The awards ceremony at the end of NIEHS Science Days always brings smiles to those who attend (see related story). This year’s winners represent the full range of research at the institute.
Mentor of the Year
As chief of the Toxicology Branch, Paul Foster, Ph.D., has a lot of responsibilities, but none more important than helping guide his trainees. His commitment to mentoring over the years led to his selection as the 2017 NIEHS Mentor of the Year.
"I see mentoring as something important," Foster said. "It’s good to have someone to act as a sounding board."
Foster’s research involves looking at the effects of environmental agents on the development of birth defects in experimental animals. His branch initiates studies and reports their findings for the National Toxicology Program (NTP). He has been at it for quite a few years and plans to retire in December 2017. His upcoming departure gave a sense of urgency to his Intramural Research and Training Award (IRTA) fellow Anika Dzierlenga, Ph.D., who nominated Foster for the award.
"On behalf of all who came before me, I wanted to be sure Paul was properly recognized for his dedication to training the next generation of toxicologists," Dzierlenga said. "He has had a long, productive career in toxicology and has inspired many young scientists to have fruitful careers of their own."
Fellow of the Year
The Office of Fellows’ Career Development (OFCD) selects the Fellow of the Year from among the many talented trainees at NIEHS. This year, one stood out — Natalie Saini, Ph.D., a visiting fellow in the Mechanisms of Genome Dynamics Group led by Dmitry Gordenin, Ph.D.
"It is a huge honor to be chosen Fellow of the Year," Saini said. "I consider myself fortunate to be a part of Dr. Gordenin’s group. I owe a large part of my success as a trainee to his guidance."
Saini studies how mutations differ in the genomes of healthy people, but her talents extend far beyond her research skills. She also has an eye for making science videos. The one she produced about her work for the Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society garnered the society’s Young Scientist Award (see related story).
"Every year, choosing the Fellow of the Year is a difficult task, because the nominees are always of such high caliber," said Office of Fellows’ Career Development Director Tammy Collins, Ph.D. "Dr. Saini exemplifies not only excellence in research, but also embodies the spirit of collegiality and is praised as an excellent communicator and mentor."
The best of the best
Science Days participants heard several talks, but the one given by Sreenivasa Ramaiahgari, Ph.D., an IRTA fellow in the Molecular Toxicology and Genomics Group led by Alex Merrick, Ph.D., was chosen as the Best Oral Presentation.
One of the most exciting parts of Science Days is the poster session, which allows presenters and judges to have an open dialogue about the presenters’ research. While each poster highlighted the important work going on at the institute, only 10 posters are chosen as the best (see text box).
Since fellows and technicians make up the bulk of poster presenters, the Science Days steering committee added a new category this year that included younger scientists. Jeffrey Ramsey, who works with Kenneth Korach, Ph.D., in the Receptor Biology Group, won Best Poster Presentation by a Postbaccalaureate Student.