ONES program celebrates seventh year of excellence
By Eddy Ball
For the scientists who oversee grants at NIEHS, things don’t get much better than the meeting of the Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) awardees each year and the excitement of learning about new developments in their work. At this year’s annual meeting May 20-21, there was even more reason than usual to cheer, as the program looked forward to its renewal after a yearlong hiatus.
The early career scientists are a select group of high achievers involved in cutting-edge research, funded across the spectrum of science supported by the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT). In many ways, they represent the best examples of the transdisciplinary collaborative spirit that NIEHS tries to foster through its grants and strategic plan, and they embody the promise of the newest generation of environmental health science biomedical researchers.
“The ONES program not only provided the funding to establish your laboratories and careers, but also has a goal to build long-standing relationships with us here at NIEHS,” NIEHS and NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., told the awardees in her opening remarks. “This is very important to us, not just for the goodwill that it builds, but for the continued vibrancy of environmental health research capacity.”
The enormous advantages of being a part of the ONES program were acknowledged by the 27 awardees who made presentations at the meeting, as one after another, they credited NIEHS support for their accomplishments.
“Without this award, much of the work I’m going to present would be impossible,” said Jason Bielas, Ph.D., echoing sentiments expressed by his fellow awardees.
An impressive showcase of young talent
The program was organized around the six NIEHS program administrators who oversee research grants that support ONES awardees. The DERT scientists taking their turns at the podium included Kimberly McAllister, Ph.D., DNA repair and carcinogenesis; Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., neurotoxicology; Jerrold Heindel, Ph.D., early-life exposures; Claudia Thompson, Ph.D., mechanisms of toxicity; Sri Nadadur, Ph.D., indoor and outdoor air exposures, and nanotoxicology; and Les Reinlib, Ph.D., arsenic exposures.
The ONES program has made a total of 42 awards since 2006. Awardees from recent-year groups were joined by five early-career awardees with grants made in 2012. The reconstituted ONES program at NIEHS looks forward to a new batch of awardees in fiscal year 2014.
The presentations drew an audience of scientists from across NIEHS, to listen to and interact with awardees. Several trainees were on hand, many responding to an invitation by NIEHS Deputy Scientific Director Bill Schrader, Ph.D., to learn more about the kinds of research the Institute supports through DERT, and the directions which NIEHS funding is likely to proceed in the future.
An honor role of accomplishments
The ONES coordinator, NIEHS Program Administrator Carol Shreffler, Ph.D., who also oversees training program grants, was unable to attend the meeting for the first time since ONES began in 2006. However, Birnbaum’s remarks included some of the impressive metrics Shreffler had amassed for the introduction to a two-volume special issue of the Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology, (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jbt.2013.27.issue-1/issuetoc) published this past January and February.
The special issue featured research publications and mini-reviews from nearly 20 of the ONES awardees, and was co-edited by 2008 ONES awardee Angela Slitt, Ph.D. In Shreffler’s introduction, (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jbt.21445/full) she offered some impressive statistics about the ONES program, in the areas of outstanding publications and productive collaborations; tenure and promotion; service on high-profile journal editorial awards; recognition by home universities, international professional societies, and even the U.S. President; and successful applications for grant funding beyond their ONES awards.
Shreffler’s catalogue of honors clearly demonstrated that, in every respect, awardees have exceeded expectations of this unapologetically ambitious program.
As the years go by — ONES awardees 2006-2012
The format has evolved since 2006, but the qualities that remain constant are the enthusiasm of the young scientists, the genuine pride of program administrators, and the esprit de corps that fosters fruitful collaborations across the extended family of NIEHS intramural and extramural researchers.
- 2006 — NIEHS Celebrates ONES Award Winners
- 2007 — New ONES Grantees to Visit Institute in January
- 2008 — 2008 ONES Awardees Speak at NIEHS
- 2009 — 2009 ONES Awardees Speak at NIEHS
- 2010 —NIEHS selects 2010 ONES awardees
- 2011— NIEHS celebrates five years of ONES research
- 2012— Young EH researchers shine at ONES symposium