IOS Bids Farewell to Patrick Abbot

Patrick Abbot was a program director in IOS for the past 3 years within the Behavioral Systems Cluster (BSC). Patrick was involved with numerous other NSF activities outside of BSC while serving as a rotator, including the IOS Symbiosis, Infection and Immunity (SII) program, EDGE, ORCC, OSIB, and RaMP solicitation, among others. He is returning to his faculty position at Vanderbilt University.

What was working at IOS like?

Working in IOS was an incredible, eye-opening experience. I truly enjoyed having a ‘seat at the table’ in making science happen in IOS – making and managing awards, working with colleagues to craft new solicitations, having numerous meetings with PIs (like myself when I’m not at NSF!) who do the work of putting together creative proposals to fund their research programs. Just an incredible experience. 

What was the highlight of your time at NSF?

There wasn’t just one highlight that I can pick from the rest. I think many program officers would agree that a definite highlight is working with individual PIs who go on to do fantastic work. Meeting with them perhaps after a proposal is declined, or when they send in a one- or two-page description of a new idea, and seeing that new or refined idea get a positive response from reviewers. It was truly rewarding to see that process. I certainly have had many proposals declined in my career – seeing scientists young and old(er) succeed was a definite highlight. Another highlight was seeing firsthand how well NSF does its job. How hard everyone is trying in the Foundation to get it right, adjust course when needed, listen and respond to the community and those that represent us in DC. It made me proud to be part of it all. And ultimately it comes down to the people that work there.  An amazing bunch of folks!

What personal goals did you accomplish while at NSF?

I had a personal goal of immersing myself in as much as I would be allowed to do. And I am grateful that my supervisor gave me so many opportunities. Not only was I able to be involved in endeavors across BIO, but I was able to work with colleagues across the Foundation. It has given me a much better understanding of what NSF is doing on so many fronts.

What are you most looking forward to next? 

I have some papers that need to be written and submitted, and collaborations that I need to follow up on. NSF gives rotators ample time for their scholarly endeavors, but I took on new projects while rotating, and while I’m sad to be leaving NSF, I have the time to do some really, really deep dives into manuscripts and such. I also have a dog now, so there’s that.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about serving as a Program Director at the NSF? 

I would encourage most anyone to seriously consider it, and if the time is right, to do it! It’s not for everyone at every career stage. But for most, 1 or 2 years as a rotating PD in IOS will be an enlightening and enlivening experience. It was for me, no question.

Michelle Elekonich, Acting Division Director of IOS at the time, said about Dr. Abbot, “Patrick made the most of every opportunity from developing new professional skills to learning about every aspect of solicitation development, review and award management in IOS, the Directorate for Biological Science and multiple other Directorates as well.”