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Environmental Factor, January 2012

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Institute staff honored at 2011 NIEHS awards and international day

By Ian Thomas

Nigel Walker, Ph.D.

Walker was an engaging host who moved the ceremony along with his good-natured anecdotes about colleagues, including Birnbaum, that kept the audience laughing and attentive. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S.

Although Walker commanded the podium during most of the ceremony, Birnbaum had the last word, as she thanked all of the employees at NIEHS for their contributions to the Institute’s mission. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S. shaking hands with Charles Alden, Ph.D.

Leading off the ceremony was the presentation of the first of two Unsung Hero Awards to NTP Technical Writer/Editor Charles Alden, Ph.D., for maintaining the high standards expected of the NTP Technical Report Series. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Group photo of FARE winners

The ceremony concluded with the recognition of recipients of earlier awards, such as trainees who were FARE winners. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Raj Gosavi, Ph.D. and Sindura Ganapathi, Ph.D. prepared for a hearty afternoon snack

The food was tasty, plentiful, and varied. Shown above, left to right, postdoctoral fellows Raj Gosavi, Ph.D., and Sindura Ganapathi, Ph.D., prepared for a hearty afternoon snack. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS welcomed federal staff and contractors to Rodbell Auditorium Dec. 6 for its annual Awards Ceremony and International Day festivities. As one of the biggest events of the year, the 2011 ceremony recognized individuals and groups for outstanding accomplishments, while also honoring NIEHS’ rich cultural diversity with the annual International Day celebration afterwards.

“This ceremony spotlights the hard work and dedication of so many worthy people, and it’s always such a pleasure to be a part of it,” said Nigel Walker, Ph.D., NTP deputy director for science and the event’s master of ceremonies.

Merits of the highest honor

Among the most distinguished of awards presented at the ceremony were the 25 NIH Merit Awards, honors given on behalf of the NIEHS director in recognition of outstanding contributions toward leadership, scientific research, and scientific and administrative management.

“Winning a Merit Award is a testament to the dedication and innovation of everyone involved with NIEHS’ ethics program,” said David Resnik, J.D., Ph.D., a bioethicist who, along with his team from the NIEHS Ethics Office, garnered a compliance score of 100 percent for its ethics and research conduct training programs. “But beyond that, it also signifies this Institute’s commitment to maintaining strong ethical standards, and I’m exceptionally proud to be part of it.”

Other awards presented were the NIEHS Unsung Hero Awards, recognizing employees who make valuable contributions that have a huge impact on the programs of the Institute, and the NIEHS Peer Awards, honors nominated by colleagues to acknowledge employees who have consistently provided extraordinary assistance to their fellow workers.

“I really can’t tell you what a wonderful honor it is to win this award,” said Amy Johnson, an Unsung Hero Award winner and a member of NIEHS since 1978. “Scientists are an incredible breed of people, and I feel so very fortunate to have worked alongside some of the best during my time here.”

The ceremony also recognized winners of the Green Champions Awards, Fellows Awards for Research Excellence (FARE), and NIH Director’s Awards, all presented earlier in the year.

Proud reflection

NIEHS had no shortage of achievement in 2011. Be it the Institute’s field-leading work with the GuLF STUDY, a health study of oil spill cleanup workers, or its highly publicized release of the 12th Report on Carcinogens, the Institute and its personnel continue to raise the bar as they move forward into 2012 and beyond.

“Our sincerest congratulations go out to everyone here at NIEHS, for a phenomenal job in 2011,” said NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. “Regardless of whether you won an award today, you all deserve one, which is why I consider it such an honor to be your director.” 

There is a complete list (127KB) available of all 2011 Merit, Unsung Hero, Peer, Special Appreciation, and Honorable Mention awardees.

A collage of culture

Following the awards ceremony, attendees were invited to the cafeteria for an afternoon of food, music, and educational displays, compliments of the 2011 International Day. Highlighted by its elaborate menu, featuring an array of Indian, Latin American, Asian-Pacific, and Native American dishes among others, the celebration treated visitors to a multicultural spectrum of entertainment, including a fashion show of international holiday attire, traditional Christmas tree decorating, and Native American storytelling.

“International Day is one day of the year when we recognize all of the cultures that are represented across NIEHS,” said Brad Collins, a chemist and program officer with NTP who chairs the NIEHS Diversity Council. “People come from all over the world to work here. Because of that, Institute employees can experience a fantastic variety of different cultures and, more times than not, they need only look to the next lab or cubical to do it.”

(Ian Thomas is a public affairs specialist with the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison, and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.) 

Child with a turtle on his back

International Day is always a memorable time for the children of NIEHS employees. They can come with their parents or participate as a part of the First Environments Daycare program located on the adjacent EPA campus. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

The Band Saludos Company

The band Saludos Compay played a range of Latin music for listening and dancing. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Dona McNeill and Bono Sen, Ph.D. join in a spontaneous dance

In a joyous burst of enthusiasm, Dona McNeill, left, joined Bono Sen, Ph.D., dressed in traditional Indian attire, in a spontaneous dance. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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