At the recent celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), Thomas Chew, an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego, presented his poster, “Structural Investigations of CLC-ec1, A Large Integral Membrane Protein, Using Solution-State NMR and Nanodisc Technology.” Chew had been selected for a travel award to present his poster at the NIGMS Symposium after a stellar presentation at the Biophysical Society’s 56th Annual Meeting, held earlier this year in San Francisco. He wrote the post below about his experiences at the NIGMS event.
The morning started with the poster winners from various NIGMS-sponsored societies meeting in the hotel lobby. There were people of all different
career stages from undergrads to new professors, who came from various
parts of the country. Coming from the San Diego the night before, the 8 am
meeting time was really early. We took the subway to the nearby NIH campus.
Once there, we had breakfast in the Natcher conference center, where all
the poster winners got together to meet and mingle with many of the NIGMS
staff. Then they led us to one of the conference rooms to tell us more
about what they did and formally introduce themselves. Along the way, there
was a wall of all the different Nobel laureates the NIGMS had supported
throughout the years. It was impressive to see all of their accomplishments.
We then split up into groups, based on what we had signed up for
previously. One group went on a tour of the Library of Medicine. I had
signed up to talk with some of the NIGMS staff, as I figured there weren’t
many opportunities to meet one-on-one with these types of people. Dr. Jean
Chin and I met and talked for about 30 minutes. She told me a little about her
work at the NIGMS, reading over grants, deciding what to fund, and making
sure everything runs smoothly. I also asked her for career advice and her views
on the current funding situation. One of the unique things I learned about the
NIGMS is that it’s the primary institute of the NIH for funding basic
science research. Despite the trend towards more translational
applications, I think it’s important to keep funding work in the basic
sciences because of the payoff that those sorts of discoveries can have in
the long run.
Lunch was next. I sat next to Cathy Lewis, who had judged my poster at the
Biophysical Society poster competition. We also got to talk with the
speakers – Carlos Bustamante, Kathy Giacomini, and Tim Mitchison. Then
there was some photo-taking, followed by the three research talks. I really
enjoyed the talks, because they were general enough that I could understand
most of what they were saying, yet still included enough details to follow
through each of the scientists’ though processes as they designed their
experiments. After the talks, there was a reception where all of the poster
winners presented our research to everyone else. People slowly trickled
out, and after the poster session was over, a group of us walked around to
explore the NIH campus. All in all, it was an incredible opportunity to see
some of the great research the NIGMS has funded, and to hear about research
and scientific funding from the NIH perspective.
– Thomas Chew