Dr. Polly A. Penhale
Program Manager, Polar Biology and Medicine
Office of Polar Programs
National Science Foundation
My name is Polly Penhale and I'm the Program Manager for Polar Biology
and Medicine in the Office of Polar Programs of the National Science
Foundation. I am a science administrator, with responsibilities of funding
research projects in the Arctic and Antarctic. Scientists who wish to
pursue a biological research project in polar regions through the
National Science Foundation will write a grant proposal and submit it for
funding to my program. I have these proposals reviewed by experts and I
take their advice and make decisions as to who receives funding. We never
have enough money to support all the excellent science projects, so must
make difficult decisions, funding only about one quarter of the proposals
sent to us.
I became a science administrator after spending ten years doing research
and teaching in the field of marine biology. I first became interested in
marine science through the National Science Foundation's "Young Scholar"
program, which sent me to a high school summer program at the Gulf Coast
Research Laboratory in Mississippi. I graduated from Earlham College with
a major in biology and received my M.S. and Ph.D. at North Carolina State
University. As an oceanographer, I've been fortunate to conduct research
in many oceans and coastal regions, including coastal Alaska, the
Caribbean, Florida, and the Chesapeake Bay. I had post-doctorate
positions at the University of Miami and Michigan State University and
came to the National Science Foundation from the Virginia Institute of
Marine Science, College of William and Mary.
I enjoy my role as an administrator and find it rewarding to facilitate
other scientists to conduct research in polar regions. I spend much of my
time in Washington, but spend about 2 months a year in Antarctica
managing our science program. I also work with international groups in
long range planning for scientific programs and work in the development
of protected area management plans in Antarctica.