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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

March 2016

Five early-career researchers recognized for innovative science

Five exceptional early-career scientists, named Outstanding New Environmental Scientists, will receive NIEHS grants totaling $2.5 million.

Five exceptional early-career scientists will receive new grants totaling $2.5 million,  as part of the Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) program. NIEHS created the ONES award to support researchers, in the formative stages of their careers, who conduct cutting-edge research to study how the environment influences human health.

The highly competitive grant program started in 2006 and has become a model for funding emerging scientists.

“A ONES award gives promising environmental health scientists the opportunity to pursue innovative ideas early in their careers,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program. “When funding for research becomes scarce, young innovators start looking for other jobs. This is one of the best tools we have to retain their talent for research.”

The 2016 ONES awardees, listed below, will study substances in the environment, including arsenic, dioxins, and DDT; how these chemicals cause harm, from insulin resistance to allergies; and how they are removed from the body through protective mechanisms.

  • Daniel Gorelick, Ph.D., from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, will study how pollutants, such as dioxins, use the aryl hydrocarbon receptor protein to cause toxic effects on the heart.
  • Michele La Merrill, Ph.D., from the University of California, Davis, will explore whether exposure to the pesticide DDT during pregnancy causes insulin resistance, by interfering with the production of body heat.
  • Maitreyi Mazumdar, M.D., from Harvard Medical School, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), will research whether prenatal exposure to arsenic may increase the risk of infant neural tube defects.
  • Somshuvra Mukhopadhyay, M.B.B.S , Ph.D., at the University of Texas at Austin, will study the process cells use to remove the toxin manganese, which can cause a syndrome like Parkinson’s disease.
  • Cheryl Rockwell, Ph.D., of Michigan State University, will study how the food additive tert-butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, promotes allergies, in order to identify similar environmental chemicals that may affect the immune system.

“The ONES awardees are a talented group of scientists with tremendous potential,” said Gwen Collman, Ph.D., NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training director. “We hope that receiving this grant at a pivotal time will propel them into successful careers in environmental health research.”

(Virginia Guidry, Ph.D., is a technical writer and public information specialist in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)


Maitreyi Mazumdar, M.D.

Mukhopadhyay is an assistant professor in the Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology, the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, and the Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Texas at Austin. His lab studies how communication between different cell parts may regulate cell function or contribute to disease. (Photo courtesy of Vicki Matustik)

Cheryl Rockwell, Ph.D.

As an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, Rockwell studies how foreign chemicals interact with lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, in the immune system. (Photo courtesy of Michigan State University)

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