On July 14-19, 2013, 31 early- and mid-career scientists gathered on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, MD, for an intensive learning experience about the ins and outs of research on aging. Sponsored by the NIA Office of Special Populations, the annual Summer Institute on Aging Research creates excitement about aging research among scientists from a wide range of backgrounds and provides them with insight and skills to succeed. Since 1986, the NIA has hosted the training institute every summer to help build the pipeline for the future biomedical research workforce.
NIA senior staff and grantees shared with participants how to design strong projects and put together competitive grant applications. They also described some of the challenges associated with being a professional scientist and finding a work-life balance. The participants even participated in a mock study section, during which they acted as grant reviewers, discussing the merits of research proposals and determining what projects they would (hypothetically) fund. In addition, Summer Institute participants received personalized feedback about their project proposals and career guidance tailored to their experience and research interests.
One participant noted, “The NIA Summer Institute on Aging was truly an outstanding training experience…The feedback I received will greatly help to steer the direction of my work at this critical juncture of my project and overall career.”
At the program’s closing, NIA Director Dr. Richard J. Hodes announced that the NIA Summer Institute on Aging Research would be renamed the Butler-Williams Scholars Program in honor of NIA’s first two directors—the late Drs. Robert N. Butler and T. Franklin Williams.
Dr. Butler, who came to NIA as its founding director in 1974, built the framework for a broad research endeavor in basic, clinical, and behavioral and social research that remains the core of NIA’s research program today. Dr. Williams joined NIA in 1983 and developed and further expanded these visionary programs. He established the Summer Institute, recognizing the importance of cultivating scientists and ideas.
“Both of these leaders recognized the importance of the future pipeline of researchers in aging and were devoted to assuring a diverse scientific workforce,” noted NIA Deputy Director Dr. Marie A. Bernard, who, in collaboration with Dr. Chyren Hunter, the NIA training officer, directed this year’s Institute.
To learn more about the Butler-Williams Scholars Program: