Biomedical engineering associate professor selected to serve two-year appointment in the CBET division of the National Science Foundation

Michele Grimm, associate professor of biomedical engineering in Wayne State University's College of Engineering, has accepted a two-year appointment to serve as program director for biomedical engineering in the CBET (Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems) division of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington, D.C. Her term begins June 13.

“This provides me with an amazing opportunity,” says Grimm, who has maintained dual positions in Wayne State’s Office of the Provost and College of Engineering since 2013. “I’ve been involved with educational administration for 15 years, and this gives me an opportunity to broaden that base and fill in some gaps. It really will open the door for me to move on to higher-level administrative positions going forward.”

CBET operates within the engineering directorate of NSF and supports innovative research and education in the fields of biotechnology, bioengineering, chemical engineering and environmental engineering, as well as areas that involve the transformation or transport of energy and matter by chemical, thermal or mechanical means.

“Within CBET, there are a number of different programs that oversee grant funding for researchers across the country,” Grimm explains. “I’m going into the biomedical engineering program, which has a very broad scope.

 “I will be overseeing the proposal review process with potential grantees, working with other programs to determine how we can leverage funds in multiple program budgets to best support research moving forward, and working with individuals within CBET to identify where the key focus areas for research under the biomedical engineering umbrella should be.”

At Wayne State, Grimm served as associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering from 2003 through 2010. She returned to the biomedical engineering department in 2010 to establish the highly successful undergraduate program.

“I‘ve been in charge of recruitment, retention, assessment, accreditation — all those aspects, trying to make sure that students are moving forward and graduating,” she says.

 In 2013, Grimm was recruited by the Office of the Provost to launch the Transfer Student Success Center, assisting incoming students, particularly those from community colleges, in making the transition to WSU.

In 2015, Grimm completed the Executive Leadership in Academic Technology and Engineering program (ELATE) at Drexel, which is designed to advance senior women faculty in academic engineering, computer science and related fields into effective institutional leadership roles within their schools and universities.

Grimm continued to teach at the same time. She believes her varied experiences at Wayne State were key to separating her from the pack of NSF program director candidates.

“I have a very different background than many researchers who are going into the NSF because of my focus on education and curriculum development and administration,” says Grimm, an NSF panel reviewer for more than a decade. “That was something they liked. They also liked the fact that I have been a biomedical engineer from day one, so I have a much broader understanding of the field than some who may have done their initial training in more traditional engineering disciplines. I definitely brought some different strengths to the process than they typically see with their applicants.”

Grimm will relocate to Arlington, Virginia. Her husband, a family physician in private practice, will stay here. The NSF appointment includes funds for program directors to return to their campuses and maintain their research and connections with students.

“I’ll be coming back through that process on a regular basis,” she says. “I’ve been reassuring my students on that front.”

Still, Grimm is enthusiastic about her Washington sojourn.

“If you only like being in the lab and doing the research, obviously this is not a position you are likely to enjoy,” she says. “But it does provide great insight into how NSF works and amazing connections. I have had my own grants funded through NSF and been familiar with their processes, so yes, this has been on my radar for a few years.”

Grimm has been a faculty member at Wayne State since 1994, having received her degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania. She is an internationally renowned expert in the mechanisms of neonatal brachial plexus palsy. And she is also a fellow in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

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