Lee Langer, Ph.D., NIEHS Intramural Research Training Award fellow, has received a Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) Program fellowship from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The fellowship began Sept. 1.
Langer will receive three years of financial support, and travel funds to further pursue his postdoctoral research in stem cell biology. He will continue working at NIEHS under the mentorship and supervision of Trevor Archer, Ph.D., head of the Chromatin and Gene Expression Group, as well as the Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology Laboratory (ESCBL). Langer’s co-mentor is NIEHS Scientific Information Officer David Fargo, Ph.D.
Toward a better understanding of stem cells
Langer was hired into ESCBL as part of the stem cell initiative within the NIEHS strategic plan. His research goal is to understand the regulation and role of chromatin-modifying complexes in stem cells. These complexes regulate the expression of genes that control basic characteristics of stem cells, such as self-renewal and the ability to develop into different types of cells, also known as pluripotency.
“This project will give us a better idea of how embryonic stem cells work, so we can use that information to understand how various agents and chemicals can influence embryonic development,” Archer explained.
Mentorship and career development
After Langer's first year as a postdoctoral fellow at NIEHS, Archer encouraged him to apply for the PRAT Program. “The support of my mentor was fundamental for preparing a competitive application,” Langer said. He also explained that having Fargo as a co-mentor was key to his success, since the research plan relies heavily on bioinformatics analyses of large data sets, obtained through sequencing genetic material.
In addition to the prestige and financial support that come with the fellowship, the PRAT Program provides career development opportunities. Langer will participate in activities that promote networking between awardees, scientific courses, and training events, such as classes for improving communication skills and invitations to deliver oral presentations.
The PRAT fellowships are granted through a competitive process. Archer stressed that Langer prepared a research plan that was precise, logical, and ultimately convincing to the scientific reviewers. Langer said that the PRAT fellowship is an important stepping-stone in his career dedicated to improving human health.
(Douglas Ganini da Silva, Ph.D., is a research fellow in the NIEHS Free Radical Metabolism Group.)