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Former Postdoc Awarded Hartwell Fellowship at Duke

By Eddy Ball
May 2008

NIEHS Environmental Lung Disease Group colleague Ivana Yang, Ph.D., described Ellis as
NIEHS Environmental Lung Disease Group colleague Ivana Yang, Ph.D., described Ellis as "very independent and good at what she does, both in designing experiments and carrying them through." (Photo courtesy of Duke Medicine Development and Alumni Affairs)

A decision by former NIEHS Postdoctoral Fellow Terri Ellis, Ph.D., to accept a position at Duke University in 2006 set in motion a series of research accomplishments that culminated this year in an award any young scientist would be proud to receive - a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Duke funded at $50,000 per year by the Hartwell Foundation, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn.

Ellis was one of ten recipients of the second annual Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Awards. The awards are limited to nominees from institutions the foundation designates each year as Top Ten Centers of Biomedical Research in the United States.

Hartwell Foundation guidelines specify that the highly selective awards are intended to "provide financial support to stimulate discovery in early-stage biomedical research that we hope will benefit children." In a Duke Medicine Development and Alumni Affairs news release about her award, Ellis described the award as "an honor... [that] gives me the opportunity to explore my own scientific ideas and help develop research to enable me to become an independent scientist."

Currently, Ellis is a postdoctoral research associate in the Duke Medical Center's Center for Microbial Pathogenesis with Principal Investigator and Duke Professor Meta J. Kuehn, Ph.D. She is investigating novel ways to stimulate the immune system to combat the antibiotic-resistant bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa - a pathogen implicated in pediatric pneumonia and infections associated with cystic fibrosis. Kuehn was quoted as saying of Ellis, "Terri is an outstanding researcher and is attracted to the excitement of establishing new concepts in the host-pathogen interaction."

Before joining Duke Medical Center, Ellis held a fellowship at NIEHS and worked with David Schwartz, M.D., former head of the Environmental Lung Disease Group and NIEHS director. She received her Ph.D. in microbiology in 2004 from the University of California - Davis, where she also held a fellowship.

Ellis may determine the best use of the funds to support the direct costs of her project. The foundation will evaluate progress toward her project goals through quarterly reviews and annual reports.

In addition to Duke, the 2007 Top Ten Centers of Biomedical Research included Johns Hopkins University, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, University of Pittsburgh, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, University of Michigan, University of California-San Diego, Cornell University, University of Wisconsin - Madison and University of Virginia.

According to its Web site( Exit NIEHS Website, "the Primary Mission of the Hartwell Foundation is to grant awards to individuals for innovative and cutting-edge biomedical applied research that potentially benefit children." The philanthropic foundation funded its first program in 1999, the Hartwell Center at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which integrates available high-throughput biotechnology and bioinformatics with academic programs to provide scientists with state-of-the-art tools for discovery. In addition to Individual Biomedical Research Awards, the foundation also funds two-year Biomedical Research Fellowships, the Associate Marine Institutes programs for juvenile offenders in eight states and Hands-On Help, a relief program for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

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