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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

July 2020

NIEHS fellows stand out at 2021 FARE competition

Seventeen high-scoring postdoctoral fellows from NIEHS win travel funds in the annual National Institutes of Health research contest.

Wan-Chi Lin, Ph.D. Lin’s third FARE in four years addressed “The role of epithelial membrane protein 2 in regulation of pulmonary fibrosis and tissue remodeling,” which she studied with mentorship by Fessler. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Every year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Intramural Training and Education holds a competition for fellows’ research abstracts. The results of the 2021 Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) are now in and NIEHS continued its strong showing, tallying 17 winners.

“NIEHS fellows performed particularly well this year, with our institute ranking fourth highest among all the NIH institutes,” wrote NIEHS Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D., and Associate Director of the National Toxicology Program Brian Berridge, D.V.M., Ph.D., in a July 16 letter to staff. “This speaks to the high quality of research performed by our exceptional fellows.” NIEHS had more winners than several larger institutes.

The showing also points to the excellent mentorship fellows receive at NIEHS. Winners represent most of the laboratories and branches in the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) and Division of the National Toxicology Program(https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/) (DNTP).

That breadth is matched by depth: This year, two winners took home their third FARE, and four won for a second time. In addition, two researchers each mentored more than one winner.

  • Third FARE: Wan-Chi Lin, Ph.D.; Prashant Rai, Ph.D.
  • Second FARE: Alicia Chi, Ph.D.; Xingyao Li, Ph.D.; Chitrangda Srivastava, Ph.D.; Jingheng Zhou, Ph.D.
  • More than one awardee this year: Guohong Cui, M.D., Ph.D., head of the In Vivo Neurobiology Group; Michael Fessler, M.D., head of the Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory. Both three-time winners are from his lab.
Prashant Rai, Ph.D. Rai, who was also mentored by Fessler, found that “Chronic type I interferon disrupts tissue macrophage homeostasis and induces bacterial susceptibility.” He volunteers as a writer for the Environmental Factor. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

A panel of judges scored anonymous abstracts on four elements:

  • Scientific merit.
  • Originality.
  • Experimental design.
  • Overall quality and presentation.

Winners receive $1,500 to help cover travel to a scientific meeting where they present their research in a poster or a talk. However, because travel is restricted during the novel coronavirus pandemic, awards may be used to support research or career development through such expenses as course tuition or books.

FARE is sponsored by the NIH Fellows Committee, the Scientific Directors, and the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education.


Alicia Chi, Ph.D. Alicia Chi, Ph.D., was mentored by Francesco DeMayo, Ph.D., head of the Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory, on her study “WNK1 regulates embryo implantation in mice through the phosphatase PP2A.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Nicholas Dietrich, Ph.D. Nicholas Dietrich, Ph.D., reported that “The HSA domain of BRG1 is critical for BRG1-dependent gene expression changes and the interaction of BRG1 with multiple BAF and non-canonical BAF complex members.” He worked with mentor Trevor Archer, Ph.D., head of the Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology Laboratory. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Alexander C. Foo, Ph.D. Alexander C. Foo, Ph.D., working with mentor Geoff Mueller, Ph.D., who leads the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Group, studied “The mosquito protein AZ1 has both cytolytic and antiviral properties.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Ming Ji, Ph.D. Ming Ji, Ph.D., discovered that “High-methionine intake inhibits tumor progression in immunocompetent mice,” under the mentorship of Xiaoling Li, Ph.D., head of the Metabolism, Genes, and Environment Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Jacob Kresovich, Ph.D. Jacob Kresovich, Ph.D., presented “mBCRM: A methylation-based risk model for breast cancer,” developed under the mentorship of Jack Taylor, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Katelyn Lavrich, Ph.D. Katelyn Lavrich, Ph.D., was mentored by Stephen Ferguson, Ph.D., of the DNTP Molecular Toxicology and Genomics Group, on her project, “Evaluating the toxicological screening utility of 3D spheroid primary human hepatocyte cultures.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Kaitlyn Lawrence, Ph.D. Kaitlyn Lawrence, Ph.D., presented “Neighborhood deprivation and epigenetic age acceleration,” under the mentorship of Dale Sandler, Ph.D., head of the Epidemiology Branch. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Xingyao Li, Ph.D. Xingyao Li, Ph.D., worked with mentor Stephen Shears, Ph.D., head of the Inositol Signaling Group, on his study, “New model cell lines provide insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying ectopic calcification.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Christopher Mazzone, Ph.D. Christopher Mazzone, Ph.D., working with mentor Guohong Cui, M.D., Ph.D., head of the In Vivo Neurobiology Group, reported that “High fat diets tune hypothalamic and mesolimbic feeding circuits to calorically dense foods”. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Saniya Rattan, Ph.D. Saniya Rattan, Ph.D., studied, “Somatic cell lineage specification by Notch signaling in fetal mouse ovaries,” with mentor Humphrey Yao, Ph.D., head of the Reproductive Developmental Biology Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Yousuke Sakamatchi, Ph.D. Yosuke Sakamachi, Ph.D., found that “TLR5 protects against pulmonary fibrosis by preventing dysbiosis,” with mentor Stavros Garantziotis, M.D., medical director of the Clinical Research Unit. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Chitrangda Srivastava, Ph.D. Chitrangda Srivastava, Ph.D., studied “GLIS3: A critical player in polycystic kidney disease,” working with mentor Anton Jetten, Ph.D., head of the Cell Biology Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Barrett Welch, Ph.D. Barrett Welch, Ph.D., researched “Moving toward understanding specific pathways of inflammation in pregnancy: prenatal exposure to consumer product chemicals and changes in plasma eicosanoids,” under the mentorship of Kelly Ferguson, Ph.D., head of the Perinatal and Early Life Epidemiology Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Dahea You, Pharm.D., Ph.D. Dahea You, Pharm.D., Ph.D., reported “Population variability in neurotoxicity outcomes modeled in vitro with diversity outbred neural progenitor cells,” mentored by Alison Harrill, Ph.D., from the DNTP Molecular Toxicology and Genomics Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Jingheng Zhou, Ph.D. Jingheng Zhou, Ph.D., worked with Cui to develop “Dopamine neuron challenge test for early detection of Parkinson’s Disease.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
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