The second day of NIEHS Science Days began with an award ceremony led by Science Days Committee Chair and NIEHS Assistant Scientific Director Hans Luecke, Ph.D. Following a brief opening, he invited Tammy Collins, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Office of Fellows’ Career Development, to the podium.
"I’m happy to present the seventh Fellow of the Year Award, which recognizes an outstanding fellow who demonstrates excellence and qualities that are important for a successful, independent, well-rounded research career," Collins said.
After keeping the audience in suspense for a few extra seconds, Collins announced that Monica Pillon, Ph.D., a visiting fellow in the Nucleolar Integrity Group, headed by Robin Stanley, Ph.D., stood out among the other candidates. Beaming with pride, Stanley explained to the audience why Pillon deserved to be the 2018 Fellow of the Year (see video in sidebar).
"The first time I ever spoke with Monica was during a phone interview, and I had never talked with anyone quite so excited about science," Stanley said. "I knew immediately that I had to have this person join my group."
Collins said that the Fellow of the Year receives a travel award to attend a conference of their choice and was chosen by a committee made up of scientists from the NIEHS Intramural Research Program and the National Toxicology Program. Nominees were evaluated on six qualities.
- Passion and dedication to research.
- Demonstration of leadership excellence.
- Science communications aptitude.
- Mentoring ability.
Awards for presentations
After Pillon and Stanley were seated, Luecke prefaced his announcement of the best poster and oral presentation awards by saying his committee wanted to acknowledge the best of the best.
As he called their names, each awardee walked to the front of Rodbell Auditorium to be recognized. As Fellow of the Year, Pillon was already delighted. She would soon find out that she received a second honor — Best Oral Presentation (see text box below)
After the awards presentations, Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D., announced that he increased the amount of the Fellow of the Year, best talk, and top nine poster presentation awards to $1500.
Fund my science
What better way to help the future careers of all of the young researchers at Science Days than to hold a grants workshop? After the awards, staff from the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training and Division of Intramural Research talked about how to write and submit an NIEHS grant (see sidebar).
Michael Humble, Ph.D., a health scientist administrator in the NIEHS Genes, Environment, and Health Branch, talked about the many National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NIEHS funding opportunities available for researchers, from high school students to scientists starting their own labs.
Superfund Research Program Health Scientist Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., led one of the interactive sessions. Six volunteers joined her at the front of the auditorium for a role-playing exercise. Advisor Professor X had scheduled meetings with graduate students and postdocs to give career advice, and the audience chimed in on whether his guidance was accurate and beneficial.
One of the gems that Grants Management Team Lead Molly Puente, Ph.D., shared was that if the entity that receives grants, the National Institutes of Health Center for Scientific Review, shuts down due to a hurricane or ice storm, it will publish a notice on its website giving applicants extra time to submit their grants.
"The number of days closed usually matches the number of days for the extension," Puente said, "but you should have your application prepared well in advance in the event your area is struck by a natural disaster."
Although the grant workshop provided valuable information, the presenters stressed that NIEHS program officers, who are the ones that shepherd grants through the review and beyond, are available to help. Applicants who have questions about the procedure, regardless of their grant score, should contact their Program Officer to talk about it. The 2018 NIEHS Science Days had something for everyone.