Vollberg Departs NIH After 28 Years of Service
Dr. Thomas Vollberg, director of NIMHD’s Office of Extramural Research Administration (OERA), has retired after 28 years of meritorious service to NIH.
“I had a fulfilling career at NIH,” he said. “I was proud to be part of a noble mission and to have the opportunity to contribute through effective collaborations across institutes and centers in my various roles. I felt valued and respected and it was my distinct honor to work with colleagues who were just as passionate about carrying out NIH’s mission.”
Vollberg’s NIH career began at NIEHS in 1987 as a staff fellow in the Laboratory of Pulmonary Pathobiology. He left in 1993 to join the faculty in biomedical sciences at Creighton University School of Medicine. He returned to NIH in 2000 as an NCI scientific review officer (SRO) in the Special Review and Logistics Branch in the Division of Extramural Activities (DEA).
At NCI, Vollberg rose to serve as deputy chief and as DEA liaison to the NCI SBIR Development Office and the NCI Office of Acquisitions. In 2015 he was selected as NIMHD’s scientific review chief. He was promoted in 2018 as acting director of OERA and was confirmed as permanent OERA director in 2019.
In that position, Vollberg made strides to advance the institute’s practices for Funding Opportunity Announcement development, for the sharing of experiential knowledge through a regular forum of conversation on extramural practices and for the dissemination of extramural policy guidance.
Throughout his career, problems in cancer research featured prominently as a window for a broad appreciation and understanding of human biology. His interest in this interdisciplinary area of study began at LaSalle College, where he was awarded a B.A. in biology. He completed doctoral training in human experimental pathology at Thomas Jefferson University.
In a postdoctoral position at Temple University, Vollberg was part of the Fels Research Institute, an NCI Cancer Center actively involved in molecular studies of DNA repair.
As a faculty member at Creighton University, Vollberg and his laboratory colleagues studied epithelial cell biology, differentiation-related gene regulation and the molecular action of retinoids. He lectured to medical and health sciences students on human anatomy and to graduate students for cell biology and gene regulation topics.
His work as SRO covered a spectrum of NCI research, including cancer health disparities. He led and supported the review of innovative technologies, genomics, bioinformatics, innovative diagnostic device and drug development, preclinical pharmacology and toxicology, pharmaceutical sciences, clinical investigations, informatics tools, communication science, behavioral research and epidemiology.
Vollberg became widely recognized across NIH as an expert in all aspects of the management of peer review activity for grants and contracts and distinguished himself as a subject matter expert on procedures and policies related to the announcement, selection and awarding of contract proposals. He contributed to NIH work groups for process improvement and as a peer educator in the NIH extramural core curriculum.
Vollberg received NIH Office of Director Awards, NCI Director’s and NCI Merit Awards, NIAID Director’s Awards and NIMHD Director’s Teamwork and Collaboration Awards—all in recognition of his innovative leadership and outstanding collaboration.
After retirement, Vollberg and his wife plan to travel more and relocate from their current home, where they have resided for 21 years, to coastal Delaware. He’s also hoping the downtime will allow him to read more for pleasure and learn to play the guitar.