Dr. David Fargo, NIEHS’s first scientific information officer (SIO), will direct development of the infrastructure needed for scientific big data. “David’s office has a broad mission to advance NIEHS scientific information technology and research computing,” said NIEHS scientific director Dr. Darryl Zeldin. “He will work across divisional lines in a number of critical areas to ensure that our science IT needs are met.”
According to Fargo, his office will make it easier to use available scientific data, while improving research efficiency and enabling new and expanded investigations. “The amount of available data to query is growing much faster than the computational infrastructure,” he said.
Fargo, former director of the NIEHS integrative bioinformatics core, has long been interested in designing ways to empower high-performance scientific computing. He said there is a great need for infrastructure that gives researchers access to and understanding of the scientific data deposited in large public databanks. “I’m interested in creating systems and algorithms that empower broader use of large consortia data,” he said, describing a scenario in which researchers can query large datasets without having to individually download or reformat raw data.
Fargo would also like the new office to improve management of data generated by NIEHS researchers. Data needs to be trackable, he said, providing a more transparent process and more options for use by scientists. For laboratories that use computers associated with specialized equipment, Fargo envisions customized support and continuity of care—a clear advantage for researchers at the institute.
“Increasingly, the expectation among trainees is to have the opportunity to ask big questions,” said Fargo. Through the SIO office, NIEHS will be able to provide the infrastructure and parallel training to support those needs.—Shannon Whirledge
Dr. Mushtaq Khan lives by the creed “Live to Give.” It guided him through 38 years of federal service, including 27 at NIH supporting the review process with a focus on digestive disease research. It led him to mentor numerous NIH colleagues and extramural researchers. And it has guided him in the creation of a nonprofit organization that provides water pumps and other services in his native Pakistan and elsewhere.
Khan retired in January as scientific review officer (SRO) of the clinical, integrative and molecular gastroenterology study section. “He has guided us by example,” said Dr. Patricia Greenwel, an SRO whom he mentored when she first came to the center. “He has impacted the life of many people at NIH and he has been the face of NIH to the gastroenterology field.”
Khan grew up near Faisalabad. At age 13, he was selected for a highly competitive program toward a career as an air force officer. He changed directions, however, and studied veterinary medicine at the University of Panjab in Lahore. There, a professor of physiology influenced his eventual life choices.
“I remember him walking around the classroom, hands in his pockets, lecturing without notes about the thyroid gland,” Khan recalled. “I realized—this is what I want to do.”
Khan received a master’s in animal nutrition at Montana State University. Through a U.S.-Pakistani exchange program, he then earned his Ph.D. in the School of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University, with a major in physiology and minor in nutrition.
After teaching for 6 years at the University of Maryland Medical School, Khan served as head of perinatal toxicology at the Food and Drug Administration. At both institutions, he conducted research in nutritional toxicology.
He came to the Division of Research Grants (now CSR) in 1988. He played a leading role in a reorganization to better review gastrointestinal research. From 1997 to 2013, he was chief of the digestive, kidney and urological systems integrated review group.
“Mushtaq’s ‘glass-half-full’ philosophy to life has a profound impact on those around him,” said Dr. Richard Hodin, a surgical leader at Massachusetts General Hospital and former study section chair. Khan was particularly known for his support of early career investigators. As Dr. Michael Martin, a former CSR division director, said, “There was never any concern when Mushtaq was involved. When he said he could get [something] done, he did.”
Khan, his wife and their four children have often visited Pakistan, but the country’s devastating 2006 earthquake led to a new direction. He and his wife volunteered in a field hospital to assist with relief efforts. He learned about a low-tech solution to the lack of clean water affecting many villages—a community hand-pump and filter. When he returned to the U.S., he set up his charity, which has provided 600 pumps to date. The charity also has contributed to post-disaster relief in Japan and Haiti.
“I am not retiring, I’m changing focus,” Khan stressed. “Live to give, that is the most important thing in my life right now.” He will spend more time on his charity when he leaves NIH, beginning with a trip to Pakistan in February.
Karen Chandler’s first step toward her 30-year career at NIGMS came on her last day of a family vacation. It was 1985, and she was ending a week in Ocean City, Md., with cousins. At one cousin’s prompting, she decided to take the civil service test at NIH before returning home to Toledo, Ohio. But Chandler wasn’t sure how she’d fare. “In my town, having a government job was something you could only dream of.”
Within a month of the exam, she was seated in the NIGMS Budget Office in her new position as a clerk-typist. After rising to the level of a senior budget analyst in this same office, Chandler recently realized another dream—retirement.
Chandler says that when she began working at NIGMS, the Budget Office had the institute’s only fax machine and computer. Her early assignments included typing up budget analyses that were given to her on graph paper or as handwritten notes.
Before retiring, Chandler’s many responsibilities included playing a leading role in budget execution, which at NIGMS entails allocating resources to each funding component. In recognition of her outstanding contributions, she received numerous awards, including NIH Merit Awards in 2004 and 2015.
NIGMS Budget Officer Tony Moore, who worked with Chandler for the past 17 years, says, “In addition to excelling at her own work, Karen was extremely generous with her time in training other analysts.”
Chandler says that she especially treasures the relationships she developed with her coworkers. “When I moved here 30 years ago, I left my parents and my high school friends and my office mates became my family,” she says.
Chandler is already settling into retirement at her log cabin nestled into the woods at the edge of the George Washington National Forest in West Virginia. She looks forward to spending hours gazing out at bears, deer and birds.
“I’ve had a stellar career that surpassed all my dreams,” she says. “Now it’s time for new dreams.”—Carolyn Beans