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December 1, 2017
Milestones
Wawrousek, Designer of First Transgenic Mouse at NEI, Retires

Dr. Eric Wawrousek
Dr. Eric Wawrousek

Dr. Eric Wawrousek, director of the National Eye Institute Genetic Engineering Core, retired Aug. 31 after more than 31 years at NEI. Wawrousek oversaw the exponential growth of transgenic mouse model engineering at NEI.

“Eric was critical in establishing the GEC as one of the premier genetic engineering core facilities at the NIH,” said Dr. David Schneeweis, NEI deputy scientific director. “He also operated a highly efficient animal colony management system that was unique to the NEI. It has saved the NEI a lot of money in animal costs over the years and has benefitted NEI scientists immensely.”

Wawrousek graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry. After earning his doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Maryland, he joined the NEI Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Biology (LMDB) as a postdoctoral fellow in 1984. There, he worked with LMDB chief Dr. Joram Piatigorsky, studying transcriptional regulation and the expression of crystallins, which are proteins that contribute to the transparent and refractive qualities of the lens.

Wawrousek developed the first NEI-generated transgenic mouse models while a postdoctoral fellow for the purposes of studying crystallin gene expression. Later, while on permanent staff, he generated NEI’s first gene knockout mouse model by knocking out a gene for a type of crystallin called alphaB.

Designing the model in the early 1990s took more than a year and required detailed mapping of the genetic locus. “Things have changed quite a lot since then in terms of the ease and speed that models can be developed today,” Wawrousek said.

Nevertheless, the alphaB crystallin knockout model was instrumental in launching collaborations between him and dozens of scientists because it helped establish that crystallin protein plays a key role not only in the eye’s structures, but also in other tissues of the body including muscle and nervous system tissues.

In 1988, after his NIH postdoc, Wawrousek joined SmithKline Beecham, where he ran the transgenics and monoclonal antibody production facilities.

In 1991, NEI recruited Wawrousek back to NIH to lead the newly launched NEI Central Transgenic Facility, and as an LMDB section head. The NEI Central Transgenic Facility was later subsumed into the GEC, expanding the facility’s scope and function.

Until his retirement, Wawrousek co-directed GEC with Dr. Lijin Dong, managing the facility’s budget and most of its administrative functions. He also supervised technicians who perform DNA isolation and genotyping, mouse line cryopreservation and mouse colony management. He orchestrated organization of the facility’s mouse lines, establishing a system to cryopreserve mouse germplasm to create space for new lines.

Over the years, the core facility generated hundreds of mouse lines by simple DNA microinjection, by knocking genes in and out with homologous recombinant technology and, more recently, by deploying CRISPR/Cas9 to edit the genes.

As a research biologist at NEI, Wawrousek published more than 100 papers, many of them widely cited. He served as chair of the NEI safety & health committee and on the NEI crisis response team, as well as many other NEI committees over the years.

In retirement, he plans to volunteer at local scientific societies and hopes to devote his time and energy to political campaigns.

McClave Retires from NCI

Catherine B. McClave
Catherine B. McClave

Catherine B. McClave retired recently after 44 years of government service. For the past two decades, she has supported the senior leadership of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG). In her most recent role as senior advisor for division operations, she provided scientific and administrative leadership for scientific reporting, strategic planning and budget formulation for DCEG.

“Throughout her tenure at DCEG, Cathy has been instrumental in directing the division’s complex operations, from scientific reporting to budget,” said division director Dr. Stephen Chanock. “She has provided expert support to nearly every branch and investigator and her efforts will be sorely missed.”

McClave began her career at NCI in the Laboratory of Biochemistry then transferred to the Office of Research Services. She later returned to NCI as part of the Administrative Career Development Program, joining the budget office at the completion of the program. From there, she transferred to the Office of the Director within the NCI Division of Cancer Etiology. She made her final move to the Office of the Director within DCEG shortly after NCI established the division in 1995, joining her mentor Dr. Susan Sieber, who became the first deputy director of DCEG.

“When Dr. Sieber eventually left the division, she remarked that one of the best things she had done for DCEG was to bring Cathy with her,” said Dr. Shelia Zahm, scientific advisor. “I remember her words to this day, because they indeed predicted Cathy’s remarkable contributions to the division. She has been an incredible source of wisdom, organization, writing, editing and management in support of the division’s scientific and administrative activities.”

McClave served as the division liaison to the NCI Institute Review Office for site visit coordination and other activities involving the NCI board of scientific counselors and the National Cancer Advisory Board. She was executive secretary for the DCEG promotion and tenure review panel and the technical evaluation of protocols committee and managed the formal process for the promotion of DCEG tenure-track investigators to NIH tenure. She was responsible for preparation of the division’s scientific narratives for the congressional budget justification and responses to inquiries from NIH, PHS, HHS, Congress, other federal agencies and the public.

McClave oversaw division communications activities and content preparation for its newsletter, as well as responses to Freedom of Information Act inquiries, review of intramural/extramural letters of collaboration, official duty and outside activity inquiries and the appointment process for the special studies institutional review board.

She is former chief of the DCEG Office of Communications and Special Initiatives, a position she held from 2008 to 2015. She received two NIH Merit Group Awards, one in 1998 and one in 2011. She also received an NCI Director’s Award in 2017.

“Cathy came to DCEG at a critical time, just as we attained division status as a major component of the intramural research program at NCI and NIH,” said founding DCEG director Dr. Joseph Fraumeni, Jr. “We were immediately confronted with a series of challenges in managing an expanding scientific portfolio. We came to depend on Cathy for her remarkable ability to see the big picture and take care of every little detail. There was never a deadline that she didn’t meet or a project that wasn’t done to perfection. She has been an indispensable leader in the division, as well as a terrific colleague and friend to all of us.”—Cora Hersch

NIGMS’s Haynes Retires After 35-Year Federal Career

Dr. Susan Haynes rides into retirement after a 35-year federal career. She will spend part of the time at her Idaho cabin near Payette Lake (shown here).
Dr. Susan Haynes rides into retirement after a 35-year federal career. She will spend part of the time at her Idaho cabin near Payette Lake (shown here).

PHOTO: CARL BAKER

“I’ve always been a fly person,” said Dr. Susan Haynes on the eve of her retirement from NIGMS.

Those pesky insects that feast on brown bananas and other overripe fruit in your kitchen were a key part of Haynes’ career. As a scientist working in the field of developmental biology, she turned to fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) to answer fundamental questions about the formation of egg cells and sperm. She taught graduate students about fruit fly genetics and even started a local Drosophila interest group.

“Advances in my field have exploded dramatically because new tools and methods have made it possible to ask and answer more complex questions,” she explained.

For the last dozen or so years, Haynes played an integral role in its progress—not as a scientist but as a research administrator. In her positions of program director, branch chief and twice-serving acting director in NIGMS’ Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology (GDB), she coached young scientists on getting their first research grants, mentored other program staff on interacting with grantees and laid the groundwork for new initiatives.

“She always put the investigators first, us second and herself a distant third,” said Dr. Dorit Zuk, GDB division director.

When Haynes joined NIGMS in 2005, she was already familiar with its mission and programs. After receiving her doctorate in molecular cell biology from Rockefeller University in 1982, she completed a series of postdoctoral fellowships, including one funded by NIGMS’s F32 training program and hosted at NICHD. She stayed on at NICHD as a senior staff fellow and investigator until 1999, when she moved across the street to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. An NIGMS research grant helped her establish and carry out her fruit fly studies.

This in-the-trenches experience of applying for and receiving her first R01 grant helped Haynes understand the grant applicant’s perspective and appreciate the importance of offering an objective viewpoint.

And it rubbed off on Haynes’ colleagues. “Susan led by example,” said Dr. Kristine Willis, whom Haynes hired and trained. “She conveyed the importance and responsibility of being a program director and set top-level standards for performing the job.”

Staff outside of NIGMS also benefitted from Haynes’ wisdom and approaches. For 4 years, Haynes presented at and moderated group discussions in an NIH training program for new program directors.

As science advanced, Haynes’ portfolio of grants shifted. For several years, she oversaw projects that were pushing the boundaries of stem cell biology. As a result, she got involved in the NIH stem cell task force, which explored the promise and challenges of this field. Haynes also organized workshops that brought together NIGMS-funded stem cell biologists to share their progress and discuss the resources and knowledge needed to drive the field forward.

Haynes’ other responsibilities included developing and directing a program that provided supplemental funding for collaborative research projects and co-chairing the NIGMS strategic plan steering committee.

“Susan is a true NIH’er whose historical perspective and deep scientific knowledge have aided NIGMS in so many ways,” said Dr. Judith Greenberg, NIGMS deputy director and former GDB division director. “She will be missed.”

In retirement, Haynes plans to finally focus on herself. “It will give me an opportunity to rediscover my hobbies,” she said. At the top of her list—gardening and watercolor painting.

She’s excited to begin this phase with her husband, Dr. Carl Baker, who recently retired from NIAMS. They plan to spend part of each year at their cabin in Idaho. Maybe she’ll come to love fishing flies, too.

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