NSF budget could have a 13 percent increase

February 26, 2011 § 3 Comments

Emphasis of $894 million is on inter-disciplinary science and research

Last week, when President Barack Obama released his proposed 2012 budget, the National Science Foundation came out as a winner with an additional 13 percent in funding, compared to the 2010 budget. The proposed budget allocates a total of almost $8 billion to the NSF’s operating budget.

One of the big initiatives emphasize in this new budget is inter-disciplinary science and research. The new NSF Director Subra Suresh championed such research in his previous position as engineering dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The proposed budget would meet three major goals of NSF’s strategic plan, according to Suresh: to transform the frontiers of research and education, to innovate for society by linking fundamental research to national challenges and to perform as a model organization within the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of modern science and engineering.

These goals and priorities are a result of Obama’s initiative to “win the future” through innovation and education. Specific initiatives emphasized in the 2012 budget include:

  • $12 million annually for INSPIRE, or Integrated NSF Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research and Education, a new initiative aimed at changing the way NSF does business by encouraging cross-disciplinary science.
  • $76 million for BioMaPS, or Research at the Interface of the Biological, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, a new program that integrates research from biological sciences, mathematics and physical sciences, and engineering to lead to new theoretical and experimental techniques for clean energy and advanced manufacturing.
  • $998 million for Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability, or SEES, a portfolio of programs launched in fiscal 2011. In fiscal 2012, it will continue to advance climate and energy science, engineering and education to provide a sound scientific basis for shaping policies for environmental and economic sustainability and sustainable human well-being.
  • $576 million for investments that will lead to future clean energy and energy efficiency technologies. These are seen throughout the NSF portfolio, in both core research programs and in interdisciplinary, cross-agency activities such as BioMaPS and SEES.
  • $30 million for the National Robotics Initiative, or NRI, a new cross-agency program.  NSF will work with NASA, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide U.S. leadership in science and engineering research and education aimed at the development of next-generation robots that that work alongside, or even cooperatively, with people. These robots could participate in manufacturing, space and undersea exploration, healthcare and rehabilitation, military and homeland surveillance and security, education and training, and safe driving.

“NSF’s research programs and high-tech workforce development programs help drive future economic growth, global competitiveness and the creation of high-wage jobs for American workers,” the budget report states. Although Obama’s budget calls for an increase, it has yet to be approved and faces a Congress that’s dedicated to budget cuts. The Republicans are seeking a decrease in the NSF’s budget, as House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) also proposed last week to slash $139 million.

Overall, this is good news for the members of iAMscientist and anyone else interested in pursuing inter-disciplinary research. Our current administration is supportive of America’s scientists, allowing us to continue to contribute to scientific discovery with the rest of the world. If not already involved with iAMscientist and inter-disciplinary collaboration, a good way to start is to utilize our new search function, to find researchers and institutions the fulfill the skill sets you need


We got coverage in Xconomy

February 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Check out the great article that was posted about iAMscientist on Xconomy. Greg did a great job. A nice guy and a real pleasure to work with as well.

Recruiting the best scientists tough, but not impossible

February 24, 2011 § 4 Comments

With a nine percent unemployment rate in the United States, it may seem that finding qualified scientists and researchers would be much easier. After all, the economic recession did turn the job search into an employer’s market, where companies who are hiring would be able to select from the creme of the crop that’s out there. However, in the scientific world, that’s not always the case. After all, there aren’t that many people out there well versed in biophysics, or neuroscience technology, or even both.

Megan Driscoll, president of In-pharmatechnologist.com, said in December 2010 that the company found that scientific professionals just aren’t as interested in new job opportunities like they used to be. The telephone survey conducted revealed that “when we contacted top industry professionals three years ago, 90 per cent said they would be interested in hearing about new job opportunities. But when we repeated our survey this year, only 65 per cent said they were interested in information about new jobs.”

“People value their jobs much more than ever before. In these uncertain economic times they are reluctant to move and very concerned about keeping their pension benefits,” Driscoll said at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists in New Orleans. She also encouraged senior scientists to keep their eyes open, despite the temptation to remain in a solid, stable position in this economy.

“Staying in the same job for more than 10 years can definitely damage your job prospects,” she said. “A lot of people pigeon-hole themselves by working too long in the same job. That can be a career-ender. If you are in danger of becoming pigeon-holed then you should expand your horizons as quickly as possible.”

A great way to recruit, or to expand those horizons, is through professional networking sites such as LinkedIn or iAMscientist. LinkedIn, for example, allows users to search by company name, which is helpful in finding the person with the right skills or a position with an institute or company a user wishes to collaborate with. This is especially useful since scientists and researchers (and relevant opportunities) aren’t often found on typical job boards like Indeed and Careerbuilder.

But recruiting from thousands of members on iAMscientist is incredibly easy and effective. You can search through the largest membership base of scientists, engineers and physicians across all disciplines .  Now, with the website’s new opportunity platform, it’s even easier to find someone with the necessary expertise by posting a job opportunity and reaching out to the relevant members directly using our reach-out engine.

We released a new opportunity platform for customers

February 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

Today, we released a new platform to help organizations present opportunities to the scientists engineers and physicians. The opportunity platform is a huge step up from what we had before. We added lots of new features to help organizations find and engage the right researcher. One of the nicest features that we added is the geo-positioning and search feature for opportunities. Now members of iAMscientist and visitors to the site can find the job, or consulting opportunity near them by using the “near location” drop-down and free text search.  Try it for yourself.Of course, if you are not a member of the iAMscientist community, only the publicly available opportunities are shown. Currently we have 12K publicly available and 23K private opportunities listed on the site.

With the new platform organizations can engage iAMscientist members in one of 3 ways.
Organizations can search for the right scientist engineer or physician by keyword and contact them directly using our new messaging platform which we call “communique”. Its a great feature if you’re interested in finding the right expert and getting in touch with them individually.
If you’re not sure who to contact, you can post an opportunity and have people who come to the site find and engage with the opportunity by filling out an application online. We also added the extra option of making the opportunity visible to everyone (public) or only to iAMscientist members. This way, you can restrict the number of application to only qualified researchers on the iAMscientist platform. You can, of course, also measure the engagement rate with your opportunity posting using our analytics tools that tell you the number of visitors to each opportunity listing page. Finally, we also added the ability  to tag the opportunity with keywords. This can make the opportunity easier to find using pre-defined keywords.
Finally, if you want to be more pro-active, you can reach out to the scientists, engineers and physicians on the network en-masse by inputting keywords that correspond to the expertise and interests of the researchers. Using our Reach-Out engine, we will then send a notification to the members of iAMscientist that matches that keyword on their profile.

We’re very proud of  all the work that we put in into this platform and hope you like it. Of course, feedback is always welcome.

Using Nature’s Genius in Architecture

February 18, 2011 § 1 Comment


This presentation from Michael Palwyn demonstrates an excellent example of inter-disciplinary science, as Palwyn’s work merges biology with architecture. At TEDSalon in London in November 2010, Pawlyn describes three habits of nature that could transform architecture and society: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun.

Pawlyn has lectured extensively about the subject of sustainability in both the United Kingdom and abroad. He established the architecture firm Exploration in 2007 to focus on environmentally sustainable projects that take their inspiration from nature. Pawlyn has worked in this field since the 1990s, when he worked to reinvent the horticultural architecture the Eden Project, with the firm Grimshaw. He was one of five winners in A Car-free London, an ideas competition for strategic solutions to the capital’s future transport needs and new possibilities for urban spaces.

Research institutes with an emphasis on inter-disciplinary study

February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

A good place to look for inter-disciplinary opportunities is with institutes and organizations that specialize in scientific inter-disciplinary studies, whether its a mesh of biology and engineering, health and technology, or physics and neuroscience. These institutes and organizations are not only associated with prestigious universities or foundations, but are at the forefront of sponsoring inter-disciplinary research or of performing such research themselves. Below are a few of the most notable in the United States:

  • Observational Medical Outcomes Partnership – Part of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, OMOP is a public-private partnership designed to maintain and to improve drug safety. It’s currently conducting a two-year initiative to research methods that are feasible and useful to analyzing existing healthcare databases for safety and benefit issues of drugs already on the market. Specifically, OMOP is researching the feasibility and utility of using observational data to identify and evaluate associations between drugs and health-related conditions.
  • Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard – The Broad Institute is unique in that it encompasses three types of organizational units: core member laboratories, programs and platforms. It brings together collaborators from different institutions to work on biomedical problems Areas of research focus at the Broad Institute include the molecular basis of disease, the biological circuits that underlie cellular responses, and discovering the mutations of different cancer types. The Institute also offer Diversity Initiatives, encouraging minority scientists to participate in several different research programs.
  • Institute for Systems Biology – The ISB in Seattle takes an inter-disciplinary approach to systems biology, integrating physics, medicine, mathematics and chemistry along with biology in its research. Systems biology studies the complex interaction of many levels of biological information to understand how they work together. Research interests of the Institute are health-oriented, as scientists work to find new ways to predict a patient’s susceptibility to a particular disease or develop more effective diagnoses and treatment for a variety of disease.
  • UCSF – California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences – QB3 focuses on the application of physics and engineering on biological systems, with an emphasis on bioeconomy and a larger societal impact. There are three entrepreneurs in residence at QB3 to help students, faculty, and staff commercialize their research. Current research themes include biological imaging, chemical biology, cellular dynamics, synthetic biology, and biomaterials & stem cells. QB3 also has several startups, that are hiring scientists and researchers interested in biotechnology and bioengineering.
  • Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute – This institute at Colgate University supports internal and external collaborations among faculty from disparate disciplines to investigate current and emerging scientific problems that remain intractable to the methods used within a single discipline, encouraging inter-disciplinary approaches to learning and to research. The Institute sponsors emerging research, and looks for new proposals and projects to support each year. Previously supported projects include “Sociogenomics of circadian rhythms and task behaviors in ants,” “Ecophysiological, Biochemical, and Molecular Mechanisms of Desiccation Tolerance in Ferns,” and “Synchronization of Networks of Neurons Using Josephson Junctions.”
  • Joint Photon Sciences Institute – A new joint Stony Brook UniversityBrookhaven National Laboratory initiative, JPSI serves as a center for development and application of the photon sciences and as a gateway for users of NSLS-II, the brightest synchrotron light source in the world. Photon sources have become incredibly important to a wide variety of fields, including physics, materials science, environmental research and biomedical research. Educating and training in synchrotron research, JPSI features junior and senior fellowship and sabbatical programs for scientists all over the world interested in fostering inter-disciplinary research.
  • Fralin Life Science Institute – An inter-disciplinary research center at Virginia Tech, the Fralin Life Science Institute is a research center devoted to bringing scientists from various disciplines together to solve biology’s most complex problems. Current research includes obesity, eukaryotic cell signaling, infectious diseases, and inflammation. The Institute offers fellowships each summer to Virginia Tech students to pursue life sciences research.

Each of these institutions are solving basic R&D challenges that can then be productized and translated into the clinic. Ultimately, the challenge of getting discoveries from bench to clinic is an ongoing challenge both for the biotech and pharma as well as for the universities and research institutes. The challenges stem not only from the difficulty in understanding the problems, but also from finding the right team to solve the problems and engineer solutions that can be scaleable and profitable. This requires many different stakeholders and expertise to come together in a collaborative environment, which is difficult to accomplish in a research setting.

We believe that the key to creating great research teams is to understand the interests and expertise of the members and combine them in a way that counteracts the inevitable hurdles ahead.

Science is becoming ever more inter-discplinary

February 10, 2011 § 2 Comments

N. Venkateswaran, the founder director of the Waran Research Foundation in Chennai India, told the Hindu Times “that interdisciplinary research will usher in the convergence of different fields in a meaningful way.” Though he thinks that such research is lacking, he is a scientist and researcher working on interdisciplinary research, as one example of his work involves DNA interactions employed to evolve novel processor architecture.
Though Venkateswaran is based in India, he may be part of an international trend happening in the sciences as a whole. Interdisciplinary study is being increasingly pursued and recognized as a valuable effort in scientific researcher. For example, Mary “Cindy” Farach-Carson, named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science last month, was chosen as a fellow for “distinguished contributions to the field of bone physiology and contributions to the promotion of interdisciplinary research and science dissemination.” Farach-Carson is just one of many scientists participating in interdisciplinary research, and many more will be needed as science moves in this direction.

An important factor in scientific research is grants, or funding. In January, the National Science Foundation awarded a $2.9 million grant to Oregon State University’s Linking Individuals, Families and Environments (LIFE) in an Aging Society program. This program will train students and involves researchers from the health sciences, human sciences and engineering fields.

Universities are also moving in this direction not just with their research, but also with their education opportunities, like starting degree programs in the interdisciplinary sciences. The Kansas University School of Engineering, beginning fall 2011, will offer a program in interdisciplinary computing. Students will be able to study computer science with a focus in one of five fields: physics, geography, chemistry, biology, and astronomy. Students who major in the interdisciplinary sciences, or who choose to major in two or more fields to be interdisciplinary, stand a good chance of fitting in the future job market.

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