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Trainees and Investigators Shine at Fifth Annual Science Awards Day

By Eddy Ball
December 2007

Following his talk, a relaxed Putney fielded questions from the audience and exchanged banter with colleagues.
Following his talk, a relaxed Putney fielded questions from the audience and exchanged banter with colleagues. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
As master of ceremonies, Abramowitz was at the podium off and on throughout the day, introducing speakers, presenting awards and attending to the many details of this special day.
As master of ceremonies, Abramowitz was at the podium off and on throughout the day, introducing speakers, presenting awards and attending to the many details of this special day. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
The poster display ran nearly the length of Rall Building. Elaine Gay, Ph.D., center, discussed her work on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the Ion Channel Physiology Group with Putney, right.
The poster display ran nearly the length of Rall Building. Elaine Gay, Ph.D., center, discussed her work on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the Ion Channel Physiology Group with Putney, right. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Dixie-Ann Sawin, Ph.D., left, explained fine points of her experiments with rafts activation to Toxicologist Alex Merrick, Ph.D. Sawin performed her work as part of the Neurotoxicology Group.
Dixie-Ann Sawin, Ph.D., left, explained fine points of her experiments with rafts activation to Toxicologist Alex Merrick, Ph.D. Sawin performed her work as part of the Neurotoxicology Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Environmental Genetics Group fellow Dianne Walters, Ph.D., left, answered questions from Bill Martin, M.D., a pulmonologist and the NIEHS associate director of Translational Research.
Environmental Genetics Group fellow Dianne Walters, Ph.D., left, answered questions from Bill Martin, M.D., a pulmonologist and the NIEHS associate director of Translational Research. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Laboratory of Reproductive Development and Toxicology (LRDT) Chief Ken Korach, Ph.D., right, listened as Yoshihiro Komatsu, Ph.D., outlined his study of developmental disorders in skull formation. Komatsu is a fellow in the Molecular Development Biology group, which is part of LRDT.
Laboratory of Reproductive Development and Toxicology (LRDT) Chief Ken Korach, Ph.D., right, listened as Yoshihiro Komatsu, Ph.D., outlined his study of developmental disorders in skull formation. Komatsu is a fellow in the Molecular Development Biology group, which is part of LRDT. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Now in its fifth year, the NIEHS Annual Science Awards Day is a fall tradition for the Division of Intramural Research. The event celebrates the scientific achievements of investigators and trainees with a full day of oral presentations and poster sessions. This year's event took place November 1 in Rodbell Auditorium and showcased a poster display of 111 abstracts.

Chaired every year since its inception by Special Assistant to the Scientific Director Joel Abramowitz, Ph.D., Science Awards Day features a lecture by the winner of the Scientist of the Year Award and recognition of Mentor of the Year, as well as winning poster, oral presentation, and Paper of the Year achievements by trainees. Thanks to an offer by Library Director Dav Robertson, this year's winning posters remained on display through November in the NIEHS Library.

2007 awardees included:

  • Scientist of the Year Award was presented by Acting Scientific Director Perry Blackshear, M.D., D.Phil., to Laboratory of Signal Transduction Pharmacologist James Putney, Ph.D., who delivered an invited lecture on calcium signaling titled "Calcium Signaling Turned Inside Out." The nomination for Putney by colleague David Armstrong, Ph.D., cited his seminal work authoring the hypothesis that emptying of calcium stores in the endoplasmic reticulum triggers calcium entry across the plasma membrane. Armstrong wrote that Putney's 1986 paper on the hypothesis "has been cited in over 1350 scientific articles... [and] spawned at least three new fields in cell physiology."
  • Mentor of the Year Award was presented by NIEHS Trainee Assembly Chair Anastasia Wise to Laboratory of Neurobiology Acting Chief David Armstrong, Ph.D., described by one nominator as "an inspiration to many trainees..., [who is] committed to the personal development and career advancement of his trainees and has always been available to them when they wanted to talk with him about both personal and career development advice."
  • Best Poster Presentations were handed out by Abramowitz:
    • Environmental Biology to Stephanie Nick McElhinny, Ph.D., Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, "Strand Assignment of Eukaryotic Replicative DNA Polymerases," with co-authors Gordenin DA,. Stith, CM, Burgers PMJ, Kunkel TA.
    • Environmental Diseases and Medicine to Karina Rodriguez, Ph.D., Laboratory of Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology, "Direct Activation of Adenylyl Cyclase Improves the Ovulation Rate of Estrogen Receptor-Beta Null Follicles in Culture," with co-authors Taniguchi F, Jayes FL, Korach KS.
    • Environmental Toxicology to Dario Ramirez, Ph.D., Laboratory of Pharmacology and Chemistry, "A Radical View of Cu, Zn-Superoxide Dismutase-Driven Oxidations: Copper- and Carbonate-Radical Anion-Triggered Protein Radical Chemistry," with co-authors Gomez-Mejiba SE, Corbett JT, Mason RP.
  • Best Oral Presentation Award was presented by Abramowitz to Matthew T. Miller, Ph.D., Laboratory of Structural Biology, "Structure of Puf4 Bound to RNA Reveals Insights into Binding Specificity," with co-author Hall T.
  • Paper of the Year Award was presented by Blackshear to Miguel Garcia-Diaz, Ph.D., Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, Garcia-Diaz M, Bebenek K, Krahn JM, Pedersen LC, Kunkel TA Exit NIEHS. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=16439207&ordinalpos=29&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum) 2006. Structural Analysis of Strand Misalignment during DNA Synthesis by a Human DNA Polymerase. Cell 124:331-342.

When he presented the Paper of the Year Award, Blackshear commended Garcia-Diaz for the selection of his paper through rigorous review by the select group of judges from the NIEHS Board of Scientific Counselors. "These studies," the judges wrote, "contribute significantly to our understanding of basic biology, while disclosing underlying and deleterious processes with implications for environmental health."

Blackshear also presented an award to Chief of the DNA Replication Fidelity Group Thomas Kunkel, Ph.D., to recognize the lab where Garcia-Diaz and his colleagues performed the experiments that were the basis for the award-winning paper.

Damien Gawel, Ph.D., right, of the Mechanisms of Mutations Group, offered insights from his study of the role the Dgt enzyme plays in replication errors and mutagenesis to Laboratory of Molecular Genetics colleague Senyene Hunter, Ph.D.
Damien Gawel, Ph.D., right, of the Mechanisms of Mutations Group, offered insights from his study of the role the Dgt enzyme plays in replication errors and mutagenesis to Laboratory of Molecular Genetics colleague Senyene Hunter, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Blackshear congratulated Kunkel on his lab's contribution to the Paper of the Year. Gratified by the fruits of his labors - and no doubt glad to see the end of a long day - Abramowitz smiled in the background.
Blackshear congratulated Kunkel on his lab's contribution to the Paper of the Year. Gratified by the fruits of his labors - and no doubt glad to see the end of a long day - Abramowitz smiled in the background. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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