Clarice Weinberg, Ph.D., won the second annual NIEHS Scientific Director’s Award for Outstanding Intramural Research. The award recognizes a scientist reviewed by the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Board of Scientific Counselors (BSC) the previous year. Weinberg is the acting chief of the Biostatistics and Computational Biology Branch.
NIEHS Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D., presented Weinberg with a framed certificate at the Nov. 28 DIR Council meeting. “The board determines the recipient based on the same criteria they use in their review of all intramural investigators, such as innovation, productivity, leadership, impact in their field, and mentorship,” he explained. “Clare was the unanimous choice this year.”
Excellence in methods development
The BSC recognized Weinberg’s leadership in developing and applying methods in statistical genetics and epidemiology, according to board member Christopher Amos, Ph.D., from Dartmouth University.
“The reviewers noted her program is among the most active and productive in the institute,” he said. “They particularly applauded her work in establishing the Two Sister Study(https://sisterstudy.niehs.nih.gov/English/twosisterstudy.htm) with Dale Sandler, and for studies of causal modeling that have provided key insights into disease etiology.”
The council also lauded her collaborations across NIEHS and her dedication to mentorship.
“When I found out about the award, my jaw dropped to the floor,” said Weinberg, who joined NIEHS in 1982. “It’s a real boost to have this recognition not just for myself, but for the team here. I’ve had amazing collaborators and colleagues at NIEHS.”
She works most often with Sandler and scientists in the Epidemiology Branch, but also works with many others throughout the institute.
Zeldin praised Weinberg’s research insights and mentorship. “Her work on the Two Sister Study requires great fundamental knowledge of cancer biology and also the development of novel biostatistical approaches to complex problems in the exposure-disease relationship” he said.
Her mentees work in academia, throughout the National Institutes of Health and other agencies, and in independent positions, according to Zeldin. “Many of them have become leaders in their fields,” he noted.
As part of the award, Weinberg receives a one-time $100,000 increase in her research budget. “I’m thinking carefully about how to use the funds,” she said. One idea stems from Sister Study research on an association between vaginal douching and ovarian cancer, which may possibly result from a disruption in the vaginal microbiome.
“The Sister Study’s archived urine specimens could be used to study the role of the vaginal microbiota in ovarian and endometrial cancer, by using urine as surrogate for vaginal smears,” she explained. “Pilot work would need to be done first, and this might be where I dedicate the award.”
(Paula Whitacre is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)