Environmental Factor, October 2010, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Institute celebrates postdoctoral fellows
By Eddy Ball
NIEHS reminded its 225 postdoctoral fellows of their central importance to the Institute's work by observing the second annual National Postdoc Appreciation Day Sept. 24 during the NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA) (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/careers/research/nta/) fall meeting. As attendees learned at the meeting, the national celebration gained added momentum the day before with a Congressional resolution honoring America's postdoctoral fellows and "the significant contributions that postdoctoral scholars make to the U.S. scientific research enterprise."
National Postdoc Appreciation Day is the high point of National Postdoc Appreciation Week. The celebration was initiated in 2009 by the National Postdoctoral Association (http://www.nationalpostdoc.org/home) , a member-driven organization that provides a unique voice for postdoctoral scholars throughout the country.
On hand to offer their personal thanks to the Institute's postdocs were NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., and NIEHS Acting Scientific Director David Miller, Ph.D. Birnbaum entertained postdocs with stories of her own three fellowships - one of them at NIEHS. She encouraged her listeners to "take advantage of opportunities [at NIEHS] to broaden yourself professionally," and said, "You should always be appreciated."
Miller offered "an extended thank you to all our trainees" and to Diane Klotz, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Office of Fellows Career Development (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/careers/research/fellows/). He said, "I think of science as an engine and the fuel for the engine is the trainees." Miller also emphasized that principal investigators benefit from the fresh ideas and enthusiasm of postdocs in ways that trainees and their supervisors may not fully appreciate.
NTA steering committee chair Nisha Cavanaugh, Ph.D., spoke during the meeting portion of the event, updating fellows on volunteer opportunities and new initiatives, as well as recent and upcoming events. She pointed to the NTA selection of Mentor of the Year for NIEHS Science Day Nov. 4 and the new emphasis on landing a job at the upcoming 14th Annual Biomedical Career Fair scheduled for April 29, 2011.
Closing out the business portion of the meeting, Klotz added her own humorous touch to the meeting by describing her career path, which was similar to the one many fellows may experience - one that took her in unexpected directions as she eventually discovered her own kind of rewarding career in science.
Klotz described upcoming training and career development events and the creation of a special listserv to support the NTA's new Visiting Fellows Subcommittee. Chaired by Louie Chen, Ph.D., and Raj Gosavi, Ph.D., the committee will strive to help the 110 fellows from foreign countries with some of their specialized needs.
When the meeting came to an end, fellows gathered for a group photo and then filed into the NIEHS cafeteria for an ice cream social and trivia contest.