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During the fully virtual Intramural Scientific Retreat on September 20, 2022, NICHD Director Diana Bianchi, MD, and Acting Scientific Director Chris McBain, PhD, offered welcoming remarks that emphasized NICHD’s support of all intramural scientists—from early-stage trainees to senior level investigators. This sentiment was echoed throughout the broad array of speakers, including pre- and postdoctoral fellows, staff scientists, and tenure-track and tenured investigators. Below you will find several training-related highlights from the daylong event.

Congratulations to the following trainees who were selected and delivered a Scientific Retreat oral presentation:

  • Jorge Gomez-Deza, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Unit on the Development of Neurodegeneration
    “Blocking mitochondrial fission prevents human neuronal death after injury”
  • Nathan Williamson, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Section on Quantitative Imaging and Tissue Sciences
    “Water exchange rates measure tissue viability and homeostasis”
  • Kristen Polinski, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Epidemiology Branch, DiPHR
    “Epigenetic gestational age and the relationship with developmental milestones in early childhood”
  • Shreeta Chakraborty, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Unit on Genome Structure and Regulation
    “Impact of chromatin organization in gene regulation during embryonic development”
  • Jeremie Oliver, Graduate Student, Section on Molecules and Therapies for Craniofacial and Dental Disorders 
    “Spatiotemporal Resolution of Embryonic Palate Osteogenesis”
  • Rachel Cosby, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Section on Mammalian Development and Evolution
    “Modeling loss of the intellectual disability associated gene THAP7 in vertebrates”
  • Huang Lin, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Branch, DiPHR
    “Sparse estimation of correlations among microbiomes (SECOM)”

This year’s Mentor of the Year recipients include Laura Pillay, PhD, former postdoctoral fellow in the Weinstein laboratory, and Edwina Yeung, PhD, senior investigator in the Epidemiology Branch. Drs. Pillay and Yeung offered a few words of thanks during the retreat: 

Dr. Laura Pillay, Fellow Mentor of the Year

“Thank you to my former trainees. This means the world to me. My overreaching objective when I’m mentoring is to have a positive impact on my trainees’ lives, and hopefully winning this award means that I’ve been successful in that. I’ve been incredibly privileged to have benefited from excellent mentorship, especially at the NIH, so I’d like to thank my postdoc mentor, Dr. Brant Weinstein, who has had a positive impact on my life. I’d also like to thank my informal mentors at NICHD, Drs. Burgess, Rogers, and Farrell, who also had a positive impact…I plan to pay it forward and continue to develop my own mentoring skills in my new position* with my own trainees.”

*Editor’s note: Dr. Pillay is now an assistant professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.

Dr. Edwina Yeung, Investigator Mentor of the Year

“This is a wonderful surprise, and I echo what has already been said. It is such privilege to mentor a diverse number of fellows here at NIH. These past three years have not been easy. [My trainees] think I did a lot, but really, they motivated me and encouraged me through this as well. Thank you so much for this award.”

For the first time, the NICHD Scientific Retreat included a postbac BINGO competition to welcome and encourage postbac fellow attendance. Postbacs were given a series of scientific terms to listen for during the oral presentations—such as “ablation experiment” or “western blot”—and a corresponding game to play along. Congratulations to the first-ever winners of the NICHD Scientific Retreat BINGO:

  • Avani Modak (Farrell Lab)
  • Cat Rogers (Rogers Lab)
  • Celia Martinez-Aceves (Weinstein Lab)
  • Grace Biddle (Burgess Lab) 
  • Mary Elmore Demott (Macfarlan Lab)

Finally, a big thank you to NICHD postdoctoral fellows Drs. Julia Porth and Thien Nguyen for serving on the NICHD Scientific Retreat Organizing Committee and representing the training population during the retreat planning process.