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NINDS's Paul Nichols Retires After 32 Years

By Shannon E. Garnett

Dr. Paul L. Nichols, program director and administrative team leader in the systems and cognitive neuroscience cluster of the NINDS Division of Extramural Research, recently retired after 32 years of government service, all with the neurology institute.

"Paul has been a stalwart of the extramural programs of NINDS since long before I came to the institute," said Dr. Constance Atwell, NINDS associate director for extramural research. "He has been particularly helpful to his colleagues in providing them with reports and analyses that mined the NIH databases over the years. We will all miss his sure-footed, even-tempered presence in the institute."

At his retirement reception, Dr. Paul Nichols received a plaque in grateful appreciation for his 32 years of service and dedication to NINDS.

A native of Ohio, Nichols earned his undergraduate degree in physiology, magna cum laude, in 1965, and his Ph.D. in genetics in 1970, both from the University of Minnesota. His first association with NINDS came as a graduate student analyzing data from the NINDS Collaborative Perinatal Project (NCPP) — a large prospective study that followed 50,000 women throughout their pregnancies and their children through age 8.

Shortly after graduate school, Nichols worked as a field geneticist for the Minnesota department of health. In 1971, he joined NINDS as a research psychologist in the Perinatal Research Branch, collaborative and field studies section, where he continued work on the NCPP — studying the relationship between prenatal and perinatal complications and cognitive and behavioral outcomes, and analyzing data on minimal brain dysfunction.

During his NCPP work, Nichols published numerous articles and books, including Preschool IQ: Prenatal and Early Development Correlates and Minimal Brain Dysfunction: A Prospective Study.

As data analysis from the NCPP came to an end, the collaborative and field studies section became part of the Extramural Research Division, and in 1983 Nichols became a health scientist administrator in the Developmental Neurology Branch of the Division of Convulsive, Developmental, and Neuromuscular Disorders. In this role, he developed a research program in muscular and neuromuscular disorders, and administered a portfolio of regular research grants, program projects and centers, career awards, institutional and individual training grants, and small business innovation research and small business technology transfer research grants.

In 1995, when the division's name was changed to the Division of Convulsive, Infectious, and Immune Disorders, Nichols continued to administer the institute's research program and grant portfolio in muscular and neuromuscular disorders research, including research on such disorders as diabetic neuropathy, post-polio syndrome and muscular dystrophy.

"I am grateful to have had Paul Nichols as my program administrator for nearly 20 years," said NINDS grantee Dr. Joshua R. Sanes. "From happy times — when I was trying to arrange a sabbatical — to horrible times — following the sudden death of my closest colleague and collaborator — to everything in between, I knew I could count on him for help and advice," said Sanes, who is currently professor of neurobiology at Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis.

In fact, Nichols also served as project officer for the research grants of former NINDS directors Dr. Zach Hall and Dr. Gerald Fischbach, and for NINDS deputy director Dr. Audrey Penn. "They all went from being my grantee to being the director of NINDS (although Audrey was twice acting director)," said Nichols. "Dr. Kurt Fischbeck, chief of the NINDS Neurogenetics Branch, and Dr. Alan Willard, chief of the NINDS Scientific Review Branch, had also been my grantees. Once in an e-mail to Gerry, I mentioned that I really couldn't claim any credit for their success. I appreciated his short reply: 'Yes, you can.'"

After a restructuring of the institute's extramural program in 1999, Nichols became program director and administrative team leader of the cognitive neuroscience cluster, guiding the institute's research grants in such areas as muscular and neuromuscular disorders, peripheral neuropathies and behavioral genetics.

In retirement, Nichols will pursue his many other interests which include traveling, family history research, numismatic research (the study of money and medals), and projects around the house. Nichols, who serves as historian of Grace United Methodist Church, also plans to revise the church's award-winning history — dating back to 1844 — that he wrote several years ago. An avid table tennis player, Nichols — who served as president of the NIH Table Tennis Club for more than 20 years and received the R&W Exceptional Service Award — now intends to join another club and play in more tournaments.

"The NINDS has been a great place to work. With the exciting advances we've made in areas such as genomics, proteomics and imaging, our researchers are positioned to make some major breakthroughs in preventing and treating neurological disorders," said Nichols. "When that happens, everyone will realize what a great investment medical research has been."

Trunnell Retires After 42 Years in Government

After her high school graduation from a small rural town of 300 in the Midwest, Diana Trunnell moved east with a neighbor girl who had two sisters who lived in Rockville. One of these sisters worked in Bldg. 1.

Trunnell began her federal career in 1961 as a clerk typist in Bldg. T-6, which was located on a site currently occupied by a Bldg. 31 parking lot. Her first assignment was in NIMH's Grants and Fellowships Administration Branch. She remembers being so scared of the branch chief that she had to be asked twice if she wanted the position.

Diana Trunnell
Trunnell recalls that everything was typewritten back in the days when John F. Kennedy was President. There were several carbon copies of most documents, too. There were a variety of copying machines, followed by such innovations as verifax, thermo fax and the ditto machine. She managed the Small Grant Program and put together application kits, mailed applications to study section reviewers and put council books together.

In 1973, Trunnell wrote the NIMH handbook for the Research Scientist Development Award Programs (now called "Ks"), which was quite an experience for her since she had not funded this type of award before.

From 1974 until 1984, she was a senior grants management specialist. She then became assistant chief of NIMH's Grants Management Branch. She was involved with the National Research Service Award programs, and worked on a committee to publish the initial guidelines. She served on many NIMH and NIH groups to create handbooks and guidelines, particularly in the area of training.

Trunnell stayed with NIMH as it moved to various buildings around Bethesda and Rockville and became part of different agencies, for example HSMHA, ADAMHA and finally back to NIH. She spent much of her career in the Parklawn Bldg. When NIMH moved to Executive Blvd., she moved, too. She retired as assistant branch chief in September.

In retirement, Trunnell relishes free time with family and friends, and also enjoys traveling, camping, fishing and activities with her church.

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