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Urologic Diseases Research Updates
Spring 2012

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NIDDK Scientific Director Ira Levin, Ph.D. is honored by NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P. at a celebration in honor of Levin’s retirement from the NIH after 48 years of Government service.

NIDDK Scientific Director Ira Levin Retires

From NIH Record
By Rachel Greenberg

When Dr. Ira Levin, a world leader in vibrational spectroscopy and NIDDK scientific director since 2009, retired from NIH recently, he left a huge mark, both on his field and on NIH. In nearly 48 years at NIH, Levin’s career included 235 publications, 135 published meeting abstracts and 20 awards and honors, including the Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Award, the top award in the field.

“For the past 48 years, Ira’s work has focused on developing new and innovative spectroscopic methods and their applications to a wide range of problems,” said Dr. William Eaton, chief of NIDDK’s Laboratory of Chemical Physics. “From his early work initiating the field of infrared imaging, to using both infrared and Raman measurements to characterize the structure of lipid bilayer systems, and to his latest work applying vibrational spectroscopic imaging to medical diagnostics, Ira has been the acknowledged leader and among the most cited spectroscopists of his generation.”

Levin’s scientific career was matched, if not exceeded, by the strong relationships and accolades that marked his administrative roles at NIDDK. Levin’s colleagues described their mentor as the “captain of their ship,” saying he will be much missed.

“Ira is the epitome of modesty and unpretentiousness,” said NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers. “When he popped in on scientists and staff he was a colleague and mentor—not the ‘scientific director.’ I will miss Ira’s gracious guidance and insights, his love for science and his support for the people behind the science.”

“If NIDDK had an award for ‘mensch laureate,’ Ira would be the leading candidate for that award,” said Dr. James Balow, NIDDK clinical director. Balow will serve as acting scientific director until a new SD is named.

Since the mid-1990s, Levin held several management positions with the NIDDK Division of Intramural Research while continuing to lead the molecular biophysics section of the Laboratory of Chemical Physics until 2009.

“The same talents you hone over the years as a scientist work well for an administrator,” said Levin. “I’d listen carefully, go to meetings, hear others’ ideas and then flesh out new thoughts.”

Balow explained his colleague’s administrative success otherwise. “I’m convinced that Ira’s mastery of fine spectral signal discrimination formed the underpinnings and created the model for his success,” said Balow. “Ira could detect the key elements resounding from the chorus of requests and competing interests of his constituents in NIDDK. He was a master at separating the wheat from the chaff, the frivolous from the important.”

Levin’s ability to distribute resources fairly in the face of shrinking budgets earned the respect of his colleagues and supervisors alike.

“In his unswerving dedication and commitment to NIDDK, Ira exhibited a deep understanding of the concept of the common good,” said Balow. “His decisions were based on what was good for NIDDK as a whole, and ultimately, the good of the public, which entrusts us with its treasure chest of support.”

Reflecting on his career at NIDDK, Levin said he was most proud of his colleagues’ passion and intellect, their readiness to exchange ideas, and the outstanding ratings NIDDK received from the board of scientific counselors. Of himself, he said, “As administrator, you want to carry on your most creative, innovative and strongest research. Maintain the enthusiasm of the enterprise and do it all by remaining invisible.”

Fortunately for NIH and the field of spectroscopy, Levin’s influence was anything but invisible.


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NIH Publication No. 12–5743
May 2012

Page last updated June 11, 2012


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