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Environmental Factor, October 2015

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Trainees honored during NIEHS Postdoc Appreciation Week

By Kelly Lenox

Tammy Collins

Collins support of NIEHS fellows takes on many forms, including keeping score for the trivia game. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Bill Schrader

Schrader emceed the trivia game with both humor and some last words of advice before his retirement. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

The week of Sept. 21 was packed with activities at NIEHS, celebrating the contributions trainees make to the institute’s mission. The variety of events underscored the many roles postdoctoral trainees and all other fellows play at NIEHS, as well as the range of available career options. Postdocs serve a vital role at NIEHS, providing much-needed research support in the labs, while honing their scientific skills.

Organized by the NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA; see sidebar), in collaboration with Tammy Collins, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Office of Fellows' Career Development (OFCD), the celebration began three days early, as individual labs and research groups held lunches and other smaller gatherings Friday, Sept. 18.

In conjunction with the sixth annual observance of Postdoc Appreciation Day sponsored by the National Postdoctoral Association, NIEHS kicked off the week with an NTA General Assembly meeting, a traditional game of trivia, and pizza provided by the institute’s lead researchers.

Collins introduced trivia game emcee Bill Schrader, Ph.D., NIEHS deputy scientific director, making note of his Sept. 30 retirement. “He’s done an excellent job for the trainee environment here at NIEHS,” she said.

Linda Birnbaum, NIEHS and National Toxicology Program director addressed the gathering, saying “You play an important and valued role in the success of our research.” She went on to encourage the trainees to seek mentoring advice from other lead researchers, staff scientists, and postdocs throughout the institute.

Preparing for careers

The week offered trainees several opportunities to jumpstart preparation for the career search they will eventually face. Tuesday afternoon, OFCD sponsored a two-part workshop, Leveraging LinkedIn, with topics that ranged from networking and visibility, to privacy concerns. Collins also conducted an orientation for new fellows, to provide them with information that will help them make the most of their time at NIEHS.

Wednesday saw the launch of a 10-week course, offered via videoconference from the National Cancer Institute, on preparing for careers in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

And the popular Brown Bag Lunch series kicked off on Thursday, with a choice between two lunchtime talks — one focused on biotech careers, and the other aimed at those interested in academic positions.

The week’s festivities wrapped up with an international potluck meal, to celebrate the diversity of the institute’s trainees. Postdocs brought dishes representing various foreign cuisines, such as China, Israel, and Argentina, as well as some U.S. dishes, including a Kentucky Derby Pie and North Carolina barbecue.

  • NIEHS fellows gathered for a group photo

    NIEHS fellows gathered for a group photo, taking a rare collective break from laboratory research. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

  • Winning tem from trivia game

    Awards were given for winners and losers in the trivia game, as well as best team names. The overall winning team was “Undetermined,” which included, from left, Joey Kolb, Ph.D.; Jennifer Martinez, Ph.D.; Hoopes; NIEHS Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D.; John House, Ph.D.; Trey Oguin, Ph.D.; and not shown, Matt Edin, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

  • The last place team

    The last place team, Game of Testoste-Thrones, celebrated their achievement with enthusiasm. Members included, from left, Barbara Nicol, Ph.D.; Fei Zhao, Ph.D.; Nyssa Adams, Ph.D.; Kathryn McClelland; Margeaux Wetendorf, Ph.D.; Erica Ungewitter, Ph.D.; and Karina Rodriguez, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

  • The Most Scientific Team Name Award Winners

    Goldilocks and the Cre Bears won the Most Scientific Team Name award, with members, from left, Elizabeth Denholm, Ph.D.; Mahsa Samadi; Daniel Lustberg; Serena Dudek, Ph.D.; Kelly Carstens; Shannon Farris, Ph.D.; Palmyra Romeo; and not shown, Georgia Alexander, Ph.D.; and Chad Osterlund, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

  • Geoffrey

    The rest of the Bobin’ Hood and His Merry People team, which won the Most Humorous Team Name, had already returned to work in their labs by the time Geoff Feld, Ph.D., accepted the award on their behalf. Team members included Geoff Mueller, Ph.D.; Bart Phillips, Ph.D.; Robert Dutcher; Kathleen McCann, Ph.D.; Tom Stanley; and Bob Petrovich, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

  • The Most Environmental Team Name

    The Most Environmental Team Name award went to the Toxic Avengers team with, from left, Erin Quist, D.V.M.; Natasha Catlin, Ph.D.; Raj Chhabra, Ph.D.; Kristen Ryan, Ph.D.; Dori Germolec, Ph.D.; Kelly Shipkowski; and Deirdre Tucker. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

  • Linda Birnbaum

    Birnbaum emphasized the importance of the trainee period, pointing out that she herself had three postdoctoral research positions. “And my third was here at NIEHS,” she said. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

  • International potluck

    The week closed with perhaps the most festive of all the events — an international potluck, offering a world tour of cuisines and treats. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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