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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

July 2021

Scientific originality, rigor help NIEHS fellows win major award

Seventeen trainees won the annual National Institutes of Health Fellows Award for Research Excellence and earned travel funds.

Last month, 17 early-career scientists from NIEHS won the annual National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE). As in previous years, select postdoctoral trainees from across the 27 NIH institutes and centers were honored for their outstanding scientific achievements, and NIEHS was well represented in the winning column.

Fellows submitted abstracts of their research, which were judged on scientific merit, originality, experimental design, and overall quality and presentation. The awardees hail from across the institute’s Division of Intramural Research and Division of the National Toxicology Program. Topics ranged from potential gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease to how neighborhood disadvantage may influence dementia.

“NIEHS fellows performed particularly well this year, with our institute ranking third-highest among all NIH institutes — only the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which are much larger institutes, had more awardees,” said NIEHS Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D. “This speaks to the high quality of research performed by our exceptional fellows.”

Two trainees are repeat winners. Alexander Foo, Ph.D., from the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Group, and Yosuke Sakamachi, Ph.D., from the Matrix Biology Group, also won last year.

Alexander Foo and Yosuke Sakamachi Foo, left, mentored by Geoff Mueller, Ph.D., won with his abstract, “Vicilin Buried Peptides (VBPs) Mediate Cross-Reactivity Between Evolutionary-Distant Species.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Sakamachi, right, mentored by Stavros Garantziotis, Ph.D., won with his abstract, “Toll-Like-Receptor 5 Protects Against Pulmonary Fibrosis by Reducing Lung Dysbiosis.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

FARE awardees receive $1,500 to attend a scientific meeting and present their abstracts, and the winners will judge next year’s FARE competition. The NIH Fellows Committee, the Scientific Directors, and the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education sponsor the awards. To learn more about the other 15 NIEHS winners and their research, check out the slideshow below.


Dana Al-Hasan, Ph.D. Dana Al-Hasan, Ph.D., is mentored by Chandra Jackson, Ph.D., in the Epidemiology Branch. Al-Hasan’s abstract is titled “Using INLA-SPDE Spatial Modeling to Examine Associations Between Neighborhood Characteristics and Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementia.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Ciro Amato, Ph.D. Ciro Amato, Ph.D., is mentored by Humphrey Yao, Ph.D., in the Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory. Amato’s abstract is titled “Our Differences Make Us Complete: The Identification of Novel Cell Populations in Penis Development and their Involvement in Hypospadias.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Komlan Atitey, Ph.D. Komlan Atitey, Ph.D., is mentored by Benedict Anchang, Ph.D., in the Biostatistics and Computational Biology Branch. Atitey’s abstract is titled “Performance Metrics of High Dimensional Reduction Methods for Better Visualization and Interpretability of Separable Biological Data.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Yichang Chen, M.D., Ph.D. Yichang Chen, M.D., Ph.D., is mentored by Erik Tokar, Ph.D., in the Mechanistic Toxicology Branch. Chen’s abstract is titled “A Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-Based High-Throughput Platform with Artificial Intelligence Technology to Screen for Developmental Toxicants.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Justin Collier, Pharm.D., Ph.D. Justin Collier, Pharm.D., Ph.D., is mentored by Anton Jetten, Ph.D., in the Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory. Collier’s abstract is titled “GLIS3-Deficiency Leads to Impaired Renal Mitochondrial Metabolism and Polycystic Kidneys.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
David Diaz-Jimenez, Ph.D. David Diaz-Jimenez, Ph.D., is mentored by John Cidlowski, Ph.D., in the Signal Transduction Laboratory. Jimenez’s abstract is titled “Glucocorticoids Rewire Macrophage Metabolism and Inflammation through Transcriptional Reprogramming of the IRG-1 and SUCNR1 Expression.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Meredith Frazier, Ph.D. Meredith Frazier, Ph.D., is mentored by John Cidlowski, Ph.D., in the Signal Transduction Laboratory. Frazier’s abstract is titled “Searching for U: Cryo-EM Structures of the SARS-CoV-2 Endoribonuclease Nsp15 Reveal Insight into Nuclease Specificity and Dynamics.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Matias Grodzielski, Ph.D. Matias Grodzielski, Ph.D., is mentored by Robin Stanley, Ph.D., in the Signal Transduction Laboratory. Grodzielski’s abstract is titled “Glucocorticoids Regulate Gene Expression and Stimulate Proplatelet Formation in Murine Megakaryocytes.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Jicheng Li, Ph.D. Jicheng Li, Ph.D., is mentored by Guohong Cui, M.D., Ph.D., in the Neurobiology Laboratory. Li’s abstract is titled “DBS-based Chemogenetic Gene-Therapy Rescues Motor Deficits in Mice with Advanced Parkinson's Disease.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Tapas Pradhan, Ph.D. Tapas Pradhan, Ph.D., is mentored by Anton Jetten, Ph.D., in the Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory. Pradhan’s abstract is titled “GLIS3 Plays a Critical Role in Astrocyte Differentiation and Function.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Yun-Gil Roh, Ph.D. Yun-Gil Roh, Ph.D., is mentored by Anton Jetten, Ph.D., in the Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory. Roh’s abstract is titled “Loss of GLIS2 Initiates Nephronophthisis Through Macrophage Infiltration by Direct Regulation of Fibrosis/ECM and Immune/Inflammation Gene Expression.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Sukanya Saha, Ph.D. Sukanya Saha, Ph.D., is mentored by Guohong Cui, Ph.D., in the Neurobiology Laboratory. Saha’s abstract is titled “Pathophysiological Study of Fungicide Benomyl in Parkinson's Disease.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Jennifer Woo, Ph.D. Jennifer Woo, Ph.D., is mentored by Dale Sandler, Ph.D., in the Epidemiology Branch. Woo’s abstract is titled “Early Life Trauma and Incident Breast Cancer.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Xian Wu, Ph.D. Xian Wu, Ph.D., is mentored by Erik Tokar, Ph.D., in the Mechanistic Toxicology Branch. Wu’s abstract is titled “Mechanisms of Cadmium-Induced Aberrant Differentiation of Human Embryonic Stem Cells to Cardiomyocytes and Cardiac Organoid Formation Mimicking Heart Development.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
Guangning Zong, Ph.D. Guangning Zong, Ph.D., is mentored by Stephen Shears, Ph.D., in the Signal Transduction Laboratory. Zong’s abstract is titled “Dopamine neuron challenges test for early detection of Parkinson's disease.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)
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