NHGRI’s Guyer Retires, Played Role in
Human Genome Project
By Steve Benowitz
|After 28 years at NIH, Dr. Mark Guyer recently retired from federal service.
After 28 years at NIH, Dr. Mark Guyer retired from federal service on June 30. He looks back on a career that saw him play a critical role in the Human Genome Project (HGP) and countless other genomics programs at what later became the National Center for Human Genome Research and, ultimately, the National Human Genome Research Institute.
Guyer earned a Ph.D. in bacteriology and immunology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1974, and later joined a Maryland biotech start-up “where every decision seemed life and death, and we had to do everything ourselves.” He came to NIH in 1986, but eventually left the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, where he was a program director and staff liaison to the HGP, to join the newly formed Office of Human Genome Research.
As one of the first employees hired at OHGR after Dr. Elke Jordan became director in 1988, he helped shape the new and evolving organization. “Mark came with a great understanding and knowledge of the latest technologies,” Jordan said. “He became the go-to person for people to discuss issues with grants and bounce ideas off of—he was the glue that held the program together.”
“We all played many roles—we had to create the HGP infrastructure ourselves,” said Guyer. “When we became a center, we hired people for grants management, research and running the centers—the project became more of a reality. Many doubted a project of this size could be done and we had to constantly respond to criticisms.”
Over the years, Guyer has worn many hats. At the HGP—among his responsibilities—he helped write a series of 5-year strategic plans for the project between 1990 and 2003, and he was involved in the development of the “Bermuda Principles” in 1996, which laid the foundation for widespread data sharing among scientists. His meeting report was published in Genome Research.
“Mark was indispensable to so many aspects of the Human Genome Project,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. “He was there at the beginning and his leadership helped usher the HGP and a nascent genomics field through many growing pains to ultimate success.”
In 2002, Guyer was named director of the NHGRI Division of Extramural Research, now known as the Extramural Research Program. At NHGRI, he said, others managed programs and grants while he played more of a consultant role. He had a hand in helping establish programs such as the 1,000 Genomes project, the Large-Scale Genome Sequencing and Analysis Centers, the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) research program, the Cancer Genome Atlas project and others.
“Mark has brought an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience to his many different roles at NHGRI,” said NHGRI director Dr. Eric Green, who appointed Guyer deputy director of the institute in 2011. “He’s had an impact on nearly every major program at the institute, from the development of the ELSI program and genome sequencing centers to, most recently, the Human Heredity and Health in Africa program. His counsel will be greatly missed.”
Guyer is most proud of “whatever contribution I have made in changing the culture of science with respect to the value of team science,” he said. He also takes pride in what NHGRI has contributed to many genomics-related fields since the HGP ended in 2003.
Guyer isn’t retiring completely; he is planning to return part-time to NIH and NHGRI to work on the Human Heredity and Health in Africa program (which aims to build a genomics research infrastructure in Africa) and another program he helped nurture, the Big Data to Knowledge initiative. The latter is developing new approaches for using large datasets in biomedical research.
Schneider Retires From Center for Scientific Review
By Paula Whitacre
Most workdays for 24 years, Dr. Donald Schneider commuted by bicycle from his home in Garrett Park Estates in Kensington to the Center for Scientific Review, tacking on an extra loop through Rock Creek Park to up his mileage to 10,000 miles annually.
“Going the proverbial extra mile characterized his career at CSR,” said CSR director Dr. Richard Nakamura. “Everyone from the top to bottom of CSR and many parts of NIH know him for his great commitment to NIH and his generous spirit.”
Schneider was a scientific review officer, chief of an integrated review group and, for 10 years,
director of the Division of Basic and Integrative
Biological Sciences. In 2011, at age 70, he
stepped away from this role to become a senior
advisor to the CSR director. Among other
accomplishments, Schneider helped create an
arbitration board to deal with complaints and
other concerns from the scientific community.
“The cases are inherently interesting, each one
like a puzzle to solve,” he observed.
“His ability to work both on what is important
for even-handed review and what’s important
for the long-run success of science has always
been Don’s wise vision,” said Nakamura. “He
has been invaluable in helping me acclimate to
being CSR’s director.”
“One quality unique to Don is—no matter who
you are, your problem, how busy he is—you
get his full, absolute attention,” said Dr. Noni
Byrnes, who succeeded Schneider as division
director. In fact, she said, he has a knack of
making a person feel better.
Schneider grew up in western Michigan and
attended Kalamazoo College. Planning on a
nature-related job in-state, he credits a biology
professor for introducing him to the possibilities
of graduate work and research. She
recommended he go to Michigan State, where
he earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry under Dr.
Willis Wood. From there, he held postdoctoral
appointments at Cornell University under Dr.
Efraim Racker and at Rockefeller University
under Dr. Christian de Duve.
“In addition to working with eminent scientists,
I learned how people who do good science
have different styles of running a lab,” Schneider
said. He applied that understanding to his
own labs at the University of Massachusetts
and, for 14 years, as a faculty member at Dartmouth
Medical School. He discovered a vacuolar
membrane protein pump in lysosomes,
building on an idea he gleaned from Racker’s
work with mitochondria.
Schneider and Dr. Jean Chin married in 1979.
After several years working in different states
(he in New Hampshire, she in Massachusetts),
they applied to NIH. Chin is a program officer
Schneider hopes to spend more time in Michigan
and travel, do some writing and, of course,
keep biking in retirement. He and Chin ride
a tandem bicycle. “Tandems are great for us
because we travel to new places, get exercise
and socialize with fellow riders,” he said. “Plus,
she clips the directions on my back and tells me
what to do!”
Long-Time NIH’er Hartman Mourned
By Harriet Greenwald
Mary Ruth Calley Hartman, 92, a longtime NIH
employee, died May 9 at Wilson Health Care Center,
Gaithersburg, where she had been a resident
since November 2013. For the past year and half
she had been in failing health. Her career at NIH
spanned 26 years.
In 1952, she began her government service as a
member of the U.S. Civil Service Board of Examiners.
In 1953, she joined the National Cancer
Institute, where was a secretary to the director,
Dr. John Heller. She then moved to the National
Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness
(now NINDS). In 1963, she became assistant chief of the special events section
at the Clinical Center, where she arranged guided tours for visitors, handled correspondence,
set up meetings and lectures and distributed NIH publications.
She also arranged for ushers, hostesses and refreshments at events in Masur
Auditorium—her charges were affectionately known as “Calley [rhymes with valley]
In 1969, she was appointed chief of the special events section in the CC’s Office
of Clinical Reports and Inquiries. She was also responsible for preparing programs,
itineraries and logistics for visitors to NIH as well as the CC. She also
arranged for official NIH lectures as well as other professional meetings. Among
the many visitors she greeted were President Gerald Ford, First Lady Rosalynn
Carter, Sen. Edward Kennedy, Mrs. James Callaghan (wife of the Prime Minister,
United Kingdom), Mrs. Anwar Sadat (wife of the Egyptian president) and Prince
and Princess Hitachi of Japan. She retired on Aug. 23, 1978.
Hartman loved working at NIH, was devoted to her job and was meticulous in its
execution. While at the Clinical Center, she received the NIH Director’s Award
and the Public Health Service Commendation.
After retiring, she traveled around the U.S., often via tours sponsored by the
Smithsonian Institution. She also worked part-time for the Foundation for
Advanced Education in the Sciences, helping with administrative work dealing
with membership, the graduate school and the insurance enrollment. In
1989, she joined the office of the NIH Alumni Association (NIHAA) as assistant
to the executive director; she was in charge of membership records, files and
office activities. In 2006, she retired when the association ended its 18-year run.
She received the NIHAA Award for long and faithful service in the office. She
was also during this time an active member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Fleet
Reserve Association, attending conventions and meetings.
Hartman was preceded in death by her first husband, Samuel Calley, a mechanical
engineer for the Office of Engineering Services, DRS; second husband Paul
Hartman; and her companion for 25 years, Wilho “Tommy” Tommila, who died
in February 2014.
Swain Named Chief of NIGMS Biomedical Technology Branch
Dr. Amy Swain was recently appointed chief of the Biomedical Technology Branch in the NIGMS Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology. Her prior positions included serving as acting director of the division and as acting director of the Division of Biomedical Technology in NCRR, where she also worked in other capacities from 1999 to 2011. Prior to that, she led the protein crystallography laboratory at Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. Swain is a leader in synchrotron resource discussions and activities across NIH and other agencies. She earned a B.S. in biology from Frostburg State University and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of South Carolina and then did postdoctoral research at NCI’s Macromolecular Structure Laboratory.