|Vol. LXVIII, No. 25|
Journeying from her NIH office in Bethesda to colleges and universities around the country was once a big part of Dr. Mona Trempe’s life. In fact, she visited well over 100 colleges and universities during her 10-year career as a scientific review officer in the NIGMS Office of Scientific Review (OSR). “Site visits give you a broader view of the biomedical research and training activities taking place at our nation’s institutions of higher education,” she said.
Recently, Trempe packed her bags and set out for one last site visit—only this time her travel plans did not involve a return flight to Washington, D.C. She had just retired and was moving to Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Trempe’s career path began as an undergraduate student at the University of Vermont, where she fell in love with science and earned a B.S. in chemistry. She went on to receive a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles. Shortly after completing a postdoctoral fellowship in the biochemistry department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), Trempe took a faculty position there and went on to attain the rank of full professor.
During her tenure, she founded and directed the UMMC electron microscopy facility for imaging the three-dimensional shape of large protein complexes. An advocate for research training, Trempe mentored students who participated in the NIGMS Maximizing Access to Research Careers Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research program. She also taught high school students from local communities in Jackson, Miss., how to conduct research in a laboratory setting.
“Mentoring students has been extremely important to me throughout my career, but I knew that I wanted to make a difference on a national scale rather than at the local level,” said Trempe. To test the waters, she took a position through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act as a “rotator” program officer in the division of molecular and cellular biosciences at the National Science Foundation in 2004. That experience convinced her to move full-time into research administration after two decades in research and teaching.
Trempe then joined NIGMS as a scientific review officer in 2006, where she managed the review of a variety of applications for research grants, cooperative agreements and training grants, including those designed to increase diversity in the research workforce.
Throughout her career, Trempe was known for assembling review committees that included people with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. “Mona recruited a wide range of scientists with a breadth of perspectives for her review panels, including researchers with a strong commitment to teaching and mentoring the next generation of biomedical researchers,” said Dr. Brian Pike, OSR acting director. “Her efforts were reflected in the quality and diversity of the programs that NIGMS supports.”
In addition to her OSR duties, Trempe helped lead institute and NIH-wide committees and working groups. She served on the NIGMS strategic plan for biomedical and behavioral research training committee, the NIH working group on sustaining women in biomedical careers and the steering committee of the scientific review officer technical competency subcommittee.
Although Trempe’s new residence is miles away from the NIH campus, she still plans to stay connected to and involved in the scientific community. “I eventually want to work in some capacity at a local college or university,” she said. Along with settling into her new home with her husband, her retirement plans include studying Spanish, brushing up on her piano-playing skills and gardening.
“I’ll now have a chance to learn about gardening plants that can survive in a much drier climate,” said Trempe. “I imagine that will be a huge switch from the plants that thrive in the D.C.-area humidity, but I look forward to that change and to all of the new adventures that are ahead of me.”
After nearly 30 years of federal service—all spent at the National Institute on Aging—Dr. Creighton “Tony” Phelps, deputy director of the Division of Neuroscience, will retire at the end of this year. He leaves the institute at a time when scientific opportunities and hopes for research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias have never been greater—a landscape his leadership helped create.
Phelps has worn several hats during his tenure at NIA, but it is perhaps his role as brain trust and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers (ADC) program that is likely to leave the longest and most effective legacy. The ADC network of research centers at major medical institutions across the country works to translate research advances into improved diagnosis, care and potential treatments for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Under Phelps’s leadership as director for more than two decades, the program has expanded to 31 centers nationwide.
“It’s about more than just how many centers he’s helped launch,” said Dr. Eliezer Masliah, director of the Division of Neuroscience. “He has built a wonderful relationship with each and every center. ADC staff really trust Tony and value his feedback. He’s been an invaluable asset that we, as well as the centers in particular, will truly miss.”
Phelps also served as acting director of the Division of Neuroscience for 8 months in 2015-2016, at a critical time in management. Assuming the role just months after NIH was awarded an additional $350 million for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia research, he was instrumental in prioritizing new projects and research that are bringing us closer to finding a cure for these devastating conditions. His leadership ensured operations not only continued seamlessly, but also flourished during a period of major NIA growth.
“Our institute and the entire field of Alzheimer’s research have benefited from Tony’s leadership and scientific expertise,” remarked NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes. “Building and strengthening some of NIA’s flagship research programs and refining how we define Alzheimer’s disease, he has helped usher in a new era of Alzheimer’s disease research.”
This new era includes an emphasis on data sharing and collaborative research. Phelps was instrumental in developing two centers that do just that—the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center and the National Cell Repository for Alzheimer’s Disease. Serving as program officer for both centers, Phelps championed sharing data, discoveries and even investigations with negative outcomes that nevertheless provide valuable insights.
Phelps also served as executive secretary to the aging review committee and program director in charge of the neurobiology and neuroplasticity portfolios within the Neuroscience and Neuropsychology of Aging Branch.
Titles may have changed over the years, but one thing has remained the same—a commitment to improving the rigor of Alzheimer’s disease research. Phelps leaves NIA having made a remarkable and vitally important impact on the conduct of research not just in this field, but also in the fields of frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease and other neurogenerative conditions, said colleagues.
Dr. Sudhir Srivastava, chief of the cancer biomarkers research group in NCI’s Division of Cancer Prevention, was honored with the Distinguished Service Award from the American Pancreatic Association at the group’s annual meeting in Boston in October. The award recognized his exemplary commitment to the field of pancreatology.
Pancreatic cancer is among the deadliest of the common cancers. It is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. More than 80 percent of patients present with incurable disease and the vast majority live for less than 12 months. Screening to detect precancerous lesions in asymptomatic individuals at increased risk may reduce mortality from the disease.
The award recognized the leadership role of Srivastava and the efforts of his team to establish the Pancreatic Cancer Detection Consortium for conducting research to improve the detection of early stage pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and characterization of its precursor lesions; establish a clinical consortium composed of a coordination and data management center and clinical centers to conduct studies on chronic pancreatitis (CP) and factors that increase the risk of pancreatic cancer in children and adults with CP, pancreatogenic diabetes and in patients with newly diagnosed diabetes; and establish a consortium for the Study of Chronic Pancreatitis, Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Centers.
Dr. Molly Przeworski, a professor of systems biology at Columbia University, spoke Nov. 17 in Lipsett Amphitheater on more than a decade of work on how genetic recombination—the merging of parental contributions—functions and how it completes the slow, steady work of evolution. Focusing on mice, men and birds, her talk illuminated the discovery of “recombination hotspots” in the genomes of various species. “Everyone in this room is related, if you go back far enough in time,” she said.
Liu Named Deputy Director of CSR Division
The Center for Scientific Review has named Dr. Yujing Liu new deputy director of its Division of Receipt and Referral. He comes to CSR from the National Institute of Nursing Research, where he was chief of the Scientific Review Branch for the past 9 years.
“Dr. Liu has a warm, collaborative style that will be an asset in the division’s many interactions with extramural applicants, NIH institute and center staff and other HHS agency officials,” said DRR director Dr. Cathleen Cooper. “We are also pleased that he brings to CSR a broad NIH perspective and proven leadership skills.”
In his new post, Liu will share responsibility for managing the division, work collaboratively with DRR’s associate and assistant directors and serve as DRR’s training coordinator, with responsibility for the trans-NIH receipt and referral 101 course and the DRR extended training program.
Liu received his doctoral degree in molecular genetics from Syracuse University. He did his postdoctoral training in human genetic diseases at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. He then joined the department of pediatrics at Georgetown University Medical Center, where he conducted research on animal models of human genetic disorders. His research focused on lysosomal storage diseases and neurodegenerative disorders. He also investigated angiogenesis by using mice models.
Liu came to NIH in 2000 to take a position in the Scientific Review Branch at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. He then moved to the review chief position at NINR in 2007.