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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

May 2019

NIEHS Trainees' Assembly — the year at a glance

At the NTA spring meeting, leaders highlighted an increase in postbaccalaureate fellows, a new grant editing group, and other accomplishments.

NIEHS trainees gathered in Rodbell Auditorium April 8 to review NIEHS Trainees’ Assembly (NTA) activities over the past year and its plans for the future.

NTA co-chair Salahuddin Syed, Ph.D., an Intramural Training and Research Award (IRTA) fellow in the Genome Integrity and Structural Biology Laboratory (GISBL), led the presentation and outlined the past year’s accomplishments.

Salahuddin Syed, Ph.D. Syed described the opportunities for involvement in the NTA, especially subcommittees that need volunteers. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Leadership values trainees, encourages involvement

Paul Doetsch, Ph.D., NIEHS Deputy Scientific Director Doetsch explained that being a scientist is more than sitting at the bench and doing experiments. Many employers now look at more than the science. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS Deputy Scientific Director, Paul Doetsch, Ph.D., highlighted the importance of trainee career development and explained that it is not enough anymore to be just a good researcher.

Many companies and academic institutions now require that candidates have experiences beyond the laboratory bench. Doestch stressed the importance of trainees breaking out of their comfort zones and getting involved with the various subcommittees in the NTA.

NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., applauded trainees and their value to the institute.

“The hundreds of trainees who are involved in research at the NIEHS help bring a fresh perspective on asking and answering the key questions which will help lead to healthier lives,” she said. With an ever-growing trainee population, including postdoctoral, predoctoral, and postbaccalaureate fellows, it is important to have an organization that advocates for them, Birnbaum noted.

Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director “A major focus of the NIEHS is training the next generation of environmental health scientists,” Birnbaum said. “I celebrate the active role of the NTA at the institute.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Looking back at the past year

Syed explained that the group has grown tremendously since last year and noted the increasing involvement of postbacs. He highlighted events sponsored by the NTA, including the Career Symposium (see sidebar), Science Days, Brown Bag Lunch Series, and ELITE Site Visits.

In addition to already established events, the NTA, with help from IRTA fellow Cassandra Hayne, Ph.D., from the Signal Transduction Laboratory, has developed a peer editing and review group for grant applications. In small groups, the fellows describe grants they are working on and gain valuable insight from their peers and faculty at NIEHS. These meetings are supplemented with seminar presentations on grant writing and review.

Attendees also expressed interest in health care changes at NIEHS. NTA and Darryl Zeldin, M.D., NIEHS scientific director, have worked closely to ensure the voices of trainees are heard.

Darryl Zeldin, M.D., NIEHS “The great success of our training program is due, at least in part, to the tremendous partnership that we have forged with the NTA over the last few years,” Zeldin said. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Zeldin stated that he will always advocate for trainees so that they continue to receive outstanding health care coverage with appropriate safety nets in place to protect them against catastrophic events. He also stressed the importance of having an open and transparent relationship with the NTA. “[They have] been incredibly helpful by providing the trainees’ perspectives.”

At the end of the presentation, Syed handed off responsibilities to current co-chair Joe Dahl, Ph.D., IRTA fellow in GISBL who will share duties with Elizabeth Martin, Ph.D., a fellow in the Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology Laboratory. “Everything is in great hands,” Syed assured the trainees.

He concluded the meeting by urging trainees to get involved and ask current subcommittee members questions about how to participate.


Tammy Collins, Ph.D. Tammy Collins, Ph.D., described her role as director of the OFCD and listed upcoming events that are planned by the office. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Stephani Kim, Ph.D., Co-chair, 2019 Career Symposium Stephani Kim, Ph.D., co-chair for the 2019 Career Symposium and an IRTA fellow in the Epidemiology Branch, urged trainees in the room to participate in and volunteer for the event. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
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