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2009 ONES Awardees Speak at NIEHS

By Thaddeus Schug
February 2010

NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D.
Birnbaum said she was delighted with the opportunity to spend the entire morning session engaged in scientific discussion with the young investigators. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

ONES program director and meeting chair Carol Shreffler, Ph.D.
"This award is intended to be highly selective for the most talented scientists," Shreffler told the audience. "We only allow one application per school within an institution." (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

North Carolina State University Assistant Professor Scott McCulloch, Ph.D.
North Carolina State University Assistant Professor Scott McCulloch, Ph.D. was happy to address his former NIEHS colleagues on his research of how DNA polymerase eta (pol η) responds to DNA damage caused by oxidative stress. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

ONES awardees, left to right, Yu Chen, Ph.D., James Luyendyk, Ph.D., Michelle Block, Ph.D., and Dana Dolinoy, Ph.D.
ONES awardees, left to right, Yu Chen, Ph.D., James Luyendyk, Ph.D., Michelle Block, Ph.D., and Dana Dolinoy, Ph.D., look on as fellow winner Jesus Araujo, M.D., Ph.D., explains how air pollution leads to atherosclerosis and heart disease. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Pat Mastin, Ph.D., acting deputy director of DERT
Pat Mastin, Ph.D., acting deputy director of DERT, attentively watched the morning presentations. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Michelle Block, Ph.D.
Block, above, has developed several mouse models she plans to use to help identify the role of microglia in neuroinflammation. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

This year's six winners of the Outstanding New Environmental Scientists (ONES) awards gathered at NIEHS Jan. 21 to deliver presentations on their research projects to Institute scientists and visitors. NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., welcomed the young investigators, describing the ONES award as an "outstanding funding opportunity that will assist the group of exceptional young scientists in launching an innovative research career focusing on environmental health."

Listen to Birnbaum's comments on the ONES Award

  • Listen to Dr. Birnbaum's Comments (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2010/february/docs/ones-comments.mp3)  Download QuickTime (479 KB)
    Transcript (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2010/february/docs/transcript-ones-comments.pdf)  Download Adobe Reader (9 KB) )

The ONES winners represent a cross-disciplinary group of scientists, with specialized interests in toxicology, genetics, epidemiology, cardiology, neurobiology, and pharmacology. Their work exemplifies what Birnbaum referred to as a priority issue at NIEHS, which is the need to conduct "complex research on complex diseases and integrate these issues into environmental health."

Established in 2006, the ONES program is a highly competitive award program that funds the most promising new faculty investigators. NIEHS was the first Institute to make such a strong and unique contribution to the identification and support of junior faculty investigators through the ONES program.

In her opening remarks, ONES program director and meeting chair Carol Shreffler, Ph.D., explained that the ONES grants are R01 awards specifically designed to help junior investigators at the start of their careers "put in the foundation for a successful research career." The five-year grant funds research at $250,000 per year and supports equipment purchases and career enhancement activities with an additional $150,000 during each of the first two years. As Shreffler noted, "Young investigators who were successful at getting their first grant often have trouble getting renewals because they lack access to specialized equipment or career enhancement opportunities." 

The morning presentations were part of a daylong agenda for the awardees that included lunch with Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) staff and afternoon meetings with intramural scientists and postdoctoral fellows. The ONES awardees will make additional presentations at NIEHS over the course of their grants. Videos of their talks will be posted on the Grant Program Events archive online.

(Thaddeus Schug, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research fellow in the NIEHS Laboratory of Signal Transduction.)

NIEHS Principal  Investigator Scott Williams, Ph.D., center, and Postdoctoral Fellow and  Mercedes Arana, Ph.D.
NIEHS Principal Investigator Scott Williams, Ph.D., center, and Postdoctoral Fellow Mercedes Arana, Ph.D., watched as Block outlined her research plan.
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS Principal Investigator Tom Kunkel, Ph.D.
NIEHS Principal Investigator Tom Kunkel, Ph.D., above was one of two proud ONES mentors on hand for the talks. McCulloch is a former postdoctoral fellow in Kunkel's DNA Replication Group, and Block is a former postdoctoral fellow in the NIEHS Neuropharmacology Group headed by Jau-Shyong Hong, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

2009 ONES Awardees

University of California, Los Angeles cardiologist Jesus Araujo, M.D., Ph.D. (http://www.med.ucla.edu/cardiology/faculty/araujo.htm) Exit NIEHS, Los Angeles, will focus on the effects of particulate air pollution on high-density lipoproteins and atherosclerosis.

Virginia Commonwealth neurobiologist and former NIEHS Postdoctoral Fellow Michelle Block, Ph.D. (http://www.anatomy.vcu.edu/directory/faculty/detail.html?ID=1232) Exit NIEHS, will explore the role of protein radicals in microglia in the environmental mechanisms of chronic neurotoxicity.

New York University epidemiologist Yu Chen, Ph.D. (http://www.med.nyu.edu/research/cheny16.html) Exit NIEHS, intends to continue her investigation into the interactions between arsenic exposure from drinking water and genetic susceptibility related to inflammation and oxidative stress in cardiovascular disease.

University of Kansas Medical Center pharmacologist James Luyendyk, Ph.D. (http://www.kumc.edu/pharmacology/Luyendyk.html) Exit NIEHS, aims to understand the mechanisms of xenobiotic-induced biliary inflammation and fibrosis.

North Carolina State University toxicologist and former NIEHS Postdoctoral Fellow Scott McCulloch, Ph.D. (http://service004.hpc.ncsu.edu/toxicology/faculty/mcculloch/index.htm) Exit NIEHS, plans to investigate the role of human DNA polymerase eta (pol η) in the mutagenic response to oxidative stress.

University of Michigan geneticist Dana Dolinoy, Ph.D. (http://www.sph.umich.edu/iscr/faculty/profile.cfm?uniqname=ddolinoy) Exit NIEHS, will be investigating effects on the fetal epigenome of in utero exposure to bisphenol A.



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