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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

After 20 Years, Edmonds Retires from NIGMS

Dr. Charles G. Edmonds

Dr. Charles G. Edmonds

Dr. Charles G. Edmonds retired from his position as program director in NIGMS’s Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics recently, putting a cap on a remarkable globe-trotting, highly interdisciplinary career. 

At NIH and beyond, Edmonds is well-regarded for his scientific and administrative contributions in biochemical analysis and structural biology. He is a card-carrying mass spectrometrist and an enthusiastic supporter of what he calls “gizmotronics,” the development of new instruments, methods and technologies to solve biological problems. 

Edmonds grew up in the Midwest and received his B.S. from the University of Missouri. Military service as a medical laboratory specialist interrupted his graduate studies, but following his service, Edmonds resumed graduate work in Glasgow, Scotland. There, he developed study methods for human steroids and sterol natural products; met his wife, Valerie; and took up the sport of climbing. 

He returned to the U.S. to postdoctoral work in geochemistry and renewable energy at UC Berkeley. He then studied natural products from Amazonian plants and animals as an employee of the National Research Council of Brazil. Later, during a second postdoc at the University of Utah, he contributed to the discovery of novel modified nucleotides in transfer RNAs and the development of new methods of mass spectrometry analysis, while pursuing skiing and mountaineering. 

Before joining NIH in 1997, Edmonds was a program director with the office of biological and medical research at the Department of Energy and, prior to that, a senior staff scientist at Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where he studied how radiation and chemical damage can modify nucleic acids and proteins in cells. 

Edmonds played a significant role in the NIGMS program of structural genomics and other trans-NIH initiatives. He was responsible for overseeing the NIGMS (joint with NCI) investment in the GM/CA synchrotron beamline for structural biology at Argonne National Laboratory, which has become one of the most valuable resources for X-ray diffraction studies of molecular structure. 

Edmonds frequently organized workshops to share knowledge of the enabling technologies for protein production, crystallization and structure determination. He handled a large portfolio of research grants and showed exceptional initiative in utilizing the SBIR/STTR grant mechanisms to promote innovative science.

Among the many things Edmonds said he will miss about working at NIH is his “ringside seat for world-class science.” He added, “I will also miss my opportunity to interact with the physicians, scientists and engineers supported by NIGMS. I admire and envy them (mostly) and get a vicarious reward from their success.”  

While at NIGMS, Edmonds pursued his interest in public health, obtained a graduate certificate therein and served on details to Kenya and to the public health laboratory division in the D.C. department of forensic sciences. “I understand and endorse the argument that basic science is necessary to eventually have something to translate into improved diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease, but I have admired and envied my colleagues in the categorical institutes and elsewhere who are on or near the field of battle,” said Edmonds.  

“Charles has had an exceptionally interesting life, full of adventure and challenge,” said Dr. Peter Preusch, acting director of the Cell Biology and Biophysics Division, NIGMS. “He has been a terrific colleague and friend who will be difficult to replace.” 

Edmonds is known for a wry wit that reflects his time in the U.K. and his classical education. His colleagues at NIGMS and throughout NIH will miss him. In recent years, he has taken up sailing, and colleagues wish him well as he and Valerie sail off into retirement together. 

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