Ten NIEHS postbaccalaureate (postbac) Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) fellows presented their research April 20 at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, joining more than 600 postbacs for the 2016 NIH Postbac Poster Day at the Natcher Conference Center.
Four NIEHS fellows received travel awards from the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) to attend the event — David Banks, Samantha Hall, Miranda Lyons-Cohen, and Emily Mesev.
Finding perspectives and insight beyond NIEHS
NIH Postbac Poster Day highlights the wide range of research that postbacs across NIH are doing, and the event gives postbacs valuable experience in communication and networking skills. “It was interesting to get feedback from people outside of NIEHS who aren’t as familiar with my research,” Mesev noted. “Getting perspectives from people with a chemistry background instead of a biology background, for example, helped me look at my work in a different light.”
The posters were judged by postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and staff scientists, and the top 20 percent received Outstanding Poster Awards. Tammy Collins, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Office of Fellows’ Career Development (OFCD), addressed the importance of connecting postbacs with the NIH campus. “The postbacs are a very energetic group, especially in terms of being involved at NIEHS and creating a sense of community amongst themselves,” she said. “We’ve been making an effort to connect this postbac community with Bethesda, to ensure that they feel part of the broader NIH postbac experience.”
A rewarding research experience
The NIH Postbac IRTA program program allows recent college graduates to spend up to two years conducting full-time research at NIH before applying to graduate or professional school. More than 1,000 postbacs work at NIH institutes and centers in Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, and North Carolina.
Collin Johnson, who will be starting a Ph.D. program this fall at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, praised the value of both the event and the postbac program. “Poster Day was a great way to summarize my two years of research and the connections I’ve made, all in the environment of NIH,” he said. “Being a postbac has definitely helped better prepare me for doing research in grad school.”
NIEHS currently has 22 postbac fellows working in labs across the institute. “The postbac program has grown significantly in the past couple of years,” said Collins. “We have the most [postbacs] we’ve ever had.”
(Samantha Hall is a postbaccalaureate Cancer Research Training Award fellow in the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research Laboratory of Toxicology and Toxicokinetics, housed at NIEHS.)