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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

July 2020

Birth defects group honors NIEHS scientists for research, service

The Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention celebrates work of institute scientists at annual meeting.

Bevin Blake, Ph.D. “I’ve really loved being involved with the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention,” said Blake. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS scientific excellence across the career spectrum was recognized June 16 with the 2020 awards from the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention (BDRP). The honors will be presented at the group’s annual meeting June 25–July 2.

Early-career distinction

Bevin Blake, Ph.D., who recently joined the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods(https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/whatwestudy/niceatm/index.html) (NICEATM), earned two prizes.

  • Marie Taubeneck Award — Recognizes scholarship of a student or postdoctoral fellow working in the field of teratology — the study of abnormalities in physiological development — and their service to BDRP. Includes cash prize.
  • Edward W. Carney Trainee Award, first place — Supports her attendance at the 2021 BDRP meeting.

“I’m excited and humbled to receive both awards,” said Blake. “The BDRP has had a powerful influence on my training.”

She completed her doctoral degree in toxicology and environmental medicine this spring at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Previously, Blake was an Intramural Research Training Award predoctoral fellow in the NTP Laboratory’s Reproductive Endocrinology Group.

String of successes

Sue Fenton, Ph.D. In the Reproductive Endocrinology Group, Fenton studies topics such as how chemical exposures may lead to breast cancer and other conditions. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Blake’s latest success follows receipt of several other honors, including a National Institutes of Health Fellows Award for Research Excellence in 2020, an NIEHS Big Picture, Small Talk Communication Challenge win in 2019, and a travel award that same year to attend the Society of Toxicology’s annual meeting.

According to Blake’s mentor, Sue Fenton, Ph.D., “Bevin has developed into an outstanding scientist, leader in various societies and groups, and mentor to undergraduate trainees.”

Fenton, who leads the NTP Laboratory’s Reproductive Endocrinology Group, is giving a July 1 talk on developmental exposure to the chemical GenX. She nominated Blake for the Taubeneck award.

Blake was chosen to present her work during the Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow Platform Session on June 25, where she competed for the Wilson Presentation Award. Winners will be announced on July 2.

As part of NICEATM, Blake plans to focus on developmental and reproductive toxicology.

Birnbaum recognized

Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., NIEHS scientist emeritus, was honored as the Josef Warkany Lecturer, which recognizes significant, career-long contributions to birth defects research. Her June 25 conference talk on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) was titled “POPs: A Plethora of Developmental Effects.”

Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. After retiring in 2019 as director of NIEHS and NTP, Birnbaum became a principal investigator in the institute’s Laboratory of Toxicokinetics and Toxicology. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Warkany was the first to demonstrate that exposure to some environmental chemicals can lead to congenital malformation. His early studies led to formulation of the scientific principles of teratology.

“Dr. Birnbaum’s 40 years of government service and research on persistent organic pollutants make her a particularly deserving recipient,” said BDRP President Christine Perdan Curran, Ph.D.

Narsingh Agnish Fellowship

Former NIEHS grant recipient Elaine Faustman, Ph.D., won the Narsingh Agnish Fellowship, which is awarded to a long-standing member of BDRP who has made a major contribution to education in the field of teratology or a related discipline.

She directs the Institute of Risk Analysis and Risk Communication at the University of Washington. Faustman previously served on the National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council, the NTP Board of Scientific Counselors(https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/events/bsc/index.cfm), and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Alternative Toxicology Methods.

Faustman delivered a lecture June 30 titled “Educating Future Birth Defects Researchers: Opportunities in the Era of Personalized Medicine, Systems Biology, and CRISPR Technologies."

“I appreciate the multi-disciplinary nature of the society, which allows for conversations across clinical and research fields,” said Faustman, who joined BDRP as a young postdoctoral trainee.

(John Yewell is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)


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