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Environmental Factor, December 2012

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Science writers storm Raleigh

By Ernie Hood

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh donned the familiar white lab coat, in honor of the scientific-themed proceedings. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Yeager, Duke University)

The country’s leading science journalists, bloggers, and freelance writers gathered in Raleigh, N.C., Oct. 26-30 for ScienceWriters2012, the annual joint meeting of the National Association of Science Writers and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Though Hurricane Sandy’s untimely arrival forced some to miss the conference, more than 500 gathered in the Raleigh Convention Center to hear nationally recognized authorities in biomedicine, genetics, astrophysics, and other areas of study.

Among the featured speakers was Kimberly Gray, Ph.D., NIEHS program lead for the Centers for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research. Her keynote talk, “Air Pollution, Brain Development, and Behavior,” highlighted significant NIEHS-funded research in recent years, which points to an association between high prenatal exposure to air pollutants and subsequent delayed development, lower IQ, and behavioral problems in children. 

Gray also spoke of the successful multidisciplinary approach within the centers to better understand the environmental factors affecting children’s health, and to promote translation of research findings into intervention and prevention methods designed to reduce health risks. 

In addition to grant-funded research, science writers also heard the latest in intramural studies from John (Jef) French, Ph.D., head of the NTP Host Susceptibility Group. As part of the conference’s Lunch with a Scientist sessions, French’s talk focused on his group’s work on mouse model genetics.

Although the meeting was anchored at the Raleigh Convention Center, the lunchtime discussions were held at North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus, giving visitors a chance to see the considerable science and engineering educational facilities and resources located on campus.

NIEHS staff from the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, including Director Christine Flowers, Robin Mackar, and Ed Kang, supported the yearlong planning efforts for the event, as well as the development of a Tip Book, a colorful resource of profiles and story ideas about researchers from across North Carolina, including 10 NIEHS scientists and several grantees. The book was distributed to attendees of ScienceWriters2012.

Karl Leif Bates, director of research communications at Duke University, who spearheaded efforts to bring the conference to North Carolina, said, “Thanks to contributions from NIEHS and countless other members of the Triangle science community, North Carolina’s world-class scientific achievements and activities will once again be in the national spotlight.” 

(Ernie Hood is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

Science Writers 2012 booklet

NIEHS created and produced a booklet for the conference, showcasing North Carolina’s robust scientific endeavors.

Robert Geolas

President and CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina, Robert Geolas, welcomed attendees to the Triangle. (Photo courtesy of Megan Morr, Duke University)

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