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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Today’s Scientists, Tomorrow’s Leaders

Crowd of young scientists gathers outdoors

Twenty-nine early career researchers visit NIH for the 2016 Future Research Leaders Conference.

Photo: Ernie Branson

What, exactly, goes on in NIH’s 200 intramural research labs? How are they different from university labs and why should a young investigator start a career here?

“NIH is an amazing opportunity,” NIH director Dr. Francis Collins told 29 early career researchers visiting NIH for the 2016 Future Research Leaders Conference (FRLC).

The event is sponsored by NIH’s inaugural chief officer for scientific workforce diversity Dr. Hannah Valantine. Her office invited 29 scientists from across the country to Bethesda for two important reasons: to introduce them to the unique work environment at NIH and to connect NIH intramural scientists to great talent.

In opening remarks, Valantine emphasized the human side of science. “Connecting people with common scientific interests is as important as the science itself,” she said.

And that is what the FRLC did. An intense 3-day experience featured talks from top leadership, including Collins, Valantine, IRP head Dr. Michael Gottesman and NHLBI director Dr. Gary Gibbons. Participants gave research talks, presented posters and met one-on-one with NIH scientific directors and branch chiefs—about 100 meetings were held. A half-day seminar on NIH grant process and meetings with NIH program and review staff rounded out the schedule.

Most conference participants are from underrepresented groups in the sciences. Most are past recipients of NIH-funded diversity supplements, which enable NIH-funded researchers at universities to bring diverse students and postdocs into their labs for research experiences and mentoring.

The FRLC is intentionally embedded within the NIH Research Festival, giving attendees the opportunity to fully engage with this annual celebration of NIH science.

Said attendee Esther Obeng, from Harvard Medical School, “I’ve met a lot of wonderful people…People that had been here for years and told me why they haven’t left…what they loved about NIH.”—Alison Davis

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