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.
Leadership values trainees, encourages involvement
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.
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.
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.