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Employee Services Holds Science Manager/Leader Seminar

By Eddy Ball
November 2008

McNeill, seated, and Radford
McNeill, seated, and Radford of NIEHS Employee Services (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

According to NIEHS Manager of Employee Services Dona McNeill, competent scientists stand to benefit from specialized training in how to be competent managers and leaders in addition to top performers at the bench. That was the rationale behind a custom-designed seminar held September 22 in Rodbell Auditorium and September 23 in the Rall Building E-450 conference room. A group of ten current and aspiring managers (see text box) attended the two-part seminar for management tips and hands-on activities to help them communicate more effectively.

Working with a focus group made up of NIEHS Division of Intramural Research (DIR) scientists, McNeill and colleague Cynthia Radford, central training manager, looked at various models and resources for ideas for the seminar. The group selected one of the models they reviewed and modified it to better meet the needs identified by the group.

As McNeill said to participants invited to the seminar, "Your science is very demanding and rewarding, but on top of that you are also expected to manage other scientists and administrative staff. That takes a whole skill set that is very different from your science skills."

The group brought in Mary Charles Blakebrough of McBreakthrough Consulting( Exit NIEHS to conduct the September 22 half-day session on "The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) - Review for Science Managers." Attendees took the personality type assessment and discussed the ways their types might best communicate with the other personality types they are sure to encounter in their groups and branches.

Sharon Milgram, Ph.D., director of the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education, was recruited to chair the three-quarter day September 23 session on "Science Management/Leadership." Milgram's program covered the use of MBTI in the laboratory and office environment, motivating and developing others, team building as a leader and peer, managing conflict in the workplace, handling difficult conversations in the most constructive way and cooperative goal setting.

The seminar had its roots in a series of meetings earlier this year that McNeill held with lab and branch chiefs in DIR to ask for support for a specialized training module. She managed to get their support for the series and helpful suggestions for designing the content. The initial planning sessions also gave McNeill a pool of potential members for the focus group that crafted the seminar prototype.

With the first seminar completed and satisfied participants promoting it by word of mouth, McNeill and Radford are ready to take their lessons from the experience and move ahead by fine tuning the prototype. "The plan is to modify the program to make the fit even better and conduct the seminar several more times over the next year." McNeill said. "We also want to develop and deliver other seminar topics in the future to improve the management skills of leaders across the Institute."

Focus Group and Attendees

The Science Manager/Leader Seminar focus group was made up of McNeill and Radford and six senior investigators:
  • Principal Investigator Jean Harry, Ph.D., Neurotoxicology Group
  • Acting Chief Paul Foster, Ph.D., Toxicology Branch
  • Tenure-Track Investigator Honglei Chen, M.D., Ph.D., Aging and Neuroepidemiology Group
  • Principal Investigator David Miller, Ph.D., Intracellular Regulation Group
  • Staff Scientist John Roberts, Ph.D., Metastasis Group
Attending the first seminar, along with Foster, were nine current and aspiring scientist managers:
  • Staff Scientist Nell Burch, Ph.D., Genotyping Core
  • Biologist Natasha Clayton, Pathology Support Group
  • Staff Clinician Stavros Garantziotis, M.D., Clinical Research Program
  • Group Leader David Malarkey, D.V.M., Ph.D., NTP Pathology Group
  • Chip Romeo, Ph.D., Laboratory of Neurobiology
  • Deputy Scientific Director Bill Schrader, Ph.D.
  • Acting Chief Cynthia Smith, Ph.D., NTP Program Operations Branch
  • Acting Chief Ray Tice, Ph.D., NTP Biomolecular Screening Branch
  • NTP Deputy Program Director for Science Nigel Walker, Ph.D.,

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