When George Galasso left his research and teaching job at the University of Virginia 14 years ago to become a federal worker, he had his eye on a career in science administration.

Today, thanks to a select training program at the National Institutes of Health and years of hard work at the Bethesda complex, he is the $57,000-a-year chief of the developmental and applications branch at NIH's allergy and infectious diseases institute.

"I feel I'm making a contribution to the public health . . . lives have been saved because of what we do here," says Galasso, 50.

The work includes the administration and development of new and more effective vaccines for the control of infectious diseases. His branch has overseen and advanced development of orphan drugs, used in treating rare diseases. It also supported research on interferon, a substance produced as a consequence of viral infection and now used in the experimental treatment of infectious diseases and cancer.

"We're fortunate to be perceived as the good guys," says Galasso, who adds that NIH has escaped much of the negative criticism directed against the federal bureaucracy these days.

The stereotype of the overpaid and underworked federal employe is one Galasso says he has never seen during his government career. The bad image "is unfair, and it bothers me," he says. "Most of us are hardworking and good people, and we're doing important work that is not usually recognized."

A New York native who now lives in Rockville, Galasso is married to a federal worker and is the father of three children. He is in a candidate development program for the government's elite Senior Executive Service, which, in addition to his job and his work as an adviser to the World Health Organization, leaves him little time to enjoy his hobbies, photography and painting.