Early Graduate Programs at NIH

As I was reading the articles about NIH graduate education in the July-August 2012 issue of the NIH Catalyst (Michael Gottesman’s essay and Meghan Mott’s feature, “Grad Students Unite”), I was reminded of the early activities of the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES). Its educational program was initiated in the 1950s by Daniel Steinberg, then chief of the Laboratory of Metabolism in NHLBI and the first FAES president. He is now a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and the sole survivor of the 12 FAES founders. The program, which aimed to enhance the education of postdoctoral fellows, began under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which had a similar program. No degree was offered, and the then–NIH Director James Shannon did not support the possibility of NIH offering a Ph.D. degree.

In the 1960s, the FAES initiated a joint Ph.D. program with the Biology Department of Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore). Students had two years of course study at Hopkins, did their thesis research at NIH, and received a Ph.D. from the university. In return for the Hopkins faculty teaching “our” Ph.D. students for two years, Steinberg, Earl Stadtman, and I gave lectures in the advanced biochemistry course at Hopkins. FAES had a similar, but less extensive program, with (I think) the Biophysics Department at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus.

I ceased participating in the Hopkins program when I went on sabbatical to Cambridge, England, in 1969. Alan Schechter [NIDDK] reminds me that the FAES programs continued under the sequential direction of him, Elizabeth Neufeld [former NINDS researcher], and David Davies [NIDDK], each for about a decade. DeWitt “Hans” Stetten was very active in the FAES. When he was deputy director for intramural research, he proposed that the NIH have its own graduate program with authority to offer its own Ph.D. This idea did not receive widespread support from the NIH staff.

The FAES initiative, which involved major financial contributions from the FAES, was a pilot program for two or three new students a year. Ultimately, about 50 students received Ph.D. degrees, mostly from Johns Hopkins, for research done at NIH. Many of these students have gone on to have distinguished careers at NIH, the Food and Drug Administration, and elsewhere.

The FAES graduate program lasted until the mid-1990s, when it was folded into the NIH Graduate Partnerships Program. Graduate education at the NIH is one of the many FAES activities that have contributed to NIH being a wonderfully atypical federal institution.

Resveratrol Revealed

It takes nothing away from the outstanding contribution of Jay Chung (“Resveratrol Revealed,” July-August 2012 Catalyst) to note that co-authors of the Cell paper include two other NHLBI senior scientists: Michael Beaven, now emeritus but still working at the bench, and Vincent Manganiello, for many years one of the world’s leading investigators of phosphodiesterases. I would have liked to have seen them, as well as the other co-authors, mentioned in the article.

Editor’s note: We updated our online edition of the Catalyst to note all the authors on the paper (Cell 148:421-433, 2012): Sung-Jun Park, Faiyaz Ahmad, Alexandra L. Brown, Myung K. Kim, Michael A. Beaven, Vincent Manganiello, and Jay H. Chung.