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Researchers honored at Science Awards Day

By Ernie Hood
December 2010

NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D.
NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum was on hand to welcome attendees and praise the scientific excellent of the Institute's senior scientists and trainees whose contributions are celebrated on the first Thursday of November each year. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Jane Hoppin, Sc.D.
Outstanding Staff Scientist Jane Hoppin described her work involving pesticides and allergic outcomes in farming adults. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

left to right, Xiaoling Li, Ph.D., and David Miller, Ph.D.
Li, left, accepted the Early Career Award from Miller. Li was also a co-author of the Paper of the Year with her Laboratory of Signal Transduction colleagues. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

from left to right, Sindura Ganapathi, Ph.D., and Matthew Longley
NIEHS Trainees Assembly representative Sindura Ganapathi, Ph.D., left, congratulated the group's Mentor of the Year selection, Matthew Longley of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

left to right, Brant Hamel, Ph.D., and Yukitomo Arao, Ph.D.
Research Fellow Yukitomo Arao, Ph.D., of the Laboratory of Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology, right, discussed his group's poster with Brant Hamel, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the NIEHS Molecular Endocrinology Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Dale Sandler, Ph.D.
Scientist of the Year, Epidemiology Branch Chief Dale Sandler, described the contributions of epidemiological research to advancing the environmental health sciences, including her work on the Institute's major large-cohort, longitudinal studies. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS Intramural scientists and trainees stepped away from their laboratories and devoted the day to recognizing the scientific achievements of their colleagues and peers at the eighth annual NIEHS Science Awards Day Nov. 4.

The event was sponsored by the NIEHS Office of the Scientific Director (OSD) (, and was organized and moderated by Special Assistant to the Scientific Director Joel Abramowitz, Ph.D., who set the tone for the day in his letter of welcome to attendees. Abramowitz wrote, "Often science is done by groups, and often we cloak ourselves in collective anonymity. Here today we hope to give the Institute's best workers a place in the sun."

The award winners themselves shared that place in the sun, along with 94 trainee posters vying for Best Poster Presentation honors in three categories and nine trainee presenters seeking recognition for Best Oral Presentation (see text box for the full list of award winners).

Awards ceremony talks

Following welcoming remarks by NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., and Abramowitz, Outstanding Staff Scientist winner Jane Hoppin, Sc.D., of the Epidemiology Branch, presented an overview of her research, "Pesticides and allergic outcomes in farming adults." Since joining the Institute in 1999, she has been a co-principal investigator of the Agricultural Health Study, a prospective study of licensed pesticide applicators from North Carolina and Iowa originally recruited in 1993-1997 (see story ( In her presentation, she described how data from the study has shown that growing up on a farm could have a protective effect against allergic diseases such as asthma and rhinitis, but that the evidence also suggests that applying pesticides can reduce that protective effect and increase disease susceptibility.

The day featured morning and afternoon sessions devoted to oral presentations and poster presentations, after which attendees heard from Early Career Award winner Xiaoling Li, Ph.D., from the Laboratory of Signal Transduction, who elaborated on her work examining the central role the gene SIRT1 plays in the aging process, metabolic diseases, and the impact of environment factors on aging. In her summary of her work over the last four years, she noted that the sirtuin family of proteins, regulated by SIRT1 and the other sirtuin genes, "could be therapeutic targets for diseases of aging or aging itself."

Next, Acting Scientific Director David Miller, Ph.D., presented the prestigious Scientist of the Year award to Dale Sandler, Ph.D., who has been with NIEHS since 1979 and has served as chief of the Epidemiology Branch since 2004. Quoting from one of the letters nominating Sandler for the award, Miller said, "Sandler's work has been characterized as a major catalyst in the evolution of epidemiology, [with] seminal contributions across the field of epidemiology through publication of important papers on chronic renal disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and breast cancer."

Sandler presented an overview of the work encompassed in her distinguished career, which has included the establishment of large, scientifically fruitful cohorts such as the Agricultural Health Study and the 50,000-woman Sister Study, which examine breast cancer risk. With that backlog of experience, she was recently named principal investigator of the GuLF (Gulf Long-Term Follow-up) Study, a large prospective health study of oil spill cleanup workers and volunteers (see story (

Sandler is the first woman and the first epidemiologist to be recognized as the NIEHS Scientist of the Year. 2010 is the first year that the Science Awards Day proceedings were webcast for the benefit of those unable to attend in person.

(Ernie Hood is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

And the winners are...

Scientist of the Year - Dale P. Sandler, Ph.D., Epidemiology Branch

Early Career Award - Xiaoling Li, Ph.D., Laboratory of Signal Transduction

Outstanding Staff Scientist - Jane A. Hoppin, Sc.D., Epidemiology Branch

Mentor of the Year - Matthew J. Longley, Ph.D., Laboratory of Molecular Genetics

Best Poster Presentation in Environmental Biology - Deepti Dwivedi, Ph.D., Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, "Novel Mutator Mutants of E. coli NrdAB Ribonucleotide Reductase: Alterations at Allosteric Regulatory Sites and Correlation with in vivo dNTP Pools"

Best Poster Presentation in Environmental Diseases and Medicine - Ginger W. Muse, Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis, "RNA Pol II Pausing Plays a Critical Role in the Mammalian Inflammatory Response"

Best Poster Presentation in Environmental Toxicology - Kalina Ranguelova, Ph.D., Laboratory of Toxicology and Pharmacology, "Formation of Highly Reactive Sulfite-derived Free Radicals by the Activation of Human Neutrophils"

Best Oral Presentation - Jason P. Stanko, Ph.D., Cellular and Molecular Pathology Branch, "A Comparison of Mammary Gland Developmental Delays and DMBA-induced Mammary Tumorigenesis in Long-Evans and Sprague Dawley Rat Offspring Prenatally Exposed to Atrazine"

Paper of the Year - From the Laboratory of Signal Transduction: Purushotham A, Schug TT, Xu Q, Surapureddi S, Guo X, Li X.( Exit NIEHS 2009. Hepatocyte-specific deletion of SIRT1 alters fatty acid metabolism and results in hepatic steatosis and inflammation. Cell Metab 9(4):327-338. Story(

Selection process

The Outstanding Staff Scientist, the Early Career, the Scientist of the Year, and the Best Oral Presentation awards were selected by a group of nine extramural scientists from Triangle area universities, many of whom are NIEHS grantees. The Paper of the Year was chosen by the NIEHS Board of Scientific Counselors. Posters were judged by 54 intramural scientists. The Mentor of the Year was selected by the NIEHS Trainees Assembly.

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