NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Newest NAS Members Speak, June 8

Dr. Ronald Germain
Dr. Ronald Germain

Drs. Ronald Germain and Eugene Koonin will deliver lectures at a mini-symposium that will be held to celebrate their recent election to the National Academy of Sciences. This event will be held on Wednesday, June 8 from 10 a.m. to noon in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10. All are welcome to attend to hear about the exciting research going on in their labs. The two join the more than 40 active NIH scientists in the academy.

Germain is an NIH distinguished investigator in NIAID’s lymphocyte biology section. He studies the basic aspects of innate and adaptive immune function, with an emphasis on the biochemical mechanisms involved in the discrimination between self and foreign peptide-associated major histocompatibility complex molecules by T-cells as well as on T-cell antigen-presenting cell interactions and the subsequent delivery of effector function. Germain’s talk is titled “Developing a deep understanding of the immune system, with an emphasis on ‘system.’”

Dr. Eugene Koonin
Dr. Eugene Koonin

Koonin is a senior investigator in the evolutionary genomics research group, National Library of Medicine/National Center for Biotechnology Information. He performs research in many areas of evolutionary genomics and takes advantage of the advances in comparative genomics and systems biology to address fundamental problems in evolutionary biology. He hypothesized in 2005 that “spacer DNA” in the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) loci of bacteria and Archaea, which matched sequences of bacteriophages, could be a key part of a sort of adaptive immune system. Koonin’s talk is titled “Adventures in evolutionary genomics: from comparison of the first bacterial genomes to a new generation of genome engineering tools.”

For more information and reasonable accommodation, contact Jacqueline Roberts, (301) 594-6747 or

Rainy NLM Herb Garden Attracts Youngsters

Two children smile
At the NLM Herb Garden are Ana Hartman, age 9, and Alex Hartman, 6. Mom Laura works in the History of Medicine Division.


Who knew that medicinal herbs are such an attraction to children? Among the many activities during Take Your Child to Work Day, a visit to the National Library of Medicine Herb Garden was included. However, a mid-morning rain augured a damper on attendance at the outdoor plot. 

Much to the surprise of the Montgomery County Master Gardeners who were there to greet guests, children and their parents visited the garden in steady numbers throughout the morning into the early afternoon.

“Not only did our young visitors and their parents visit the garden, but many of them stayed quite a while asking questions of myself and the other Montgomery County Master Gardeners [Sandy Occhipinti, Selma DeLeon and Delore Leatora],” said Mary Musselman.  

The children asked which herbs might help soothe a tummy ache or treat a sore throat. Many of the youngsters were knowledgeable about the plants and their properties because they helped their parents create home gardens. In one instance, a teenager asked questions for nearly half an hour as rain poured around him. The teen said the Herb Garden was what he looked forward to most during his visit to NIH.

The Montgomery County Master Gardeners also set up a table with various dishes and asked their young visitors to guess which herbs flavored the food. “We estimate that the NLM Herb Garden had approximately 100 visitors during the day,” said Musselman.  

Musselman said she and her fellow gardeners were encouraged by the children’s interest in gardening and hoped their initial curiosity would endure through adulthood.—Judy Folkenberg

Kids, Parents Enjoy Meeting the Directors

Lauer looks on at a child listening to a woman's pulse
In Bldg. 1, NIH deputy director for extramural research Dr. Michael Lauer, a cardiologist, shares a stethoscope.

Photo:  Bill Branson, Ernie Branson

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak and NIH deputy director for extramural research Dr. Mike Lauer took time out of their busy day to host a Take Your Child to Work Day session in Bldg. 1’s Wilson Hall. More than 100 kids from grades 1-12 took part in a Meet the Directors event.

“The parents really appreciated that Francis, Larry and Mike spent time with their kids,” said Dr. Sharon Milgram, director of the Office of Intramural Training and Education. “It’s a really nice opportunity to see this side of the NIH leadership.” She introduced the leadership after talking briefly about careers in STEM. 

Collins plays his guitar
NIH director Dr. Francis Collins sings about genes and “amazing DNA.”

Photo:  Bill Branson, Ernie Branson

When he was a kid, Collins told the group, he wanted to be a truck driver, then considered being a country singer. But a teacher encouraged him to use his love of chemistry in the health field. He talked about some of today’s most pressing medical problems and said we need all kinds of people to get involved with such projects as the Cancer Moonshot and Precision Medicine Initiative to help advance health worldwide.

Collins then serenaded the room with his Walking through the Genes, to the tune of Del Shannon’s Runaway, in which the chorus goes: “I wonder why, you’ve got an A and I’ve got a G there; what does that say? Amazing DNA.”  

Tabak then hosted a spirited game of NIH Jeopardy, featuring questions drafted by OITE staff. With clickers in hand, kids chose clues from two categories: Doctors and Weird Health Facts. All children left with a certificate of participation.—Dana Talesnik

Tabak speaks to several children
NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak hosts a segment of NIH Jeopardy.

Photo:  Bill Branson, Ernie Branson

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Assistant Editor: Eric Bock (link sends e-mail)

Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)