10 • NIH RECORD • OCTOBER 9, 2015
CSR Division Director Garte Retires
BY PAULA WHITACRE
Dr. Seymour Garte, who retired as director of the Division of Physiological and Pathological Sciences in the Center for Scientific Review recently, is looking forward to thinking about new evolutionary theory and the relationship between science and faith.
“I see no boredom in sight,” he quipped. Through a nonprofit he created called the Natural Philosophy Institute, Garte will study and write about the theoretical aspects of science in which he has long been interested, but never had time to pursue fully. The John Templeton Foundation awarded the institute a grant for the project.
Garte came to NIH in 2009 after a career in academia. “I was at the University of Pittsburgh but wanted to look at different opportunities in science administration or writing,” he said. As a CSR division director, he helped coordinate and strengthen the peer review process. In addition to overseeing the work of about 40 scientific review officers, he worked with other CSR senior staff to ensure peer review policies and practices remained consistent and of high quality across CSR’s many study sections and special emphasis panels.
“The place is terrific,” he said of his 6 years at NIH. “The people are wonderful. I really enjoyed it.”
CSR deputy director Dr. Rene Etcheberrigaray said Garte’s background resulted in a unique perspective. “As a long-term academician, he was one of the first CSR division directors who came from the ‘outside,’” Etcheberrigaray said. “He brought a different way of viewing things and how to accomplish our mission.”
Etcheberrigaray also praised Garte’s analytic strengths, which he used to help CSR pioneer several projects, including a method of bibliometric analysis to determine how peer review outcomes could predict the impact of NIH-funded research.
“Sy has a great sense of humor and would bring up a comment in many discussions that made us laugh but also moved the conversation along,” said Dr. Karyl Swartz, director of the Division of AIDS, Behavioral and Population Sciences. She also praised his passion for the quality and fairness of peer review, which, she said “permeated all that he did while at CSR.”
Garte spent the first part of his life in New York. He majored in chemistry, followed by a Ph.D. in biochemistry at City University of New York. Garte went on to the Institute of Environmental Medicine at New York University, rising to full professor in 1992. Supported by NIH and other institutions, his research focused on environmental toxicology and molecular oncology.
For about a decade, he had one of the more unusual academic commutes, serving as professor of public health at Rutgers in New Jersey and scientific director of the Genetics Research Institute in Milan, Italy. In 2005, he moved to the University of Pittsburgh.
In addition to more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and 3 academic books, Garte wrote Where We Stand. The 2007 mass-market book focuses on improvements in the environment since the 1970s. Explaining the book’s genesis, he said, “Neither I nor anyone I
spoke to knew the extent of the positive effects of environmental laws and regulations.” Considering a sequel, he is writing another book on science and faith.
With his work through the Natural Philosophy Institute, along with learning the saxophone (he already plays guitar and flute), Garte won’t have to worry about a boring retirement.