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Environmental Factor, December 2012

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Science Day celebrates institute achievements

By Jeffrey Stumpf

NIEHS Science Day booklet

NIEHS Science Day presented research from all three divisions, through 101 posters, 12 abstract talks, three mini-symposium talks, and a presentation by a former NIEHS trainee. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Joel Abramowitz, Ph.D.

Abramowitz led the committee that organized and directed the expanded and more inclusive 2012 Science Day. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Kenneth Korach, Ph.D.

Kenneth Korach, Ph.D., chief of the NIEHS Laboratory of Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology, takes note of Waalkes’ research on arsenic exposure. Korach leads research in estrogenic responses in the Receptor Biology Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Ruifang Li, Ph.D. and colleagues

Science day allows researchers the opportunity to present their work to colleagues across the Institute. From left to right, Douglas Bell, Ph.D., Harriet Kinyamu, Ph.D., and Joyce Goldstein, Ph.D., listen to Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis visiting fellow Ruifang Li, Ph.D., as she explained her research. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Continuing the early November tradition, the 10th annual NIEHS Science Day took place Nov. 1-2, bringing together scientists from intramural and extramural research and the National Toxicology Program. Science Day recognizes research and mentorship achievements by NIEHS scientists, and showcases breakthroughs in environmental health.

Traditionally, the institute celebrates Science Day with dozens of poster presentations, several talks by NIEHS staff and fellows, and handing out of awards.

In addition to the extra day, this year’s Science Day added more talks by fellows and investigators, a presentation by a former NIEHS trainee, the first Fellow of the Year Award and, more importantly, as NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., noted, more participation across the institute.

“This is the first year that we really have opened up Science Day and engaged in the process of one NIEHS,” Birnbaum remarked. “We now have many presentations, not only from DIR [Division of Intramural Research], but also from the Division of the National Toxicology Program (DNTP), and from the Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT).”

Science day highlights achievements in stem cell research

In organizing the 2012 Science Day, Joel Abramowitz, Ph.D., and his committee unified NIEHS researchers around a common theme — the impact of stem cell research on environmental health. Representatives from all three divisions gave talks on the topic.

Michael Waalkes, Ph.D., represented DNTP with his talk describing the effects of arsenic exposure in mice. After limited arsenic dosing during embryogenesis, Waalkes showed that the mice are more likely to develop tumors by altering stem cell numbers and response, thereby increasing cancer stem cells. Also, arsenic could transform cell lines into cancerous cells that quickly induced tumors when transplanted into the animal.

DIR advances in stem cell research were described by Guang Hu, Ph.D., a principal investigator in the Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis. Hu explained that CNOT proteins, in particular CNOT3, are important for cardiomyocyte differentiation. Using his methods, Hu envisions that he may be able to develop toxicity screens that would allow them to ask important questions about environmental health.

Les Reinlib, Ph.D., speaking on behalf of DERT, focused on building a field of stem cell research in environmental health. Reinlib stated that NIEHS wants to seed stem cell research by focusing on subjects such as the effects of early exposures on stem cell development, the window of time during development where stem cells are most susceptible to environmental hazards, and the role of stem cell reprogramming in environmental diseases.

And the winner is …

The NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA) selected Mitch Eddy, Ph.D., as the 2012 Mentor of the Year, based on recommendations by his present and past trainees. Numerous heartfelt letters of support described how Eddy impacted their lives scientifically, professionally, and personally.

Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) fellow Tracy Clement, Ph.D., nominated Eddy, describing him as enthusiastic, respected, open, selfless, thoughtful, and never dismissive. “It was not long after I started collecting letters of support from mentees that I realized how profound of an impact he really has had on his trainees,” Clement noted. “Mitch’s loyalty to his trainees and willingness to do all he can for them, during and after their training period, was recognized across the board and with deep appreciation.”

Bonnie Joubert, Ph.D., won the new Fellow of the Year Award, which recognizes extraordinary qualities in trainees that will prepare them for a well-rounded research career, such as passion for research, excellence in science communications, and leadership. Upon hearing of the new award category, investigator Stephanie London, M.D., Dr.P.H., immediately nominated the award winner.

London stated that Joubert has “a perfect storm of qualities that make her outstanding.” Trained as an epidemiologist, London mentioned that Joubert is well-trained in biology and programming, making her a valuable asset to the lab.

“There aren’t many people on the street that have Bonnie’s level of skill,” London said. “Not only that, she has a blazing work ethic — her computer is always about to melt.”

(Jeffrey Stumpf, Ph.D., is a research fellow in the NIEHS Laboratory of Molecular Genetics Mitochondrial DNA Replication Group.)

Jessica Williams, Ph.D.

Jessica Williams, Ph.D., left, a research fellow in the Laboratory of Structural Biology, explains her research on responding to ribonucleotide incorporation into DNA to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Professor Jack Griffin, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Kymberly Gowdy, Ph.D.

Kymberly Gowdy, Ph.D., right, from the Laboratory of Respiratory Biology, impresses Dori Germolec, Ph.D., center, and Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D., with her award-winning poster titled, “A major lipid raft protein flotillin-2 regulates T cell function and allergic asthma.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Seddon Thomas, Ph.D. and Joel Abramowitz, Ph.D.

Laboratory of Respiratory Biology’s Seddon Thomas, Ph.D., left, accepted the Best Poster Presentation Award from Abramowitz for her poster titled, “A strategy for fate mapping of IL-17-producing cells in vivo.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Mitch Eddy, Ph.D. and Tracy Clement, Ph.D.

On behalf of so many of Eddy’s trainees before her, Clement simply stated, “Thanks for everything,” before presenting Eddy with the prestigious Mentor of the Year Award. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Sherine Chan, Ph.D.

Sherine Chan, Ph.D., delivered the inaugural Science Day former NIEHS trainee presentation about her work studying mitochondrial fusion in zebrafish. As an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, Chan is building upon her NIEHS research on diseases associated with defects in mitochondrial DNA replication. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

George Fromm, Ph.D. and Joel Abramowitz, Ph.D.

George Fromm, Ph.D., left, from the Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis, accepts the Best Oral Presentation Award from Abramowitz, for his talk on the regulation of Mapk/ERK signaling and stem cell pluripotency by NELF-mediated pausing of RNA polymerase II. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Margaret Adgent, Ph.D.

Margaret Adgent, Ph.D., left, from the Epidemiology Branch, describes her research that earned her the Best Poster of the Year Award. The poster was titled, “Cytological assessment of urethral and vaginal epithelium in 1 and 12-week old infants: evidence for postnatal estrogen withdrawal using swab and urine cell collection methods.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Bonnie Joubert, Ph.D. and Stephanie London, M.D., Dr.P.H.

While presenting the Fellow of the Year Award, London, right, had high praise for Joubert, concluding with the question, “How did I deserve to get someone as good as her?” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Past Mentors of the Year

  • Jau-Shyong Hong, Ph.D. (2003)
  • John Pritchard, Ph.D.  (2004)
  • William Copeland, Ph.D.  (2005)
  • David Miller, Ph.D.  (2006)
  • David Armstrong, Ph.D.  (2007)
  • Ronald Mason, Ph.D.  (2008)
  • Serena Dudek, Ph.D.  (2009)
  • Matthew Longley, Ph.D.  (2010)
  • Donna Baird, Ph.D.  (2011)

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