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Scientists in the Community

By: Debbie | March 30 2012 | Category: Science Lite, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

On March 15 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director, Francis Collins, visited Bladensburg High School where he played guitar, sang, and spoke to students in the biomedical sciences program about exciting new research advances and rewarding careers in science & technology. Collins visited the students as part of the USA Science & Engineering Festival’s Nifty Fifty (times 2) program intended to help foster middle and high school student interest in science and engineering. The Bladensburg High School event was also a precursor to the second annual Festival that will be held April 28-29 at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center. Don’t worry if you missed this performance. You can see Dr. Collins perform at the Festival on Sunday, April 29, at 11:30 a.m. on Curie Stage.

You can read more about Dr. Collins' Bladensburg High School visit in a recent article.

For timely updates about science education, STEM, NIH research, and health and medical science, you can follow the NIH Office of Science Education through multiple channels:
By: Debbie | March 19 2012 | Category: Science News, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Photo of Elizabeth GriceElizabeth Grice studies the bacteria that live on human skin. Her research sheds light on why chronic wounds don't heal and might point to new treatments for diabetic foot ulcers and other skin conditions. 

Read more about Elizabeth Grice in the latest issue of Findings, a publication of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH.

For timely updates about science education, STEM, NIH research, and health and medical science, you can follow the NIH Office of Science Education through multiple channels:
By: Debbie | November 16 2011 | Category: Issues in Education, Research & Technology, Science News, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Journal of Emerging Investigators Promotional ImageCalling all future scientists--a group of Harvard University graduate students has created the new Journal of Emerging Investigators (JEI). Students in middle and high school can submit their own original research and review articles to JEI--an open-access journal focused on the natural and physical sciences. Students can learn about the scientific review process and receive feedback from Ph.D. students working in specific areas of research. Top submissions will be accepted for publication in their online journal so that emerging young scientists like you can be recognized and your exciting work can be shared with the public.

JEI is now accepting submissions. You can learn more about this exciting new journal at:  www.emerginginvestigators.orgExternal Web Site Policy.
By: Debbie | October 19 2011 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News, Scientists in the Community

Image of SciLife poster and photo of the October 15, 2011, event.About 200 high school students, parents, and educators from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area recently attended SciLife®: The College Experience at Trinity Washington University. SciLife® is a free annual event sponsored by the National Institutes of Health Office of Science Education. SciLife® is modeled after the highly successful Biomedical Science Careers Program, founded in 1991 by Joan Reede, Dean for Diversity and Community Partnership, Harvard Medical School.

Those who attended the October 15 SciLife® program participated in a variety of workshops where they received information and advice that will help them prepare for college—especially for careers in the health and biomedical sciences. During the morning, students and parents learned about the college application process and how to ensure a smooth transition from high school to college. Afternoon workshops included panels of college students and professors who helped students understand the realities of college life and what will be expected of them once they make the transition to college.

As with past SciLife® programs, attendees thought that the event provided an invaluable experience for students and their parents and that the information provided helped to inform and prepare students as they pursue their education beyond high school.
Visit the SciLife® Web site to stay informed about next year’s college and career planning event.
By: Debbie | August 19 2011 | Category: NIH Resources, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Kedar Narayan-Chris Stanely-Karen Sillers
We're happy to announce that we've just posted three new video interviews on our LifeWorks Career Exploration Web site. You can watch them with your browser or download them as QuickTime movies.
You can also click on the links here for more information:

Kedar Narayan, Immunologist

Kedar's video and interview
More information about a career as an Immunologist

Chris Stanley, Biomedical Engineer

Chris' video and interview
More information about a career as an Biomedical Engineer

Karen Sillers, Pharmacist

Karen's video and interview
More information about a career as a Pharmacist

More video interviews are in the works.
By: Margaret | April 28 2011 | Category: Issues in Education, NIH Resources, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Don’t miss the chance to hear directly from children’s mental health experts at an upcoming free event that celebrates National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Watch a videocast to learn about the state of the science in children’s mental health and explore topics ranging from normal brain development to anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.

What:  Connect the Dots: Understanding Children’s Mental Health Panel
When:  May 3rd from 2:00 to 3:30 PM EST
Where:  By Videocast

The expert panel features Drs. Ellen Leibenluft, Daniel Pine, Jay Giedd, and Benedetto Vitiello and is moderated by Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Register to watch the Connect the Dots videocast.
By: Gloria, Margaret | March 28 2011 | Category: Science Lite, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Dr. Yvette Laclaustra working with patients in Haiti.March, Women’s History Month, is a time to celebrate achievements of women. This year’s theme--Our History Is Our Strength--pays tribute to the millions of women who are instrumental in creating a better world. They are the Marie Curies of today, able to excel in fields in which women were historically underrepresented. Many of these women have a connection to NIH. Some are featured in our free, award-winning Women Are Scientists video series--a partnership between the Office of Science Education and the Office of Research on Women's Health. Join us as we honor a couple of the exceptional women highlighted in these five DVDs!

In the words of a reader responding to an April 2010 SciEd blog post, the videos “add to a gathering perception that women should participate in greater numbers in fields of science. These videos also provide insights for encouraging lifelong curiosity and intellectual engagement. Many of the fundamentals in these videos apply to getting America's kids engaged in lifelong learning. For example, in the Women Are Researchers video, one interviewee discusses how having books and engaging materials around her house growing up helped her to become the researcher she is today.”

That’s Connie Noguchi, Ph.D., who advises students to “play hard.” She’s not only a researcher and the dean of the Graduate School at the NIH Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences, but also a black belt in Karate and mother of two. Connie says that developing skills in one activity or sport, rather than dabbling in many, helps her develop the kind of focus she also needs for her scientific research. To students who may want to follow in her career path, Connie says, “Learn as much basic science as you can, including taking math, chemistry, physics, and biology classes. Develop your reading and writing skills so that you will be able to communicate with other scientists and learn about what has been done before.”

In her professional life, Connie gave back for many years by hosting teacher interns in her lab at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. She shared research experiences that could be transmitted back to classrooms. Connie’s current passion is finding the best ways to treat sickle cell anemia.

The Women Are Surgeons video highlights women such as Yvette Laclaustra, a trauma surgeon, breast surgeon, wife, and mother of three. “There is nothing more honorable and spiritually rewarding than being a surgeon,” says Laclaustra, whose goal is to alleviate human suffering. She was on a volunteer team that did more than 100 surgeries and procedures in Honduras in 2004 through 2006 for the Light of the World Surgical Mission. She also spent five days in Haiti in 2010 doing hernia repairs, wound care, and mastectomies.

Born and educated in Puerto Rico, she is now on staff at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, and has a private practice in general surgery. She serves on the Susan G. Komen South Florida Race for the Cure Leadership T eam. Yvette uses her considerable talents to pave the way for women and minorities to follow their career paths with a little greater ease.

Read more about Yvette and other women who have changed the face of medicine at the National Library of Medicine online exhibition

For information on student internships and opportunities at NIH, visit the OSE Website.
By: Debbie | July 1 2010 | Category: NIH Resources, Scientists in the Community

2010 Science in the Cinema PosterThe 2010 Science in the Cinema schedule is set, and it looks like a terrific lineup! This is the 17th year we’ve held this event in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Hosted by the National Institutes of Health Office of Science Education (OSE), the six- week summer film and discussion series will again be held at the beautiful American Film Institute Theatre and Cultural CenterExternal Web Site Policy in Silver Spring, Maryland.

We show all our films with captions or English subtitles and provide American Sign Language interpreters and real-time captioning for the postfilm discussions.

You’ll find it at

Are free! We expect a full house each evening and cannot guarantee tickets in advance. You may pick up tickets (up to four per person) at the AFI Silver Theatre Box Office beginning at 4:00 p.m. the day of show only.

The program starts at 7:00 p.m. After a brief introduction to the film, we show it in its entirety. Right after the screening, a guest speaker comments on the health and medical aspects of the film as well as its accuracy. The speaker then fields questions from the audience.

If you have questions about Science in the Cinema, please visit our Web site or contact OSE at
Telephone: 401-402-2470
By: Gina | May 18 2010 | Category: Science and the Arts, Science Lite, Scientists in the Community

Photograph of Ryam MiyakawaThe USA Science & Engineering Festival External Web Site Policy just announced winners of their jingle contest.  The entries were great and the winning jingles awesome. Listen to the tunesExternal Web Site Policy on the Festival Web site. 

The winning jingle was composed by Ryan Miyakawa a Ph.D. student in applied science and technology at UC Berkeley.  Second place was taken by Daniel Rubalsky, a 15-year old tenth-grader from Reisterstown, MD.

Ryan's song, "Come and Play at the USA Science and Engineering Festival!", is sung by UC Berkeley undergraduate Glory Liu with the help of seven-year-old Noa Perlmutter (daughter of well-known UC Berkeley astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter) and 11 year-old Kassie Demopoulous  (daughter of Glory's thesis advisor).

The second place prize to Daniel was added by Festival organizers because his song received so many votes from the public.  (And a good decision it was!)  The song, "The Science Festival is Coming," is performed by Daniel and his four-member band, State the Name.

Come to the two day USA Science & Engineering Expo on the National Mall October 23 &24th.  Not in the DC area? Check out the USA Science & Engineering Festival External Web Site Policy Web site to find a satellite festival near you.  Satellite festivals will run from October 10th -24th.

By: Dave | April 29 2010 | Category: Scientists in the Community

NIH Director Francis Collins addresses studentsIn celebration of National Lab DayExternal Web Site Policy, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins visited McKinley Technology High SchoolExternal Web Site Policy in Washington, DC to talk about DNA, evolution, and life. Dr. Collins spent the morning of April 27th with 80 Biology I and AP Biology students. Not only did the students get to hear about the latest advances in medical research and preview new lessons on evolution and medicine, they had the opportunity to ask questions of one the leading experts on the human genome.

During the visit, Dr. Collins emphasized what makes science and discovery so cool. The students didn't just talk science. They did it by extracting the DNA from strawberries.

In a recent letter, Dr. Collins challenged NIH employees and grantees to become involved with K-12 education by participating in National Lab Day. The goal of National Lab Day is to link the needs of teachers with the skills of local scientists and engineers.

Despite the name, National Lab Day is an on-going project, and there's still time to get involvedExternal Web Site Policy.

Need ideas? The NIH Office of Science Education has developed a new resource for scientists volunteering for education.
By: Gloria | April 9 2010 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

DNA Day LogoHave you ever wanted to talk directly to the top minds in the field of genomics research? Well, get your thoughts in order and get those questions lined up because you will have the chance to chat one-on-one with experts in celebration of National DNA Day.

According to Carla Easter, Ph.D., science education specialist at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), genomics and genetics experts will be available at the DNA Day Chatroom on Friday, April 23, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EDT to answer questions from students, teachers, and the general public on topics such as basic genetics research, the genetic basis of disease, and ethical questions about genetic privacy. Transcripts from previous DNA Day chatrooms are also available on the NHGRI Web site.

One of my favorite exchanges from last year was, “What would someone do after getting their undergraduate degree if they were inclined to study DNA or genetics?” Current NHGRI director, Eric Green, offered up a list of options:

  • Get a job working in a genetics laboratory.
  • Become a genetics counselor.
  • Get a Ph.D. and become a genetics researcher.
  • Get an M.D. and become a medical geneticist.
  • Become a computer scientist and help us interpret information about our genomes.

In the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, 35 NHGRI scientist ambassadors will be visiting schools through May to talk about job opportunities in genomic research. They will also help students plan their professional careers in genetics and genomics. For more information on potential careers in genomic sciences visit NHGRI's Genomic Careers Web Site.

The American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG) is sponsoring a variety of events that help K-12 students, teachers, and the public learn more about how genetics and genomics affect their lives. You can visit the ASHG DNA Day pageExternal Web Site Policy for more information about ASHG-sponsored activities.

What are you doing for DNA Day this year?
By: Margaret | April 7 2010 | Category: Science Lite, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Women Are Scientists Poster CompositeI’ve been interested in the underrepresentation of women in certain careers since college, when I minored in women’s studies. As a working mom, I’m also interested in how women balance career and family life. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the NIH Women Are Scientists video series so much. It highlights successful women scientists and doctors who have overcome obstacles—including physical disabilities—and achieved a rewarding career and a healthy work-life balance.

This award-winning series—which is FREE and can be downloaded or viewed online or on DVD—was developed by a colleague here in the office and former high school science teacher. The videos—geared toward middle school students—are fast-moving, showing the rapid pace of an emergency room or genetics lab, the  intricacies of surgery, the calm intensity of a psychotherapy session, and more. Anyone can use them—teachers, guidance counselors, students, physicians—at career days, science clubs, etc. This series is a partnership between the Office of Science Education and the Office of Research on Women's Health.

One of my favorites is the Women Scientists with Disabilities video. I loved learning about women like Bertha Melgoza, who lost her sight from a childhood illness and faced a tough future in Mexico. Over the course of nine years of weekly transfusions, Melgoza’s doctor spurred her interest in sociology and encouraged her to attend his lectures. With this foundation, Melgoza asked herself: “What do people do to turn this pain into strength?” Now she is a successful clinical psychologist in the U.S. with a husband, a son and a full spiritual life.

Always a fan of Star Trek, I enjoyed the introduction to the Women Are Researchers video, narrated by Gates McFadden, who played Dr. Beverly Crusher in the TV series. McFadden introduces three real-life extraordinary women researchers who have overcome gender, ethnic, and physical barriers to become successful biomedical researchers. One of those researchers, Judith Pachciarz, was initially denied the right to attend college decades ago due to her hearing impairment. But that didn’t stop her. She went to court to gain admission and went on to earn an M.D. and a Ph.D. Her advice to young girls: “Look at every obstacle as something to be overcome to develop your character.”

Even my daughter, who’s only 10, was captivated by the fictional detective story of a teenage girl in the Women Are Pathologists video. The girl learns about the field of pathology as she discovers that her sister has cervical cancer and is keeping it a secret. We see pathologists working in the subspecialties of forensic, surgical, and academic pathology.

Each of the other two videos—Women in Dental Research and Woman are Surgeons—also shows three amazing women performing life-saving surgery, fighting AIDS, conducting research, teaching new physicians, and giving children free dental care and offers glimpses into their private lives.

I think young women seeking role models for success in medical science would be really inspi red by t his series. I’m eager to hear what you think of the videos and how you use them.
By: Debbie | January 28 2010 | Category: NIH Resources, Scientists in the Community

Connected computer miceI always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in science, but figuring out how to achieve my goals was another matter altogether. My parents were not college graduates. Although they supported my career goals, they were unable to offer the guidance I needed. I could have used advice on things like: how to finance a college education, how to choose a major, and how to navigate my career options after earning my bachelors degree. I wonder now how differently my career path might have been if a mentor had been there to guide me along the way.
The NIH has taken a very proactive role in helping high school and college students to pursue careers in behavioral and social science, biomedical science, dental, and healthcare careers. Through its LifeWorks® E-mentoring program, students are linked via e-mail with e-mentors who provide them with relevant information, guidance and support.
The NIH continues to recruit new mentors to support students nationwide. If you are an undergraduate student, university professor, postdoctoral fellow, independent researcher, or healthcare worker interested in becoming a mentor, visit the LifeWorks® E-mentoring Web site for more information.
High school and undergraduate students, if you are interested in finding a mentor, visit the LifeWorks® E-mentoring Web site to learn what you need to get started.
By: Gina | January 8 2010 | Category: Science Lite, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

National Lab Day logo

What is National Lab Day?

National Lab Day (NLD) is more than just a day. It’s a nationwide movement to bring more high-quality, hands-on, discovery-based lab experiences to students in U.S. middle and high schools. To accomplish this, NLD fosters collaborations of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals with educators and students both in and out of school. Activities go on throughout the year, culminating in a May NLD celebration to recognize the projects and their achievements.

Who is National Lab Day?

National Lab Day is a partnership among federal agencies, foundations, professional societies, and other STEM-related organizations. Involved federal agencies include the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy. Supporting foundations include the Gates Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. Over 200 professional organizations—with a combined membership of 6.2 million—are working to make National Lab Day a success. The National Science Teachers Association and the American Chemical Society are coordinating the professional organization efforts.

How does National Lab Day work?

Step 1 for requestors. Teachers, museums, and after-school programs post their needs on the NLD websiteExternal Web Site Policy.
Educators set the agenda for NLD. They know their students and their needs. Requests might be for lab equipment, one-on-one mentoring from a scientist, a visit to a working lab, tech support, help with a lesson plan, up-to-date career information, help with a science fair project, chaperones for a field trip, or just an extra set of hands for a class project.

Step 1 for volunteers. Volunteers register and list their skills, expertise, and access to resources on the NLD websiteExternal Web Site Policy .
While all kinds of volunteers are needed, scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematics undergraduate and graduate students and professionals are particularly encouraged to participate.  They can convey the challenges, rewards, and promise of their careers, and inspire the next generation of scientists and innovators.

Step 2. Requestors and volunteers receive a list of potential partners and connect with them.
After posting a request for volunteers or resources on the NLD websiteExternal Web Site Policy , the requestor will be emailed a list of local volunteers. Requestors can contact the volunteers on the list or browse for others and begin to form a local community of support —university students, scientists, engineers, professionals, and others—who will work with them to achieve their objectives.
Volunteers will also be emailed a list of local opportunities and will be able to browse requests and respond with offers to help according to the needs of the re questors.

Step 3. Have fun together helping students learn.
By: Gina | January 7 2010 | Category: Science Lite, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Festival Name surrounded by icons representing different aspaects of science 

USA Science & Engineering Festival coming soon, the first national event

What is the universe made of? Why did dinosaurs go extinct? What do magic tricks and hip-hop have to with math? What can amphibians and reptiles tell us about the environment? What do engineers have to do with baseball? Kids (and adults) will have a chance to find out at the first ever USA Science & Engineering FestivalExternal Web Site Policy Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 23 & 24th, 2010.

The Expo is the pinnacle event of the inaugural USA Science & Engineering FestivalExternal Web Site Policy that will be celebrated all over the United States. The Festival is a collaboration of over 500 of the nation’s leading science and engineering organizations.

You can help make the USA Science & Engineering FestivalExternal Web Site Policy a truly national experience by hosting a Satellite Event in your area. Whether you are a student club, school, university, community organization or company, you can put on your own celebration of science the same weekend that thousands of people celebrate science in the National Mall. The organizers are working to have hundreds of Satellite Events throughout the country, anchored to the Expo on the Mall. You can make your Event as small or as big as you want. It can be a single activity put on by your student club, a small celebration at your school or company, a larger event that involves organizations from your community, or a full fledged Festival modeled after the USA Science & Engineering FestivalExternal Web Site Policy .

You create it, and the festival organizers will help you market it by including your information on their website and in their newsletters. That way, anyone in the nation can check our website to see what’s happening in their backyard the weekend of the Expo. It’s a great way to get your community excited about science, and to put your organization on the national map. Check out the USA Science & Engineering FestivalExternal Web Site Policy website for more information.

By: Cindy, Gloria, Joanne | December 8 2009 | Category: Science History, Scientists in the Community

Tom Cech PhotoIn Light of New Evidence...

For years, we taught that “not all proteins are enzymes, but all enzymes are proteins.” By 1989, though, we knew that was wrong, thanks to research by that year’s winners of the Nobel PrizeExternal Web Site Policy in Chemistry.

Thomas R. Cech, born December 8, 1947, and fellow Nobel laureate Sidney Altman discovered that RNA is not just a passive information carrier. It can also catalyze chemical reactions in living cells.

In 1982, Cech’s research group at the University of Colorado, Boulder, showed that an RNA molecule from Tetrahymena, single-celled pond organisms, cut and rejoined chemical bonds in the complete absence of proteins. The discovery of self-splicing RNA was the first evidence against the long-held belief that proteins always catalyze reactions. RNA enzymes, or ribozymes, efficiently cleave -- and thereby destroy -- viral RNAs.
As an undergraduate at Grinnell College, Tom Cech became interested in physical chemistry. By the time he left, though, he’d realized that his personality wasn’t suited to physical chemistry research.

He discovered, he says in his autobiographyExternal Web Site Policy for the Nobel Foundation, that “I didn’t have a long enough attention span for the elaborate plumbing and electronics of gas-phase chemical physics.” He was then drawn to biological chemistry because “of the almost daily interplay of experimental design, observation, and interpretation.” As a postdoc at MIT, he strengthened his knowledge of biology and, he says, “enjoyed being part of the interactive science scene” there.
As we learn more about the science we study, we often find that we have to change what we hold as truth. We also learn what type of research is most compatible with our personality. We must give ourselves permission to change the text of our lessons and the direction of our studies.

Tom Cech gave himself permission to change his course and became a Noble laureate and, from January 2000 to April 2009, director of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
By: Gina | November 24 2009 | Category: Issues in Education, NIH Resources, Scientists in the Community

Cartoon people holding interlocking puzzle pieces.  One is labeled scientist.  The other educator.In response to President Obama’s new Educate to Innovate initiative and to support National Lab Day, the NIH Office of Science Education has added a new section to their Website - NIH Science Education Nation (SciEd Nation).  

SciEd Nation is designed for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students and professionals interested in learning more about or becoming more involved in K-12 education in the United States.

At SciEd Nation science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students and professionals can:
•    Find out how U.S. students stack up to students around the world in reading, mathematics, science, and problem solving skills
•    Learn about contemporary K-12 schools and the typical day in the life of a teacher
•    Discover how to partner with teachers and schools to improve U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education
•    Learn how to enhance tangible support for science education among colleagues, managers, and administrators
•    Locate reference materials on education, education policy, communicating science, and partnership funding sources
•    Read about successful partnerships and their strategies for success as well as download “How-To-Guides” for common partnership activities

Stay tuned as more tips and resources are added to SciEd Nation over the next few months.
By: Cynthia | November 13 2009 | Category: NIH Resources, Scientists in the Community

Students attending SciLife event SciLife is an annual college- and career-planning program for high school students and their parents. It’s sponsored by the NIH, Office of Science Education, and Washington, D.C. area education leaders.

SciLife program planners, including me, believe this year’s program was better than ever. Nearly 300 students and their parents joined us on the NIH campus, October 24th.

A highlight of the day was Dr. Lonise Bias’s External Web Site Policy tear-inducing keynote address. She is an internationally known motivational speaker and the founder of The Abundant Life Resources A More Excellent Way LLC, a community service resource. “Our youth are reachable, teachable, lovable, and savable,” said Bias.

Bias also shared her story of how the deaths of her two sons propelled her into action and service. Her son Len died in 1986 of cocaine intoxication, two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics. Four years later, her son Jay became the victim of a drive-by shooting at a shopping mall. 

Each year, our SciLife team strives to improve the program by heeding the advice and suggestions of participating students and parents. Now in it’s fourth year, our efforts are paying off. (See previous SciLife blog.)

This year’s event gets high scores because
  • of an improved registration process, resulting in fewer phone calls to the office
  • program check-in was smoother and less harried than in previous years
  • the simple schedule allowed participants to get their preferred workshops
  • we posted our first post-event slide show online

We have a couple of plans to tweak the program further. First, we are doing a thorough evaluation of the program this time. Second, we started a SciLife teen advisory board to help us plan the 2010 program. We hope these measures will take the program to even greater heights of success.
By: Gina | October 29 2009 | Category: Science Lite, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

A photo of a sign with text 'University Road'Like I said, I get bored easily. After a while, I got tired of investigating things that my boss wanted to study and wanted to try out some new ideas of my own. That meant I needed my own lab, which in turn meant I needed my own faculty position at a university. Getting one of those is not as easy as it sounds, but I worked hard and succeeded.

Great! Now all I needed was money. To get that, I needed to write a grant. Who would have thought that I would have to be a good writer to be a scientist? Between writing articles for scientific journals and applying for grants, I spent a lot of my time writing. Worse yet, my research involved doing experiments with mice and collecting blood from people. Both require special approval. I did lots of paper work to explain why it made scientific sense to study mice and collect human blood. I had to show how I was going to minimize any possible distress for the mice and protect the health and privacy of my human volunteers. As a new kid on the block, it was all pretty overwhelming, but I survived and got my lab going.

Of course, professors teach, too, so I spent a lot of my time doing that. I taught undergraduate and graduate courses and had students and postdocs in my lab doing research. In the summer, I even worked with some high school students. One fun thing about being a scientist is meeting people from all over the world. I had people from India, Iran, Egypt, Mexico, Russia, Serbia, and China working in my lab. I worked with other faculty from Nigeria, Romania, Germany, Canada, and Brazil, among others. Today, my three closest friends are a German, a Bulgarian, and an American.

There is a third part of being a university professor, but more about that next time.
By: Gina | October 28 2009 | Category: Science Lite, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Photo of two feet standing amongst a number of arrows pointing to different paths to chose from.When it came time to leave my fellowship, I was still crazy about doing experiments in the laboratory. To keep doing lab work, I could choose between an industry and a university lab. (I didn’t know it at the time, but I could have considered one of the many government labs, too.) I decided on an academic job because, frankly, I still liked being able to play basketball in the middle of the day. I found a job working in a lab with a professor who was studying how genes get turned on and off. Oops! Did I change research areas again? Well, I get bored easily!

One of my best friends who also loved working in the lab took a job in industry. No more midday sports, but he had kids and wanted to work regular hours. It was perfect for him. Besides, industry usually pays better than academia.

Another friend still loved science but just didn’t want to work in a laboratory any more. She got a job in a university office that helps scientists patent and commercialize their discoveries. Her job was to work with the lawyers in the office to help them better understand the science behind the products and devices they were helping commercialize.

While I was looking for my job, I heard from a friend from my old theoretical chemistry days. He had become a full-time musician. He was applying all his computer skills to making electronic music.

Whew! We all got jobs, said our goodbyes, and moved to Seattle, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and Boston.
By: Gina | October 22 2009 | Category: Science Lite, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Two feed holding a basketballTwenty years ago, I had finished my Ph.D. and was working as a postdoctoral fellow. That means I was working in the lab pretty much all day every day. Since I got my Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry, chemistry that uses computers not test tubes, you might think I spent my postdoc days in front of a computer. Nope! I was working in a biochemistry lab. Huh? Well, in the late 1980s, there weren’t a lot of jobs for theoretical chemists. Luckily, a science education opens doors, and I had offers to work in all kinds of labs. I liked biochemistry, so I chose that. 

Early on, I spent my days reading scientific papers to learn what other scientists were doing, and then I used that knowledge and my training in the scientific method to design and plan experiments. When things went well and I made new discoveries, my boss and I wrote papers and sent them to scientific journals for publication. After a bunch of other scientists reviewed them and we answered their questions and maybe did a few more experiments, they were published. It usually took a year or two to get one paper published.

It wasn’t all work. I also spent a good part of many days playing touch football and basketball. One good thing about being a scientist is that in many labs, you can work pretty much whatever hours you want. Of course, if I played basketball during the day, I was in the lab working late at night (even after I broke my foot-- twice!).
By: Gina | October 20 2009 | Category: Science Lite, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Crossword cubes photoEver wonder what a scientist does all day? As a scientist, I have a pretty good idea. OK, at least I know what some of my scientist friends and I do. And what I do now is very different from what I did 10 years ago, which was different from what I did 10 years before that. There’s clearly plenty of room for growth and change as a scientist. Becoming a scientist does not mean you need to spend the rest of your life in the lab, but you can if you want. Some of my friends still do just that – working in the lab is their passion. But I, like many other scientists, have taken a career path that uses my scientific training not just to make new discoveries in the laboratory but also in ways you might never have imagined.

I want to share my story and those of a few of my friends and show you that being a scientist can be fun and challenging and take you in many directions. Look for my blogs on the next few Tuesdays and Thursdays:

  • Work Hard, Play Hard: Life as a Postdoc
  • Get a Real Job!
  • A Day in the Life of a Professor
  • Moving to Washington
  • Retirement: Girls Just Want to Have Fun
By: Gloria | October 5 2009 | Category: Scientists in the Community

Arlyn Perez_gracia PhotoIn 1992, I celebrated with a young enthusiastic researcher, Arlyn Garcia-PerezExternal Web Site Policy, who had just  achieved tenure at the National Institutes of Health. Today, she serves as the Assistant Director of the Office of Intramural Research, in the Office of the Director. Dedicated to empowering women and minorities in science, Arlyn has mentored many other young scientists along her career path. Her abiding love of science is evident when she speaks about her research. Her enthusiasm is infectious to all who listen. She says she fell in love with the lab as an undergraduate at Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyExternal Web Site Policy. Instead of prescribing medicines, she wanted to discover them. In graduate school at Michigan State UniversityExternal Web Site Policy, the molecular view of renal physiology captured her interest. At NIH, she works tirelessly for women and minority groups because she believes that they lack mentors more then others. Her advice to young scientists is to build strong credentials early because there is no greater equalizer.

Arlyn is an example of an outstanding scientist who has achieved great success in her career. We celebrate her and many others during Hispanic Heritage Month. This month we recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the United States and to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture. Our celebration can continue all year round when we strive to mentor and support scientists of all ages. Look for opportunities in your community to encourage those who are interested in the sciences to follow their dreams and meet their goals.
By: Cynthia | September 25 2009 | Category: Science Lite, Scientists in the Community

Now here is something you don't see every day - the Director of the National Institutes of Health performing onstage with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry External Web Site Policy at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center yesterday. Dr. Francis Collins' performance at the event – Rock Stars of Science Briefing and Tribute External Web Site Policy – is part of a campaign to honor scientists, encourage science as a career choice, and call for further research funding.

Elected leaders, politicians, prominent scientists, and rock stars participating in the event share a common mission: to accelerate the science, from research bench to bedside, so that cures can be found for life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

Collins shared the stage with Perry and Harvard professor Rudy Tanzi External Web Site Policy who played the harmonica. The trio received a standing ovation when Collins led the vocals on a Bob Dylan tune, The Times They Are A-Changin’ . Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci gave a special presentation about the search for an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine and the announcement of some promising results from a trial in Thailand.

The event was sponsored by Geoffrey Beene Gives Back External Web Site Policy , Research!America External Web Site Policy , the Alzheimer’s Association External Web Site Policy , Wyeth Extern  al Web Site Policy , Elan External Web Site Policy , and GQ External Web Site Policy . The event was also conducted in cooperation with the Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus and the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease. ABC News anchor Terry Moran External Web Site Policy emceed the event and moderated discussions.

Watch CNN’s video External Web Site Policy of Joe Perry at the briefing, talking about the need for more scientists and his early hopes of becoming a marine biologist.

By: Cynthia | August 25 2009 | Category: NIH Resources, Scientists in the Community

Happy StudentsFor students interested in a health or medical science career, early planning is critical. Taking the appropriate courses in high school, in addition to academic achievement, can make or break college entrance into the program of choice.

To help students get a head start, the NIH Office of Science Education (OSE) developed SciLife, which offers high school students and their parents a series of practical workshops on college planning and career exploration in the health and medical sciences. The OSE program is modeled after the highly successful Biomedical Science Careers Program, founded in 1991 by Joan Reede, Dean for Diversity and Community Partnership, Harvard Medical School.

OSE uses customer survey data to further enhance the SciLife event each year. The surveys reveal that the top three interests of students and their parents are: college planning, choosing a career, and financing an education. In addition, they wish for more in depth information on specific careers, and guidance on topics such as balancing life, handling stress, test taking strategies, and internet safety. OSE partners with area Federal and industry leaders in these specialties to provide this information and enrich the program.

Now in its fourth year, SciLife offers an extra Spring workshop in addition to the annual Fall program. In answer to student requests, the Spring workshop will provide in depth guidance on choosing a career. Online registration for the Fall and Spring programs opened August 24 for students and their parents in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
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