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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

August 2022

NIEHS trainees shine at annual NIH-wide research competition

Scientific merit, research originality recognized as NIEHS racks up second-highest number of top abstracts.

Symielle Gaston, Ph.D. Gaston offered advice to trainees for future FARE competitions. “Ensure that your FARE abstract is on a research topic you are passionate about, consider how innovative methods can help advance research objectives, and appreciate the gift of feedback from a diverse group of collaborators,” she said. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Twenty-two NIEHS trainees were recognized in the Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) competition, which honors outstanding research performed by intramural research fellows across the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its 27 institutes and centers.

Fellows are judged on scientific merit, originality, method design, and their presentation of written communication in a short abstract. Abstract authors ranked in the top 25% of scores are recognized as FARE winners. Awardees receive a $1,500 professional development award to attend a scientific meeting and present their work.

NIEHS came in first in overall success rate and second only to the National Cancer Institute in number of awardees, according to Darryl Zeldin, M.D., Intramural Research Division scientific director. Each year, NIEHS has been a strong competitor and the number of FARE winners continue to increase (see this list of each year's NIEHS FARE winners).

“Congratulations to all of the FARE awardees and their mentors,” wrote NIEHS Director Rick Woychik, Ph.D., in an email. “This is great news and certainly reflects the high quality of our intramural research environment.”

A range of topics

From artificial intelligence to virology, the FARE2023 competition featured 61 study sections to which trainees could submit. Two NIEHS awardees submitted research to the epidemiology and cultural, social, and behavioral sciences study sections. Dana Alhasan, Ph.D., and Symielle Gaston, Ph.D., — both past FARE winners and both mentored by Chandra Jackson, Ph.D., Stadtman investigator, Social and Environmental Determinants of Health Equity Group — study how racial and socioeconomic disparities are associated with health outcomes.

Chitrangda Srivastava, Ph.D. Srivastava is a multi-year winner in the FARE competition. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Gene-mapping exercises using DNA from a multiethnic cohort were conducted by Jasmine Mack as she examined the genetic propensity for developing gestational hypertension. Mack is a first-year graduate student in the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program, placed at NIEHS for two years to work with Alison Motsinger-Reif, Ph.D., chief of the Biostatistics and Computational Biology Branch. Motsinger-Reif also mentors Dillon Lloyd, a second-year bioinformatics graduate student at North Carolina State University, who examined the association of environmental exposures on the development of type 2 diabetes. They found a strong association with asbestos among the Personalized Environment and Genes Study cohort.

Not our first FARES rodeo

Like Alhasan and Gaston, Chitrangda Srivastava, Ph.D., is a multi-year FARE awardee. She works with Anton Jetten, Ph.D., deputy chief of the Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory. Srivastava’s research involves a protein discovered in Jetten’s lab named JAZF1, which is associated with metabolism-related health issues such as diabetes and obesity. Srivastava explored the role of JAZF1 in association with bacteria present in the gut microbiome and the development of high fat diet-induced nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD.

“The FARE award is a prestigious award that has been a source of encouragement and motivation in my scientific growth,” Srivastava said. “The FARE award reminds me of a quote by Albert Einstein, ‘The only source of knowledge is experience,’ and these experiences have further helped me in advancing my scientific knowledge and awareness.”

Another family of proteins discovered in Jetten’s lab involve a GLI-Similar (GLIS) trio. Awardees Tanushree Mukherjee and Justin Collier, Pharm.D., Ph.D., both research GLIS3, which is associated with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), among other human health concerns. Collier, who also was a FARE awardee last year, is exploring how the enhanced expression of GLIS3 is a potential therapeutic strategy for slowing PKD progression.

Jetten said his job as a mentor is to promote scientific thinking and creativity among his trainees as they become independent scientists. “All three are contributing enormously to these projects and providing their own independent ideas,” he said.

The FARE award is sponsored by the NIH Fellows Committee, the Scientific Directors, and the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education, and is funded by the Scientific Directors. The FARE competition is an annual event. Registration opens each February.

View the slideshow below to learn more about all 22 NIEHS FARE2023 awardees, their mentors, and the titles of their research abstracts.

(Jennifer Harker, Ph.D., is a technical writer-editor in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)


Dana Alhasan, Ph.D.

Dana Alhasan, Ph.D., mentored by Chandra Jackson, Ph.D., Social and Environmental Determinants of Health Equity Group, submitted “Racial and Economic Residential Segregation and Dementia Incidence.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Adriana Alexander, Ph.D.

Adriana Alexander, Ph.D., mentored by Humphrey Yao, Ph.D., Reproductive Developmental Biology Group, submitted “Sex-specific Regulatory Networks Prime Primordial Germ Cell Fate Commitment.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Ru Pin Chi, Ph.D.

Ru Pin Chi, Ph.D., mentored by Marcos Morgan, Ph.D., Male Reproduction and RNA Biology Group, submitted “WNK1 Is Indispensable for Spermatogenesis and Male Fertility via Regulating Translation.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Justin Collier, Pharm.D., Ph.D.

Justin Collier, Pharm.D., Ph.D., mentored by Anton Jetten, Ph.D., Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory submitted “PKM2 Is a Major Contributing Factor in Glis3ko-induced Polycystic Kidney Metabolic Reprogramming.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Symielle Gaston Harrison, Ph.D.

Symielle Gaston, Ph.D., mentored by Chandra Jackson, Ph.D., Social and Environmental Determinants of Health Equity Group, submitted “Racial/Ethnic Differences in Associations of Traumatic Childhood Experiences with Both Metabolic Syndrome Prevalence and Type 2 Diabetes Risk.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Mandy Goldberg, Ph.D.

Mandy Goldberg, Ph.D., mentored by Dale Sandler, Ph.D., Epidemiology Branch, submitted “Beauty Product Use During Puberty and Breast Cancer Risk in U.S. Women.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Jacob Gordon

Jacob Gordon, mentored by Robin Stanley, Ph.D., Nucleolar Integrity Group, submitted “Cryo-EM Structure of the Human PELP1-WDR18 Complex Reveals Insights into the ER-PELP1 Signaling Axis.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Ankit Gupta, Ph.D.

Ankit Gupta, Ph.D., mentored by Marcos Morgan, Ph.D., Male Reproduction and RNA Biology Group, submitted “TUT4 and TUT7 Uridylate the RNA of the Mouse Coronavirus MHV and Facilitate Its Replication.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Anand Jaguva Vasudevan, Ph.D.

Anand Jaguva Vasudevan, Ph.D., mentored by Scott Williams, Ph.D., Genome Integrity and Structural Biology Laboratory, submitted “Biochemical and Structural Analysis of ZATT/ZNF451.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Laura Kammel, Ph.D.

Laura Kammel, Ph.D., mentored by Joseph Rodriguez, Ph.D., Single Cell Dynamics Group, submitted “Whole Organ Immuno-smfish Enables Spatial Gene Expression Analysis in Single Cells Within a Complex 3D Environment.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Christine Langton, Ph.D.

Christine Langton, Ph.D., mentored by Donna Baird, Ph.D., Women’s Health Group, submitted “Soy-based Infant Formula Feeding and Uterine Fibroid Development in a Prospective Ultrasound Study of African-American Women.” (Photo courtesy of Christine Langton)

Wan-Ning Li, Ph.D.

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Wan-Ning Li, Ph.D., mentored by Francesco DeMayo, Ph.D., Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory, submitted “The Role of Serum Response Factor in Regulating Hormonal Responsiveness in Female Reproduction.”

Dillon Lloyd

Dillon Lloyd, mentored by Alison Motsinger-Reif, Ph.D., chief of the Biostatistics and Computational Biology Branch, submitted “Type 2 Diabetes Risk Prediction in a Multi-ethnic Cohort Supports the Potential of Polyexposure Risk Scores.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Jasmine Mack

Jasmine Mack, mentored by Alison Motsinger-Reif, Ph.D., chief of the Biostatistics and Computational Biology Branch, submitted “A Multi-ethnic Genome-wide Association Study Identifies Novel Candidate Loci near the RARB and LRP1B Genes Associated with Gestational Hypertension in the Personalized Environment and Genes (PEGS) Cohort.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Tanushree Mukherjee, Ph.D.

Tanushree Mukherjee, Ph.D., mentored by Anton Jetten, Ph.D., Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory, submitted “Glis3 Protects Against Deregulated Osteogenesis.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Amanda Riccio, Ph.D.

Amanda Riccio, Ph.D., mentored by William Copeland, Ph.D., Genome Integrity and Structural Biology Laboratory, submitted “Structural Insight and Characterization of Human Twinkle Helicase in Mitochondrial Disease.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Virginia Savy, Ph.D.

Virginia Savy, Ph.D., mentored by Carmen Williams, M.D., Ph.D., Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory, submitted “The Butterfly Effect: Abnormal Calcium Signaling at Fertilization Has a Long-term Impact on Offspring Weight.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Chitrangda Srivastava, Ph.D.

Chitrangda Srivastava, Ph.D., mentored by Anton Jetten, Ph.D., Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory, submitted “Loss of JAZF1 Modulates High-Fat Diet-Induced Gut Microbial Dysbiosis and Protect Against Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Danielle Stevens, Ph.D.

Danielle Stevens, Ph.D., mentored by Kelly Ferguson, Ph.D., Perinatal and Early Life Epidemiology Group, submitted “Early Pregnancy Phthalate and Phthalate Alternative Metabolites in Relation to Fetal Cardiac Development.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Xiukun Wang, Ph.D.

Xiukun Wang, Ph.D., mentored by Guang Hu, Ph.D., Stem Cell Biology Group, submitted “The Histone H3.3 Chaperone Hira Facilitates the Recruitment of the Nurd Complex to Promote the Exit From the Pluripotent State in Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Ziyue Wang, Ph.D.

Ziyue Wang, Ph.D., mentored by Alison Motsinger-Reif, Ph.D., chief of the Biostatistics and Computational Biology Branch, submitted “A Novel Normalization Method for Microbiome Sequencing Count Data.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

MyeongJin Yi, Ph.D.

MyeongJin Yi, Ph.D., mentored by Francesco DeMayo, Ph.D., Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory, submitted “Vitamin D Regulates Uterine Stromal Cell Differentiation in Vitro and in Vivo.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

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