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Trainees Turn Out in Record Number for National Postdoc Appreciation Day

By Laura Hall
November 2009

"I've never seen such a turnout before at NTA meetings," Gosavi noted. He explained the functions of the NIEHS Trainee Assembly and thanked organizers for their help in organizing the event.
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Pritchard told the trainees, "Everyday should be Postdoc Appreciation Day." (Photo courtesy of
Steve McCaw)

Emily Zhou, Ph.D., center, commented, "I am really glad I went to this event. The organizers did a fantastic job." Seated left to right are Tobias Schenk, Ph.D., Angelika Zaremba, Ph.D., Zhou and José Colón SÁez, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Klotz addressed a gathering of 95 trainees, which she later said was the largest of group of trainees ever assembled in one place in the history of NIEHS.
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

As part of the NIEHS Trainee Assembly (NTA)( fall General Meeting on September 24, NTA and the NIEHS Office of the Scientific Director celebrated the first annual National Postdoc Appreciation Day with snacks, fellowship and prizes. Nearly half of all the trainees at NIEHS turned out to enjoy their special day of recognition, which was organized by the NTA Steering Committee and Diane Klotz, Ph.D., director of the Office of Fellows' Career Development (OFCD)(

In his keynote address, Acting NIEHS Scientific Director John Pritchard, Ph.D., emphasized how critical trainees are to the work of the Institute. "We have two products [at NIEHS]. We have our research, and we have our trainees," Pritchard observed. "Without our trainees, we wouldn't have our research .... We're thankful that you're here."

NTA Co-chair Rajendrakumar Gosavi, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Structure and Function Research Group, opened his part of the program by noting that National Postdoc Appreciation Day was organized by the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA)( Exit NIEHS to recognize the contributions of postdoctoral scholars to U.S. scientific research. He then gave a quick overview of the history, purpose and organization of the NTA - as well as the many opportunities sponsored by the NTA for postdocs at the Institute (see text box).

In her discussion of the OFCD, Klotz said its purpose is to "provide lots of scientific career and professional development programs" for trainees. She provided the cookies and door prizes, while NIEHS principal investigators showed their appreciation for trainees by contributing money for the ice cream, a great crowd pleaser.

According to Klotz, all of the other intramural programs at NIH also held special events for their trainees. To encourage attendance throughout NIH, Director of the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) Sharon Milgram, Ph.D., and Lori Conlan, Ph.D., director of the NIH Office of Postdoctoral Services, made a commitment to personally donate money to a charity chosen by the postdocs.

Trainees responded positively to the meeting. They found the information useful and enjoyed the snacks, ice cream and prizes. "I definitely enjoyed the ice cream social afterwards! It's always nice to have an opportunity to get to know other trainees," said Jenna Waggoner, a special volunteer in the Chronic Disease Epidemiology Group. "I enjoyed the activity because I was able to learn more about the NTA," added Ion Channel Physiology Group member José Colón SÁez, Ph.D. "It gave us a sense of community and brought together postdocs from different groups that otherwise rarely interact with each other."

"We greatly appreciate the organizers who took some time out and made this event happen," noted Deepti Dwivedi, Ph.D., a visiting fellow in the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics. "Also, door prizes, free cookies and ice cream are always welcome."

(Laura Hall is a biologist in the NIEHS Laboratory of Pharmacology currently on detail as a writer for the Environmental Factor.)

Group picture of NIEHS trainees
This group picture of NIEHS trainees will be combined with the group pictures of all the other trainees to make a collage. The collage will be a gift for NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS Trainee Assembly Activities

The NTA membership includes all non-tenured non-permanent scientists training at NIEHS. Through the NTA, trainees have the opportunity to receive career training, network with their peers, develop more mentoring relationships and voice their concerns to NIEHS management. Volunteers on the NTA Steering Committee represent the trainees from all the laboratory branches and vote on matters that come before the committee, as well as take leadership roles by representing NTA inside and outside of NIEHS.

Gosavi told the trainees that the committee currently needs an international fellows liaison and representatives from the Laboratory of Neurobiology and the Laboratory of Pharmacology. He also said that standing subcommittees would welcome volunteers.

The NTA hosts monthly and special events throughout the year:

Monthly Events

NTP Steering Committee Meetings -- every third Wednesday of the month at 3:30 pm in the Executive Conference room by the cafeteria.

Fellows' Coffee Hours -- last weekday of the month at 9:30-10:30 am in the F-module second floor break room F297.

Science Career Workshops -- NTA hosts a monthly series of workshops that provide career advice. They are sponsored by Felcom, the NIH Fellows Committee and OITE. The workshops are webcast from NIH, and past webcasts are posted online.

Distinguished Lecture Luncheons -- NTA hosts a lunch with each NIEHS Distinguished Lecture speaker to discuss science and career development. The lecture series is a monthly series of seminars given by renowned scientists.

Special Events

NIEHS/NTA Biomedical Career Fair -- NTA helps to organize the annual career fair for young area scientists bringing them together with biomedical organizations and providing career panel discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities. The next Biomedical Career Fair will be on April 30, 2010.

Mentor of the Year Award -- The NTA award committee selects and gives this award at the annual NIEHS Science Awards Day in November.

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