Once the captain of her college swim team, Dr. Catherine Lewis now takes the helm of the NIGMS Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics.As CBB director, Lewis oversees
more than 1,800 basic research and training grants totaling about $630 million. The research ranges from characterizing molecules and cellular components to understanding
the mechanisms of cellular processes. One of four NIGMS scientific divisions, CBB also supports the development of new research tools and methods
and houses the Protein Structure Initiative, a 10-year effort to speed the protein structure determination
“Cathy Lewis is both a skillful administrator and a forward-thinker who has a broad knowledge
about the field and a keen sense of how it needs to advance,” said NIGMS director Dr. Jeremy
Berg. “Under her leadership, the division will help chart exciting new courses for the nation’s cell biology and biophysics research.”
Lewis, whose list of honors includes two NIH Director’s Awards, has served as acting director of CBB since January, when former director Dr. James Cassatt retired.
She started her NIH career as a staff fellow at NIDDK in 1983 after earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry
from Princeton University. She joined NIGMS 6 years later, initially serving as a program
director in its Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology for grants related to chromosome structure and mechanics. She also was a project officer for the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository, which contains nearly 10,000 well-characterized human cell lines. Lewis later took on additional responsibilities in CBB and became chief of the division’s Biophysics Branch in 1997.
“The biophysical tools developed over the last 10 years have allowed us to make major discoveries about basic life processes,” said Lewis. “I see a lot of opportunities to continue this new generation of discovery at the subcellular level.”
Some of this progress will likely stem from the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research initiative that Lewis leads to develop high-resolution imaging
probes to capture the actions of individual molecules in living cells.
Other new CBB activities include establishment of a repository that will make materials generated by the PSI available to the scientific community and the formation of research centers that will study the three-dimensional details of how HIV proteins and host cellular proteins interact. Aside from “experimenting” with different plants in her garden, many activities outside the sciences occupy the new division director’s free time. With a college minor in art history, Lewis said she enjoys viewing
the latest exhibits at art galleries both here and wherever her family travels. While she no longer swims competitively, she still dives into the open lap lanes at the community pool every summer. —