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NIEHS Scientists Shine at Research Festival

By Eddy Ball
November 2008

Jef French
Research Festival symposium chair Jef French, above, is shown at the Genetics and Environmental Mutagenesis Society Fall Meeting. French will become president-elect of the organization in January. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Waturu Nakai
Nakai’s FARE award will help him attend additional professional development meetings to share his research and network with colleagues. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS and National Toxicology Program (NTP) scientists were among the thousands of people attending the 21st annual NIH Research Festival October 14-17 at the Masur Auditorium and Natcher Conference Center on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md. The event included a plenary session on obesity, 18 concurrent symposia sessions, poster sessions with more than 500 entries, a Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) program and award ceremony, a symposium and career fair for postdocs, and special exhibits spread over the three days.

Representing NIEHS on the program were three senior investigators presenting at a symposia on “Genetic Susceptibility — The Link between Environmental Exposure and Human Disease,” chaired by NTP Acting Chief and Staff Scientist in the Host Susceptibility Branch Jef French, Ph.D. Seven NIEHS postdoctoral fellows (see text box) also made the trek to Bethesda, six of them to paricipate in the poster competition. An additional postdoctoral fellow did not attend the festival although his research was judged as part of the poster presentation.

In addition to serving as chair for the symposia, French made a presentation on analyzing DNA strand break repair and susceptibility to tumor suppressor gene loss associated with loss of heterozygosity in response to human carcinogen exposure. He was joined by NIEHS Senior Investigator and Chief of the Laboratory of Respiratory Biology Steve Kleeberger, Ph.D., and NTP Toxicology Branch Staff Scientist June Dunnick, Ph.D., who also spoke at the session.

In his presentation, Kleeberger described his work in identifying the transcription factor NRF2 as a critical determinant of susceptibility to hyperoxic lung injury. Dunnick’s presentation explored how environmental factors may contribute to cardiac disease and how the NIEHS plans to use mouse models to identify highly penetrant allelic variants of genes that modify or influence cardiotoxicity in order to determine orthologous human genes. Two National Cancer Institute investigators, Kent Hunter, Ph.D. and Karlyne Reilly, Ph.D., also presented at the symposium.

One of the young scientists from NIEHS, Visiting Fellow Wataru Nakai, Ph.D., of the Chromosome Stability Group headed by Principal Investigator Mike Resnick, Ph.D., won a FARE Award for his research. His submission, “Transition of a Double-Strand Break to a Chromosome Break is Efficiently Prevented by RMX, Exonuclease I and MCD1,” was part of the Genetics/Genomics Poster Session on October 15.

NIEHS Postdoctoral Fellow Jennifer Adair served as a member of the FARE Committee for the Research Festival.

NIEHS Postdocs at the NIH Research Festival

The annual FARE competition, now in its 14th year, selects the top twenty-five percent of abstracts from fifty different study sections to receive a $1,000 travel award. In addition to Nakai, six other NIEHS fellows presented their work in the competition:
  • Scott Auerbach, Ph.D., in the Cancer session
  • Yin Li, Ph.D. in the Cell Biology session
  • Yang Cao, Ph.D., in the Epidemiology session
  • Xueqian (Shirley) Wang, Ph.D., in the Imaging session
  • Jianxin Shen, Ph.D., in the Neurobiology and Behavior session
  • Saurabh Chatterjee, Ph.D., in the Oxidative Stress session (in absentia)

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