Joanne S. Tornow was selected as assistant director for the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) in February 2019, following almost two decades with the foundation. Her duties ranged from program management to high-level leadership and strategic development, and she previously served as the head of BIO in an interim capacity. Prior to her time at the NSF, Tornow served on the faculty at Portland State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. She joins us on BioScience Talks to discuss the directorate's current operations and future plans. A written version of this conversation is available online and will be published in an upcoming issue of BioScience. Both versions have been edited for clarity.