T H E   N I H    C A T A L Y S T     N O V E M B E R   – D E C E M B E R  2006


by Patricia Sokolove


Stephen Leppla, senior investigator, Laboratory of Bacterial Disease, NIAID (third from left), hosts a table of festival participants at a lunch to introduce them to NIH fellows and investigators

Natcher served as the site of the first National Graduate Student Research Festival, held October 12 and 13

NIH hosted its first annual National Graduate Student Research Festival, and by all accounts it was a great success.

The objective was to increase awareness among graduate students throughout the United States that NIH is a highly desirable postdoc training site—and to pave the way for the recruitment of outstanding postdocs.

Advanced graduate students in training around the country were invited to apply to attend and present a poster at the festival; 964 sent in applications.

More than 90 NIH investigators participated in the review process. The material evaluated included an abstract describing the applicant’s research, a cover letter, a letter of reference from the dissertation advisor, and the applicant’s curriculum vitae. An overall assessment of the fit between the applicant’s interests and the NIH mission completed the review. 

The 250 most highly ranked applicants were invited to attend the festival.

Festival participants spent the better part of two days on the NIH Bethesda campus, presenting their work in poster format; interviewing with NIH investigators regarding potential postdoctoral positions; and attending sessions focused on how NIH works, the role of NIH postdoctoral training in the career paths of former NIH trainees, and the scope of NIH intramural science. NIH covered all participant costs. 

Both the graduate students and NIH investigators had overwhelmingly positive reactions to the festival: 97 percent of respondents to a participant survey said they would recommend the Graduate Student Research Festival to their colleagues; 71 percent said that were an offer to be made, they were likely or very likely to accept a postdoctoral position at NIH.

Michael Lenardo, a senior investigator in the Laboratory of Immunology, NIAID, was so enthusiastic, he dispatched a post-festival accolade to the festival organizing committee:

"I want to tell you how spectacular the research festival for graduate students was last week. I interviewed 12 students who expressed interest in my lab and they were terrific. 

"Also, I talked to another 15 or so at the lunch and the poster sessions, and it was amazing that only one of all of these students had ever been to the NIH before. 

"There was no doubt that they all had a much better appreciation of the institution and were quite excited by the intramural program. They seemed to enjoy the festival tremendously.  

"For me personally, it was a very efficient and cost-effective way to interview some outstanding postdoc prospects, and it will be difficult to choose one from the bunch I saw."

Planning for the second annual festival is underway.


Janell Hill, of Howard University, Washington, D.C., describes her work on CHEK2, a protein kinase involved in cell-cycle control. Abolition of CHEK2 function increases the risk of breast cancer; Hill is looking specifically at CHEK2 mutations in African-American families
Michelle Demory (right), of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, explains her findings regarding the translocation of the epidermal growth factor receptor to the mitochondria, a process that may be associated with poor breast cancer prognosis; among the listeners are Stephanie Dance (far left) of Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C., and Eva Mezey (3rd from left), senior investigator, Adult Stem Cell Unit, NIDCR
Rebecca Cerio, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, discusses her research on the role of multiprotein complexes in the inhibition of apoptosis with Tom Kristie, senior investigator, Laboratory of Viral Diseases, NIAID


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