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2009 Summers of Discovery Best Poster Awards

By Laura Hall
September 2009

Michelle Corea
Corea, left, received Best Poster award for high school students from Schrader. Corea said, "My biggest interest is in cancer research and epidemiology, but I think this summer helped [me] to broaden my horizons." (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

John Peart
Peart, left, received the undergraduate Best Poster award from Schrader. Peart said that the process of making the poster "taught me how to be professional in writing and how the publication process works." (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Amber Haynes
Haynes, left, received graduate Best Poster award from Schrader. In talking about her summer Haynes said, "I always wanted to do research like this because...when you're doing research, particularly in public health, you're able to change thousands of people's lives by just this one thing." (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Michelle Corea, John Peart, and Amber Haynes, interns in the Summers of Discovery Program, won Best Poster awards for their summer research (see text box) at a ceremony on July 29. NIEHS Deputy Scientific Director Bill Schrader, Ph.D., presented the awards.

In all, 41 posters were judged by postdoctoral fellows who evaluated each of the intern's presentations. Judging was based on the quality of the research and a demonstrated understanding of the work, and how well the research was communicated (see related Inside story ( Speaking to the interns, Diane Klotz, director of the Office of Fellows' Career Development, said she chose fellows as judges "because I actually find the postdocs to be a lot more critical." She added, "All the judges that I talked to were very impressed with all of your posters, every single one" and "they were just incredibly impressed [with] those of you who are in high school."

Before he gave out the awards, Schrader said, "I hope this [the Summers of Discovery experience] helps to trigger your real interest in science." These three winners are definitely intrigued. Corea has thought about medical school, research, and entering an M.D.-Ph.D. program for her future career. Now at the end of her summer internship she says, "I'm leaning towards research."

Peart, a North Carolina State University (NCSU) undergraduate, will continue working with his summer mentor, Ron Cannon, Ph.D., a staff scientist in the NIEHS Intracellular Regulation Group headed by David Miller, Ph.D. Peart will be working full-time in the laboratory for the entire 2009 fall semester as an NCSU Co-op student. The NCSU Co-op program ( Exit NIEHS allows students to work in a job relevant to their studies as part of their university curriculum.

Peart's reason to participate in the Co-op program was not just to make himself a better job candidate -he was hooked. "The project we're doing now is continuing on...and it would be really cool to see what the results are, to see it through to the end, keep it going and answer the questions we don't have the answers to yet."

Amber Haynes was so interested in her summer project she asked to stay on at NIEHS for another year to continue research on behavioral modification and asthma prevention (see related Spotlight story ( "Even though we have preliminary results, I'd like to see what the results will be from the [home dust] samples that were collected and to look at other allergens," said Haynes.

(Laura Hall is a biologist in the NIEHS Laboratory of Pharmacology currently on detail as a writer for the Environmental Factor.)

Summers of Discovery Award Winning Posters

High school student Corea studied metastasis associated protein 3 (MTA3), a protein involved in regulating gene expression. Her work suggested MTA3 might also be involved in sub-cellular component recycling. This kind of recycling would make nutrients available and potentially increase survival during starvation. Biologist Wendy Jefferson in the Reproductive Medicine Group mentored Corea.

Peart, a North Carolina State University (NCSU) undergraduate, studied an efflux transporter, p-glycoprotein (P-gp) in the blood brain barrier. P-gp is one of the major obstacles preventing drug delivery to the brain. Peart found that sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), a lipid signaling molecule, can reversibly down regulate P-gp transport activity making S1P a good candidate for further study in the search for compounds useable for therapeutic drug delivery in brain disease. Ron Cannon, Ph.D., staff scientist in the Intracellular Regulation Group, mentored Peart.

Haynes, a graduate school student in the epidemiology department of Tulane University, worked with Michelle Sever, biologist, and Darryl Zeldin, M.D., acting director of clinical research and principal investigator, in the Laboratory of Respiratory Biology. She tested whether the use of in-home dust mite allergen test kits that allow parents to test for dust mite levels in the home, would, with prevention education, reduce the dust mite levels in the homes of children with allergies to dust mites. Haynes found a significant decrease in dust mite levels reported by the study participants with prevention education and kits over an eight eight-month time period.

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