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Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

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May Berenbaum to serve on NSF advisory committee

This October, Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise nominated May Berenbaum, professor and head of the Department of Entomology, to the Directorate for Biological Sciences Advisory Committee (BIO AC) at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

During the three-year appointment, Berenbaum will advise the directorate on how BIO can best serve the scientific community through its mission, goals, and programs as well as its institutional administration and policies, according to the BIO website. She will also help prioritize support for areas of biological research and promote educational opportunities in the biological sciences.

“Since NSF is the principal funder of basic life science research, the advisory committee has the potential to have a significant impact on the future direction of basic life science research across the country,” Berenbaum said. “In the past, NSF has really encouraged and facilitated curiosity-driven research that could be considered high risk, but high risks, in my opinion, often lead to big rewards.”

As a member of the committee, Berenbaum hopes to emphasize the importance of “basic, curiosity-driven, investigator-instigated, bottom-up” research in the face of economic and political pressures that could draw financial resources elsewhere.

“It is of utmost importance for U.S. scientific competitiveness that politics remain out of the process by which decisions are made that relate to funding basic research,” she said. “I am more than willing to do whatever I can to preserve the integrity of the process of funding basic research.”

Berenbaum said she is also “paying it forward” to the NSF, which has supported her research since her career began in 1980.

The BIO AC meets twice each year. The members of the committee reflect the diversity in the field of biology by representing a variety of subdisciplines, geographic locations, under-represented minorities, etc.

For more information, including a list of current members, visit http://www.nsf.gov/bio/advisory.jsp.

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