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Hermon Wins Honorable Mention for Poster Presentation

By Jerry Phelps
July 2006

Tonia Hermon with her award winning poster and citation.
Tonia Hermon with her award winning poster and citation.

Tonia Hermon, a Ph.D. candidate in the NIEHS Laboratory of Experimental Pathology, set the bar high when she won an Honorable Mention for her very first scientific presentation. Under the mentorship of Dr. Darlene Dixon, Hermon prepared a poster titled, "Phospo-Serine-118 Estrogen Receptor Alpha (ERa) is Highly Expressed in Human Uterine Leiomyomas Compared to Myometrial Tissue," which was displayed on April 5 at the 2006 Global Challenges, Local Solutions Research Expo in Norfolk, Va. The event was co-sponsored by Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS), Norfolk State University (NSU) and Old Dominion University (ODU).

Hermon has a special interest in uterine leiomyomas also known as fibroids. Her mother and two of her aunts had partial or full hysterectomies because of this painful condition, which strikes African-American women much more frequently than others. She said the personal connection keeps her more focused on her research and gives it more importance. Hermon's research seeks to elucidate how the estrogen receptor and growth factor signaling pathways interact to promote fibroid growth.

Results of the studies presented in the poster show higher levels of the phosphorylated estrogen receptor and mitogen activated protein kinase, a key component of the interaction between the pathways, in leiomyomas compared to normal myometrial tissue.

Dixon shares Hermon's enthusiasm and said, "I'm very proud of Tonia and her accomplishments. Having her work recognized at this meeting out of over 100 participants brings great honor to Tonia and our lab. Tonia's enthusiasm for research and learning is contagious. She's a very positive influence in our lab and I'm very pleased to serve as her mentor."

Hermon is enrolled at EVMS in the Department of Physiological Sciences through a joint program with ODU.

Finished with her course work, she hopes to complete her dissertation and graduate in 2007. At this point she plans to pursue a research career in government, academia, or the private sector, although if the opportunity is presented, she said she would "jump at the chance to stay at NIEHS to continue working on fibroid research" and that "Dr. Dixon is the perfect person to train me to be a scientist."

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