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NIEHS fellows stand out in 2016 FARE competition
By Eddy Ball
This summer, 16 NIEHS trainees were winners of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) for fiscal year 2016. An awards ceremony will take place as part of the 2015 NIH Research Festival, Sept. 17-18 in Bethesda, Maryland.
“Winning the FARE is an honor for trainees and their mentors, signifying the high caliber of research being conducted at NIEHS” said Tammy Collins, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Office of Fellows Career Development. “I congratulate the winners and each of the 59 fellows who put in the effort to submit abstracts in the competition.”
Setting a high bar for junior researchers
Now in its 20th year, FARE entries are judged blind, and the the top 25 percent of submitted abstracts are selected for recognition. The awards include a $1,000 stipend to attend a scientific meeting, where the winners will present their abstract, either as a poster or an oral presentation.
To participate in the competition, trainees must report on recent first-author data collected while at NIEHS. Judges evaluate abstracts on the basis of scientific merit, originality, experimental design, and overall quality and presentation.
Notably, among this year’s winners are four NIEHS trainees who previously won FARE awards — Julie Lowe, Ph.D.; Barbara Nicol, Ph.D.; Pengyi Yang, Ph.D.; and Xiaofeng Zheng, Ph.D. And two mentors, lead researchers Raja Jothi, Ph.D., and Michael Fessler, M.D., had two winners each from their respective groups.
Amanda Conway, Ph.D., a member of Jothi’s Systems Biology Group, was recognized for her research project, “GABPa Positively Regulates Transcriptional Circuitry Controlling ESC Identity by Direct Hindrance of a Repressive Chromatin-modifying Complex.” Conway was also a 2014 winner of the Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) Program fellowship from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Shannon Farris, Ph.D., won a FARE for her work on “Plasticity in Hippocampal Area CA2: Lost in Translation?” She is a member of the Synaptic and Developmental Plasticity Group headed by Serena Dudek, Ph.D., and a 2014 Society for Neuroscience Early Career Policy Fellow. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Kristin Gabor, Ph.D., is a member of Fessler’s Clinical Investigation of Host Defense Group. Her award-winning study was titled “Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome Reveals Requirement for Sterol Biosynthesis in the Innate Immune Response.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Bo He, Ph.D., mentored by Molecular Endocrinology Group head John Cidlowski, Ph.D., reported that “Human Glucocorticoid Receptor Beta (hGRbeta) Has Unique Transcriptional Activity in Mouse Liver.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Ashutosh Kumar, Ph.D., completed his study, “Formation and Implications of Alpha-synuclein Radical Formed in Maneb- and Paraquat-induced Models of Parkinson’s Disease,” as part of the Free Radical Metabolism Group led by Ronald Mason, Ph.D. Kumar presented his work at the 2014 Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine meeting, in Seattle, where he was honored with a Young Investigator Award. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Rui Liu, Ph.D., explored “Ambient Air Pollution Exposure and Risk of Parkinson Disease,” a project mentored by Honglei Chen, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Aging and Neuroepidemiology Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Lowe, the second FARE winner from Fessler’s group, was recognized for her study, “The Novel p53 Target Tumor Necrosis Factor-a‑induced Protein 8 Variant 2 Is Increased in Human Cancers and Can Offset p53-dependent Tumor Suppression.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Vijay More, Ph.D., won for his study, “A Lipid-sensing Transcription Factor, Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptor Alpha, Regulates Blood-brain Barrier Efflux Transporter Expression and Transport Activity,” completed while he was a member of the Intracellular Regulation Group headed by David Miller, Ph.D. More is now on a postdoctoral fellowship at Merck in New Jersey. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Nicol, working in the Reproductive Developmental Biology Group headed by Humphrey Yao, Ph.D., completed her second award-winning study, “New Insights into the Maintenance of Somatic Cell Identity in the Mouse Fetal Ovary.” She was the winner of one of just three 2014 Women Scientist Advisors Committee Scholar Awards. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Clinton Orebaugh, Ph.D., mentored by Thomas Kunkel, Ph.D., head of the DNA Replication Fidelity Group, won a FARE for his study, “Repair of Ribonucleotides Incorporated into the Nascent Lagging Strand.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Sonika Patial, D.V.M., Ph.D., demonstrated that “Genetic Deletion of an Instability Motif in the 3’-untranslated Region of Tristetraprolin (TTP) mRNA Increases TTP mRNA Stability and Protein Expression and Protects Against Immune-mediated Inflammatory Diseases.” Patial was also recognized by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in January 2015, when she was the winner of a Postdoctoral Travel Award. Her mentor, Perry Blackshear, M.D., D.Phil., is head of the Post-Transcriptional Gene Expression Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Matthew Schellenberg, Ph.D., completed his project, “Poly-ubiquitin Driven Activation of the DNA Repair Protein Tyrosyl-DNA Phosphodiesterase 2,” as member of the Genome Stability Structural Biology Group headed by Scott Williams, Ph.D. In 2013, the Southeast Regional Collaborative Access Team honored Schellenberg with its Young Investigator Award. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Alisa Suen was the only predoctoral fellow from NIEHS honored this year with a FARE. A member of the Reproductive Medicine Group led by Carmen Williams, M.D., Ph.D., she determined that “Aberrant Uterine SIX1 Expression May Promote Uterine Adenocarcinoma Following Neonatal Xenoestrogen Exposure.” Suen won best oral presentation at this year’s meeting of the Triangle Consortium for Reproductive Biology. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Seddon Thomas, Ph.D., received a FARE for her work, “Dendritic and Epithelial Cell Crosstalk in the Lung: The Impact of Cell-specific Myd88 Expression on Chromatin Accessibility in Dendritic Cells and Consequent Immune Responses to Allergens.” She is a member of the Immunogenetics Group headed by Don Cook, Ph.D. Thomas also won a best poster award at the 2012 NIEHS Science Day competition. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Yang, the second winner from Jothi’s group, was recognized for his study, “Reconstruction of Signaling Networks From Time-series Phosphoproteomics Data.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Zheng received his second FARE for the study, “Cnot3 Maintains the Pluripotent State in Early Embryos and Embryonic Stem Cells.” He was mentored by Guang Hu, Ph.D., head of the Stem Cell Biology Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)