What does the future of environmental health sciences research look like? During the 20th annual Science Day celebration, early-career researchers and mentors gathered to answer this question. For the first time in three years, trainees came together in person to share their research, celebrate successes, and engage with the wider NIEHS community.
Held Jan. 22 in Rodbell Auditorium and the halls of Building 101, the event included eight short-form presentations, 73 research posters, and a concluding awards ceremony. Topics covered everything from the effects of early-life trauma on breast cancer to using a lab method called cell-free DNA as a biomarker for certain developmental disorders.
“This day remains a showcase acknowledging the outstanding research that is being conducted in all three divisions at NIEHS, with a special emphasis upon highlighting the accomplishments of our incredible fellows and trainees,” said NIEHS Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D.
Celebrating and supporting early-career researchers
Fellow of the Year and Best Oral Presentation were awarded to Virginia Savy, Ph.D., of the Reproductive Medicine Group.
Savy’s presentation focused on the effects of higher calcium levels at fertilization on both short-term and long-term health outcomes. She explained that a 10-fold increase in calcium prior to fertilization led to slower embryonic development, smaller litters, and stunted growth in mice.
Members of the judging panel commended Savy for a beautifully presented, well-organized talk, and they noted her research contributes to a growing body of evidence suggesting environmental changes in calcium at fertilization can significantly impact the health of future offspring.
Mentor of the Year was awarded to Carmen Williams, M.D., Ph.D., who leads the Reproductive Medicine Group.
“I’ve been interacting with Dr. Williams for 16 years, and her support has guided me through my academic career,” said mentee Wipawee Winuthayanon, Ph.D., of the University of Missouri. “She’s a great teacher and great mentor, but the key thing is that she makes you feel like you can do anything.”
The Office of Fellows’ Career Development coordinated the selection process for Fellow of the Year and Mentor of the Year awards.
Forty-seven intramural scientists and 10 researchers from local universities served as judges for the poster competition. The following individuals earned Best Poster Presentation honors for ranking in the top 10% of presenters.
- Taylor Cosey, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Group, “Characterization of vicilin-buried peptides in cross-reactivity of legume, nightshade, and tree nut species using human monoclonal IgE.”
- Ciro Amato, Ph.D., Reproductive Developmental Biology Group, “Anti-androgen exposure derails chromatin accessibility and gene expression in the developing mouse penis.”
- Ru-Pin Alicia Chi, Ph.D., Male Reproduction and RNA Biology Group, “TENT5A modulates heat stress response via tailing the Atxn2 transcript.”
- Joe Breeyear, Ph.D., Biostatistics and Computational Biology Branch, “A mutation causing glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency increases risk of diabetes complications in men with African ancestry.”
- Yu-Ying Chen, Ph.D., Reproductive Developmental Biology Group, “Somatic cell fate specification and separation in the fetal ovary.”
- Mert Icyuz, Ph.D., Pediatric Neuroendocrinology Group, “A missense mutation in Smchd1 disrupts placental and cardiac development in mice.”
- Zoe Wright, Ph.D., Nucleolar Integrity Group, “Can’t take my eyes off U: Understanding what drives Nsp15’s preferences in dsRNA substrates.”
“This is always an incredible event thanks to the hard work and dedication of our judges, support staff, and presenters,” said Associate Scientific Director Hans Luecke, Ph.D., who led the Science Day organizing committee. “It is a wonderful opportunity to share scientific achievements and receive feedback on the research programs underway at NIEHS.”
(Ben Richardson, Ph.D., is a Presidential Management Fellow in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)