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NIEHS Science Awards Day Celebrates Intramural Research Achievements

By Negin P. Martin
December 2009

Stephanie Nick McElhinny, Tom Kunkel and Dmitry Gordenin
Lead author Stephanie Nick McElhinny (center) and her mentor Tom Kunkel (left) were recognized for publishing the Paper of the Year. Gordenin (right), also a co-author on the Paper of the Year, was selected as the Outstanding Staff Scientist.
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Ken Korach
Scientist of the Year, Laboratory of Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology Chief Ken Korach, presented an impressive body of research about the signaling pathways of estrogen receptor isoforms. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Dudek and Christopher Geyer
Dudek (left), who was voted as Mentor of the Year by the NIEHS Trainees Assembly, posed with Christopher Geyer (right), a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Simons and Pritchard
Best Oral Presentation Award winner Simons (left) accepted his award from Acting Scientific Director Pritchard (right). (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Jianxin Shen and Ezequiel Marron
Visiting fellow Jianxin Shen (left) explains details about the functional role of alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in hippocampal signaling to another Laboratory of Neurobiology fellow Ezequiel Marron (right). (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

On the first Thursday in November, NIEHS traditionally holds an event that honors outstanding scientific achievements among the Institute's intramural community. On November 5, researchers and trainees left their laboratories and offices to discuss science and listen to oral presentations during the 7th Annual Science Awards Day. The event, sponsored by the NIEHS Office of the Scientific Director, was created to celebrate the research conducted by intramural scientists at NIEHS.

John Pritchard, Ph.D. acting scientific director, opened the ceremonies by welcoming participants and acknowledging the efforts put forth by the event organizer and moderator Joel Abramowitz, Ph.D. Awardees were nominated by their NIEHS peers, and a panel of outside judges formed the Board of Scientific Counselors that selected the winner of the 2009 Paper of the Year. The Outstanding Staff Scientist and Early Career Award winners were determined by a group of extramural scientists at local universities and research institutes. The Mentor of the Year was selected by the NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA).(

Dmitry Gordenin, Ph.D., the 2009 Outstanding Staff Scientist from the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, presented the first scientific seminar titled "Amplifying risk of genome instability." Gordenin and Michael Resnick, Ph.D. the primary investigator in the study, used versatile yeast genetics to investigate the source and mechanism of chromosomal instability and its role in evolution and population dynamics.

The morning and afternoon sessions of oral presentations featured eight selected seminars from abstracts submitted by trainees and staff. Presenters did a superb job of communicating their research accomplishments and future goals in short 10 minute talks. Participants also got a chance to review 87 posters and talk with scientists about an impressive array of environmental health research presented by NIEHS trainees.

The Early Career Award recipient Raja Johti, Ph.D., from the Biostatistics Branch, described the multi-level regulatory components of transcription factors and how they contributed to cell response variability within a uniform population.

Kenneth Korach, Ph.D. chief of the Laboratory of Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology, was selected as the 2009 Scientist of the Year. Korach's seminar focused on his comprehensive research on the estrogen receptor and its role in regulating reproductive health. Nominations for Scientist of the Year can come from lab chiefs, program directors or the Scientific Director. Nominations are then reviewed by a committee of extramural scientists.

The final segment of the ceremony was dedicated to recognizing accomplishments and presenting awards.

(Negin Martin, Ph.D., is a biologist in the NIEHS Laboratory of Neurobiology Viral Vector Core Facility and a 2009 Science Communication Fellow with Environmental Health Sciences. She recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the NIEHS Membrane Signaling Group.)

Abramowitz and Jothi
Abramowitz (left) presented Jothi (right) with the Early Career Award. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Researchers filled Rodbell Auditorium to listen to the Annual Science Award Day oral presentations.
Researchers filled Rodbell Auditorium to listen to the Annual Science Award Day oral presentations.
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

2009 Science Day Awards

  • Scientist of the Year - Kenneth S. Korach, Ph.D., Laboratory of Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology chief, presenting "Estrogen receptor insensitivity: Physiological consequences"
  • Early Career Award - Raja Jothi, Ph.D., Biostatistics Branch, presenting "Seeing the forest for the trees: A systems level understanding of differential cell-fate outcome"
  • Outstanding Staff Scientist - Dmitry Gordenin, Ph.D., Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, speaking about "Amplifying risk of genome instability"
  • Mentor of the Year - Serena Dudek, Ph.D., Laboratory of Neurobiology
  • Best Poster Presentation in Environmental Biology - Nisha A. Cavanaugh, Ph.D., Laboratory of Structural Biology, presenting a poster tilted "How sweet it is: Ribonucleotide discrimination by DNA polymerase beta"
  • Best Poster Presentation in Environmental Diseases and Medicine - Daniel A. Gilchrist, Ph.D., Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis, presenting a poster titled "NELF globally regulates Pol II stalling and potentiates the drosophila innate immune response"
  • Best Poster Presentation in Environmental Toxicology - Brooke Tvermoes, Ph.D., Laboratory of Molecular Toxicology, presenting a poster titled "The effects of cadmium exposure on calcium homeostatis and signaling pathways"
  • Best Oral Presentation - Stephen B. Simons, Ph.D., Laboratory of Neurobiology, presenting "Switching off plasticity: Are your neurons getting enough calcium?"
  • Paper of the Year - From the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics and Laboratory of Structural Biology, S.A. Nick McElhinny, D.A. Gordenin, C.M. Stith, P.M.J. Burgers and T.A. ( NIEHS Kunkel for "Division of Labor at the Eukaryotic Replication Fork", Molecular Cell 30: 137-144, 2008

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