NIEHS honored the critical contributions that fellows make to the institute by offering a full slate of events Sept. 15-22. NIEHS expanded the celebration this year from a focus on postdoctoral fellows to include predoctoral and postbaccalaureate fellows as well.
Organized by the NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA) and the Office of Fellows’ Career Development (OFCD), this year’s Fellows’ Appreciation Week aimed to be inclusive in both breadth and content. “I am really lucky to work with such a great group of fellows,” said OFCD Director Tammy Collins, Ph.D.
At the inaugural NIEHS Postdoctoral Appreciation Day in 2009, then acting scientific director John Pritchard, Ph.D., declared, “Without our trainees, we don’t have our research. We are thankful that you are here.” This sentiment was echoed by staff and leadership across the institute during the week’s events.
Fellows integral to NIEHS
The diverse events during Fellows’ Appreciation Week meant that fellows could easily find activities that complemented their lab work, career plans, and interests. Events included a welcome for new trainees, career development, and networking opportunities.
Other activities focused on integrating fellows into the institute, such as individually organized lab events, orientations, and an NTA general assembly meeting and trivia challenge. As is customary, trivia focused on facts of historical or current interest at NIEHS and the larger National Institutes of Health (NIH). Fellows were encouraged to increase their odds of winning by teaming up with a staff scientist or lead researcher familiar with the institute.
“It’s a great way to meet people outside of my group and learn about the diverse research conducted at NIEHS,” said Salahuddin Syed, Ph.D., from the DNA Replication Fidelity Group. “I particularly enjoyed the general assembly meeting and trivia contest.” Besides correct answers, teams were rewarded for their clever and humorous names (see sidebar).
Promoting career development
Among the career development opportunities, some fellows participated in a site visit to a local industry, courtesy of the Enhancing Local Industry Transitions Through Exploration (ELITE) Consortium at NIEHS.
For those interested in academia, a peer review of teaching philosophies was offered as part of “Teaching in College,” which is an ongoing course led by education specialist Barbi Honeycutt, Ph.D.
Fellows on all career tracks benefitted from a seminar titled “Building Resilience in the Job Search, at Work, and Throughout Life,” led by Denise Saunders, Ph.D., from the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education.
NIEHS alumna Jennifer Ingram, Ph.D., helped kick off the yearly Brown Bag Lunch series, which allows fellows to meet with professionals in different fields. Ingram’s event focused on academia. A separate lunch featured alumni Samuel Gattis, Ph.D., and Barbara Wedel, Ph.D., who discussed strategies for entering agricultural biotechnology careers.
At a networking breakfast, fellows’ participation in volunteer activities was recognized. “Having fellows volunteer to write for the Environmental Factor allows us to cover many more stories of interest to our readers than we otherwise could, and we are very grateful for that,” said Kelly Lenox, editor in chief of Environmental Factor.
Informal networking events included a Postbac Cookie Social (see sidebar); an international potluck highlighting the range of cultures represented at the institute; a coffee hour at the off-campus Keystone building, which houses National Toxicology Program fellows; and an evening mixer with NIEHS alumni.
(Simone Otto, Ph.D., is an Intramural Research Training Award fellow in the Ion Channel Physiology Group of the NIEHS Neurobiology Laboratory.)