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Sixth Annual Science Awards Day Honors Achievements

By Eddy Ball
December 2008

Resnick, second from the right, was a winner in two ways - as Scientist of the Year and as mentor and co-author for former postdoctoral fellow Francesca Storici, Ph.D., second from the left, lead author on the Paper of the Year. Abramowitz, left, and Blackshear, right, joined the winners. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Gilchrist, above, was one of six speakers vying for Best Oral Presentation. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Fessler explained that his award-winning research "challenges the canonical view of apolipoprotein A-1" by demonstrating that it induces proinflammatory signals in microphages. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Kamel smiled as she answered questions about her ongoing quest to understand the disease that killed baseball great Lou Gehrig. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Mentor of the Year Mason, center, poses with Abramowitz, left, and Visiting Fellow and NTA Steering Committee member Rajendrakumar Gosavi, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS Science Awards Day, held on the first Thursday of November each year, added a new category of award to the 2008 event to honor the year's outstanding staff scientist. Now in its sixth year, the annual day-long event rewarded the achievements of postdoctoral fellows in juried competition, recognized the cumulative achievements of early-career and senior investigators, and celebrated the spirit of scientific inquiry across the spectrum of Division of Intramural Research (DIR) laboratories and branches.

2008 awards included plaques for all the winners and $1,000 travel grants for the outstanding postdoctoral investigators:

  • Scientist of the Year Award - Michael Resnick, Ph.D., Chromosome Stability Group principal investigator, speaking on "Endgame: DNA Breaks and Genome Stability"
  • Early Career Award - Michael Fessler, M.D., Host Defense Group Response principal investigator, speaking on "Back to the Past: New Paradigms for Host Defense in Host Cholesterol and Membrane Homeostasis"
  • Outstanding Staff Scientist Award - Freya Kamel, Ph.D., Chronic Disease Epidemiology Group staff scientist, speaking on "Environmental Neurotoxicants and ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis]: Incidence and Progression"
  • Mentor of the Year - Ronald Mason, Ph.D., Free Radical Metabolism Group principal investigator
  • Best Poster Presentation in Environmental Biology - Stephanie Nick McElhinny, Ph.D., DNA Replication Fidelity Group, for Ribonucleotide misincorporation by eukaryotic replicative polymerases
  • Best Poster Presentation in Environmental Diseases and Medicine - Päivi Salo, Ph.D., Environmental Cardiopulmonary Diseases Group, for Exposure to dog (Can f 1) and cat (Fel d 1) allergens in U.S. homes and current asthma
  • Best Poster Presentation in Environmental Toxicology - Marcelo Bonini, Ph.D., Free Radical Metabolism Group, for MnSOD (SOD2) peroxidase activity, a novel mitochondrial redox sensor, linking oxidative stress and energetic metabolism
  • Best Oral Presentation - Daniel Gilchrist, Ph.D., Transcriptional Responses to the Environment Group, for Pol II stalling can enhance gene expression by blocking promoter-proximal nucleosome assembly
  • Paper of the Year - Laboratory of Molecular Genetics: Former Postdoctoral Fellow Francesca Storici, Ph.D., Staff Scientist Katarzyna Bebenek, Ph.D., Principal Investigator Thomas Kunkel, Ph.D., Staff Scientist Dmitry Gordenin, Ph.D., and Principal Investigator Michael Resnick, Ph.D. 2007. RNA-templated DNA repair. Nature 447: 338-341.

This year's event, like its predecessors, was sponsored by the NIEHS Office of the Scientific Director and moderated by Special Assistant to the Scientific Director Joel Abramowitz, Ph.D. Judges included members of the NIEHS Board of Scientific Counselors and investigators from the NIEHS Extramural and Intramural scientific communities.

The full-day event featured a morning session of oral presentations by fellows, students and technicians, midday poster sessions showcasing 68 abstracts by postdoctoral fellows and an afternoon session of talks by award-winning career investigators. Afterwards, Abramowitz and Acting Scientific Director Perry Blackshear, M.D., D.Phil., presented awards to winners in the several categories. The Mentor of the Year, chosen by the NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA), was also recognized.

Posters by NIEHS trainees snaked through the hallways of the Rall Building - giving trainees and investigators an opportunity to network with their colleagues from other labs and branches. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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