UNTHSC researchers tapped for NIH leadership roles


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By Alex Branch

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Meharvan “Sonny” Singh, PhD and Tom Cunningham, PhD

Two UNT Health Science Center researchers have been selected for leadership roles on National Institutes of Health scientific review boards.

Meharvan “Sonny” Singh, PhD, Dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Interim Director for the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Disease Research, will chair the Aging Systems and Geriatrics Study Section.

Tom Cunningham, PhD, Professor in the Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease, will chair the Neuroendocrinology, Neuroimmunology, Rhythms and Sleep Study Section.

Their terms as chair begin July 1.

Study Sections are panels of 25 to 30 scientists who review and score for scientific merit the grant applications submitted by researchers from across the United States. The scored applications are then forwarded to program directors within specific health institutes, where the decision is made whether or not proposals are funded. The study sections’ scores play a key role in the process.

Dr. Cunningham and Dr. Singh both served on study sections prior to being selected as chairpersons.

“There are always more good proposals then there is money to fund them,” Dr. Cunningham said. “My experience with study sections is of members taking careful and reasonable approaches to judging the scientific merit of each proposal we consider. There is a lot at stake.”

Study sections members are chosen as content experts for having expertise in certain fields. Section chairpersons, who fill two-year terms, are responsible for ensuring proposals receive high quality, fair reviews.

Study sections meet three times per year and members are generally each assigned seven to 12 proposals to review prior to each meeting.

“Participation on study sections can create professional relationships that lead to future collaborations among study section members, who are chosen from research institutions across the country,” Dr. Singh said. “It also offers invaluable insight into factors that can determine whether a proposal is funded or not.

“Such service is not just a privilege, but a valuable lesson in grantsmanship that we can share with our colleagues here at UNT Health Science Center,” he said.

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