|NIEHS director Dr. Linda Birnbaum
Dr. Linda S. Birnbaum will become NIEHS’s fifth director in its 43-year history this month. Her appointment was announced in December by NIH acting director Dr. Raynard Kington. Birnbaum has most recently been a senior advisor at the Environmental Protection Agency, where she has served for 16 years as director of the Experimental Toxicology Division.
As director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program (NTP), Birnbaum will oversee a $730 million budget that funds multidisciplinary biomedical research programs, prevention and intervention efforts that encompass training, education, technology transfer and community outreach. The institute currently supports more than 1,240 research grants.
“I am excited about serving as the director of NIEHS at a time when integration across disciplines is essential, from molecular biology to pharmacology and physiology to epidemiology,” said Birnbaum. “Complex environmental issues require individual and team efforts to address the interactions between the environment and human health.”
A native of New Jersey, she earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Illinois, Urbana. She is a board-certified toxicologist and has served as a federal scientist for nearly 29 years—the first 10 of those at NIEHS—first as a senior staff fellow at NTP, then as a principal investigator and research microbiologist and finally as leader of the institute’s chemical disposition group.
Birnbaum has received numerous awards, including the Women in Toxicology Elsevier Mentoring Award, the Society of Toxicology Public Communications Award, EPA’s Health Science Achievement Award and Diversity Leadership Award and 12 Science and Technology Achievement Awards, which reflect the recommendations of EPA’s external science advisory board, for specific publications.
The author of more than 600 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, abstracts and reports, Birnbaum’s research focuses on the pharmacokinetic behavior of environmental chemicals; mechanisms of actions of toxicants, including endocrine disruption; and linking of real-world exposures to effects. She is also an adjunct professor in the School of Public Health, the toxicology curriculum and the department of environmental sciences and engineering at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, as well as in the integrated toxicology program at Duke University.
Birnbaum’s appointment has been well received within the scientific community, where she is a highly regarded member. She is currently president-elect of the International Union of Toxicology, the umbrella organization for toxicology societies in more than 50 countries; former president of the Society of Toxicology, the largest professional organization of toxicologists in the world; former chair of the division of toxicology at the American Society of Pharmacology and Therapeutics; and former vice president of the American Aging Association.