may seem contrary to expectations, is unchanged if data on applications through the end of FY 2016 and/or data on other RPG mechanisms are included in the calculation of award rates.

applications awards award rate all NIGMS 28429 6513 22.9% Drosophila, Xenopus, Zebrafish 2701 704 26.1% rare research organisms 152 31 20.4% Table 2. Number of Applications, Awards, and Award Rates for NIGMS R01s, FY 2008-2015. Award rates are determined by dividing the number of competing applications funded by the number of competing applications reviewed; if the same project is submitted more than once in the same fiscal year, the two submissions are both counted as independent attempts to secure funding. The combined award rate for Drosophila, Xenopus, and Zebrafish is significantly higher than the overall NIGMS R01 award rate; other pairwise comparisons are not statistically significant. ARRA-funded applications are excluded in all cases.

While NIGMS continues to support the use of traditional research organisms, we also welcome applications using new and unusual research organisms that propose well-justified studies relevant to the Institute’s mission. As we go forward, we will continue to monitor the distribution of support for the various organisms studied by NIGMS grantees, including how those organisms may be linked to particular areas of study. As always, we are interested to hear your thoughts on this issue, and encourage PIs who are interested in applying to NIGMS to contact a program director who manages applications close to their area of research.

We are grateful to the NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis in the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Analysis for sharing their data on Drosophila, Xenopus, and Zebrafish awards. We would also like to thank our colleagues on the NIGMS Research Organisms Working Group as well as Michael Bender, Dylan Burgoon, and Donna Krasnewich for their help with this analysis.

NIGMS Research Organisms Working Group
Jake Basson, Office of Program Planning, Analysis and Evaluation
Emily Carlson, Office of Communications and Public Liaison*
Lisa Dunbar, Office of Scientific Review
Rafael Gorospe. Division of Research Capacity Building
Sailaja Koduri, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
Paul Sammak, Division of Biophysics, Biomedical Technology, and Computational Biosciences
Kristine Willis, Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Dorit Zuk, Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

*Now with NIH’s All of Us Research Program

Wanted: Genetics, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Program Director

Thu, 2018-05-31 09:44

We’re recruiting for a program director (also known as a health scientist administrator or program officer) to manage research grant, fellowship, training, and other types of awards focused on the structure and function of cells and cellular components, and the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie inheritance, gene expression, and development. The position is in our Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology​, and it involves working collaboratively with other program directors in the division to support outstanding science in these fields. Candidates should have expertise in state-of-the-art molecular genetics, cell biology, and/or developmental biology. Familiarity with NIH extramural funding as an applicant, reviewer, or NIH scientific administrator is a plus, and outstanding written and oral communication skills are essential.

There are two vacancy announcements: one for candidates with current or former federal employment status and one for candidates without such status. Both announcements close on June 7, 2018. Please see the NIH HSA website for position requirements and application procedures. The Applying for Scientific Administration Jobs at NIGMS blog post offers additional background and tips.

Not looking for a position right now? Please help us out by forwarding this information to others who might be interested in this opportunity.

Early Notice: Concept Clearance for the Reorganization of Undergraduate and Graduate Programs to Enhance Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce

Wed, 2018-05-30 16:36

NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to developing a diverse pool of biomedical scientists through a variety of institutional training and student development programs. Based on stakeholders’ feedback through Requests for Information (NOT-GM-15-108; NOT-GM-17-017), as well as extensive analyses and discussions with NIH staff and the community, we intend to make adjustments to our programs designed to enhance the diversity in the biomedical research workforce. The modifications, which the NIGMS Council recently approved, are designed to: 1) provide equity of trainee support across programs; 2) prevent programmatic overlap; 3) align the funding strategies with the programmatic goals; 4) tailor expectation of outcomes, support mechanisms, and review considerations according to the institution’s level of research activity; and 5) strengthen our ability to evaluate the success of the programs. The changes, described in more detail in the recent Videocast of the Council Open Session, will impact the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD), the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program, and the Maximizing Access to Research Careers – Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (MARC U-STAR) programs. We don’t anticipate any immediate changes to our Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP). Possible adjustments to the Bridges to the Baccalaureate and Bridges to the Doctorate programs are currently under discussion.

Specifically, the modifications are intended to do the following:

  • Align the programmatic goals of preparing trainees for careers that have a significant impact on the health-related research needs of the Nation with the funding approach. We’ll accomplish this by transitioning from the Research Education (R25) mechanism to Training (T) mechanisms.
  • Provide equity across NIGMS programs for trainee stipends and tuition remission.
  • Create separate institutional eligibility tracks for review and funding based on NIH research project grant funding levels. The two tracks include research-intensive, i.e., those with a 3-year average of NIH research project grant (RPG) funding greater than or equal to $7.5 million, and research-active, i.e., those with a 3-year average of RPG funding less than $7.5 million (RPG data are available through NIH RePORTER).
  • Continue the MARC (NOT-GM-18-031) program to support the training of research-oriented undergraduates at research-intensive institutions.
  • Convert the current RISE research education program into two separate training programs: one to support the training of undergraduates called the Undergraduate Research Initiative for Student Enhancement, or U-RISE (NOT-GM-18-030), and the other to support graduate training towards a Ph.D. called the Graduate Research Initiative for Student Enhancement, or G-RISE (NOT-GM-18-029). RISE masters’ programs are encouraged to apply for our Bridges to the Doctorate Program. RISE programs are intended for research-active institutions.
  • Convert the current IMSD research education program into an IMSD (NOT-GM-18-028) training program that supports graduate training towards a Ph.D. at research-intensive institutions. IMSD programs that currently support undergraduates are encouraged to apply for the MARC or U-RISE program, depending on the institutional eligibility.
  • Minimize the duplication of diversity-focused NIGMS programs. Each institution will be eligible for one diversity-focused undergraduate program (either MARC or U-RISE) and one diversity-focused graduate program (either IMSD or G-RISE).
  • Tailor the programs and review considerations to the specific strengths and needs of research-active and research-intensive institutions and their students.
  • Enhance the capacity for NIGMS to monitor and evaluate program outcomes.

The figure shows the trainee pathway, including community college (CC) students, undergraduates, postbaccalaureates (Postbac), graduate master’s trainees (Graduate MS), doctoral trainees (Graduate PhD), and postdoctoral trainees. The NIGMS diversity-focused programs are color-coded to match the trainee stage supported. The figure shows how the diversity-focused programs will be placed in separate tracks based on research project grant (RPG) funding to prevent programmatic overlap and to ensure that programs at a broad range of institution types are represented. Because the Bridges programs are multi-institutional collaborations, they are not included in the tracks.

The funding announcements for these four programs to enhance diversity in the biomedical research workforce will encourage applications from training programs that do the following: focus on skills development (including an emphasis on quantitative and computational skills); promote rigor and reproducibility in research; teach the responsible and safe conduct of research;  create inclusive, safe, and supportive research environments; use evidence-based, innovative educational and mentoring practices; employ cohort-building activities and interventions that enhance the trainees’ science identity and self-efficacy; provide individualized mentoring and oversight throughout the trainees’ undergraduate or graduate careers; and introduce trainees to a variety of scientific research areas and career trajectories.

For institutions with currently funded IMSD, RISE, and MARC programs, the policies and guidance in the FOA (under which the existing programs were funded) will apply until the end of the current funding cycle. NIGMS intends to release the MARC, U-RISE, IMSD, and G-RISE funding announcements in the fall of 2018. All applications for these programs must be submitted under the new FOAs effective July 1, 2018. NIGMS will conduct extensive outreach to provide guidance while institutions and existing programs navigate the transition.

We thank the community for its ongoing feedback. As always, we welcome your comments on the Council-approved plans. Contact(s) for questions: Sailaja Koduri for MARC and IMSD; Anissa Brown for U-RISE; and Luis Cubano for G-RISE.

Give Input on Strategies to Enhance Postdoctoral Career Transitions to Promote Faculty Diversity

Tue, 2018-05-29 09:00

NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to train the next generation of biomedical scientists and support the training of students from diverse backgrounds, including groups underrepresented in biomedical research, through fellowships, career development grants, and institutional training and student development programs. These programs, and other efforts, have contributed to a substantial increase in the talent pool of well-trained biomedical Ph.D.s from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. However, increasing evidence shows that transitions of these talented scientists from postdoctoral training into independent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions is a key point at which they exit the NIH-funded research workforce. Similarly, women have earned a majority of biomedical Ph.D.s since 2008 but approximately one-third of NIH-funded principal investigators are women.

We have undertaken a number of efforts to facilitate the career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from diverse groups into the professoriate including Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards and research supplements to promote diversity in health-related research and re-entry into biomedical research careers. Additionally, we administer the NIH Common Fund’s National Research Mentoring Network, a nationwide consortium of biomedical professionals and institutions collaborating to provide biomedical trainees from all backgrounds and at all levels with evidence-based mentorship and professional development programs. While these efforts have supported the development of highly-trained biomedical scientists who have the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue independent biomedical research careers, we need additional strategies to promote transitions to independent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions.

We are seeking input from the biomedical research community and other interested groups through a Request for Information (RFI) on strategies for enhancing postdoctoral career transitions to promote faculty diversity at research-intensive institutions. Specific topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The barriers scientists from underrepresented groups face as they progress from postdoctoral training into faculty positions at research-intensive institutions, and potential strategies to overcome these barriers.
  • The qualities and perspectives that scientists from underrepresented groups bring to the research enterprise, and how these can be drawn upon to encourage and promote career transitions into the professoriate at research-intensive institutions.
  • Approaches key stakeholders (e.g., faculty advisors, institutions, scientific societies, etc.) can use to promote the successful career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from underrepresented groups into the professoriate at research-intensive institutions, and how these can be coordinated and sustained to maximize impact.
  • Current strategies that have been successful in promoting the transition of postdoctoral scientists from underrepresented groups into independent, tenure-track faculty positions.
  • Any other comments or recommendations for NIGMS to consider with respect to programs to enhance career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from diverse groups into the professoriate at research-intensive institutions.

Responses can be submitted via an online form and can be anonymous. The due date for providing input is July 20, 2018.

Webinar for Postdoctoral Research Associate Training (PRAT) Program Applicants

Tue, 2018-05-22 15:30

We’re hosting a webinar for students and fellows interested in the PRAT Program for the October 3 receipt date:

Wednesday, June 20, 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET.

PRAT is a competitive three-year fellowship program that prepares trainees for leadership positions in biomedical careers. Training includes a mentored laboratory research experience and intensive career and leadership development activities. PRAT fellows conduct research in laboratories in the NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) in basic biomedical research areas within the NIGMS mission. These areas include, but are not limited to, biological chemistry, biophysics, bioinformatics, cellular and molecular biology, computational biosciences, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience, pharmacology, physiology, and technology development.

Applicants can be graduate students considering postdoctoral research opportunities or fellows with no more than two years of postdoctoral research experience by the time of appointment to the PRAT program (late summer 2019). All applications require connecting with an investigator in the NIH IRP in advance of writing the application.

To access the webinar, visit the WebEx meeting page and enter the meeting number (access code) 625 876 209 and the password MjRSPSrH. You can also attend by phone by calling 650-479-3208. Slides will be posted on the PRAT website following the event.

NIGMS Staff and PRAT Fellows Participating in June 20 Webinar:

Kenneth Gibbs, Director, PRAT Program
Mercedes Rubio, Program Officer, PRAT Program
Amy Elliott, PRAT Fellow
Sam Golden, PRAT Fellow
Laura Corrales-Diaz Pomatto, PRAT Fellow

We look forward to talking with you about the PRAT Program.

Early-Career Speaker Describes Genomic Antics of Ancient Vertebrate, Answers Questions from Undergrads

Wed, 2018-05-02 14:08

The videocast from our April 17 Early-Career Investigator Lecture with Jeramiah Smith is now available. Jeramiah, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky, gives a fascinating talk about his genomic research with sea lampreys. He then offers advice for students interested in biomedical research careers. I encourage you to take a look and share the video with students and postdocs in your labs and departments.

We launched this annual lecture series three years ago both to highlight the achievements of our early-career grantees, and to encourage undergraduates and other students to pursue careers in biomedical research. This year, a group of nearly 30 students from the ASCEND program at Morgan State University attended in person (and asked some outstanding questions!).

Undergraduate students and three faculty members from Morgan State University attended the NIGMS Director’s Early-Career Investigator Lecture. The speaker, Jeramiah Smith, is on the far right. The students are part of a university program supported by the NIH Common Fund’s Diversity Program Consortium. Credit: Christa Reynolds.

One of Jeramiah’s tips underlies all scientific inquiry, though it might have surprised the students: “Embrace being wrong.” Rather than feeling discouraged when an experiment yields unexpected results, he encouraged students to try to understand what happened and why. That’s how science advances.

I hope you and your trainees find the lecture as inspiring as I did.

Following the lecture, Jeramiah Smith answered questions from NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch (top right) and students from Morgan State University. Credit: Chia Chi Chang.

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