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Institute celebrates postdoctoral fellows

By Eddy Ball
October 2010

NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D.
Birnbaum assured NIEHS postdocs that many fruitful career paths, like her own, have hesitations and shifts before getting on the right trajectory. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

David Miller, Ph.D.
Miller took over as acting scientific director Sept. 20. Like his predecessor and longtime friend and colleague, John Pritchard, Ph.D., he has a deep appreciation for the talent and dedication of postdocs at the Institute. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Nisha Cavanaugh, Ph.D.
Cavanaugh facilitated the business portion of the meeting, with help from postdocs Allison Schorzman, Ph.D., who reported on the first NTA picnic, and Thaddeus Schug, Ph.D., who talked about his experiences as guest writer for the Environmental Factor. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Diane Klotz, Ph.D.
After speaking at the NTA meeting, Klotz came once more to the podium - this time in the cafeteria during the trivia competition. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Mitch Eddy, Ph.D.
Pictured above, Senior Principal Investigator Mitch Eddy, Ph.D., showed just how much the crowd enjoyed the trivia contest. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS reminded its 225 postdoctoral fellows of their central importance to the Institute's work by observing the second annual National Postdoc Appreciation Day Sept. 24 during the NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA) ( fall meeting. As attendees learned at the meeting, the national celebration gained added momentum the day before with a Congressional resolution honoring America's postdoctoral fellows and "the significant contributions that postdoctoral scholars make to the U.S. scientific research enterprise."

National Postdoc Appreciation Day is the high point of National Postdoc Appreciation Week. The celebration was initiated in 2009 by the National Postdoctoral Association ( Exit NIEHS, a member-driven organization that provides a unique voice for postdoctoral scholars throughout the country.

On hand to offer their personal thanks to the Institute's postdocs were NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., and NIEHS Acting Scientific Director David Miller, Ph.D. Birnbaum entertained postdocs with stories of her own three fellowships - one of them at NIEHS. She encouraged her listeners to "take advantage of opportunities [at NIEHS] to broaden yourself professionally," and said, "You should always be appreciated."

Miller offered "an extended thank you to all our trainees" and to Diane Klotz, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Office of Fellows Career Development ( He said, "I think of science as an engine and the fuel for the engine is the trainees." Miller also emphasized that principal investigators benefit from the fresh ideas and enthusiasm of postdocs in ways that trainees and their supervisors may not fully appreciate.

NTA steering committee chair Nisha Cavanaugh, Ph.D., spoke during the meeting portion of the event, updating fellows on volunteer opportunities and new initiatives, as well as recent and upcoming events. She pointed to the NTA selection of Mentor of the Year for NIEHS Science Day Nov. 4 and the new emphasis on landing a job at the upcoming 14th Annual Biomedical Career Fair scheduled for April 29, 2011.

Closing out the business portion of the meeting, Klotz added her own humorous touch to the meeting by describing her career path, which was similar to the one many fellows may experience - one that took her in unexpected directions as she eventually discovered her own kind of rewarding career in science.

Klotz described upcoming training and career development events and the creation of a special listserv to support the NTA's new Visiting Fellows Subcommittee. Chaired by Louie Chen, Ph.D., and Raj Gosavi, Ph.D., the committee will strive to help the 110 fellows from foreign countries with some of their specialized needs.

When the meeting came to an end, fellows gathered for a group photo and then filed into the NIEHS cafeteria for an ice cream social and trivia contest.

shown, left to right, Jill Hesse, Ph.D., Allison Schorzman, Ph.D., Ken Tomer, Ph.D., Miller, and NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D.
Shown, left to right, NTA Steering Committee members Jill Hesse, Ph.D., and Allison Schorzman, Ph.D., joined Principal Investigator Ken Tomer, Ph.D., David Miller, Ph.D., and Birnbaum for talk and laughter at the event. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Postdocs gather for the official 2010 Postdoc Appreciation Day group photo, which will be displayed at NIH in Bethesda, as well as here at  NIEHS.
Postdocs gather for the official 2010 Postdoc Appreciation Day group photo, which will be displayed at NIH in Bethesda, as well as here at NIEHS. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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