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Vonderhaar's Mentoring Prowess Recognized

Dr. Barbara Vonderhaar, chief of the molecular and cellular endocrinology section of the Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Biology, NCI, recently won Bethesda AWIS (Association for Women in Science) 2000 Award for Excellence in Mentoring. A 28-year veteran of NIH science, she has hosted some 101 investigators ranging from high school students to professors on sabbatical in her lab. Many of her mentorees have gone on to succeed in a variety of different careers; her first postdoc went on to win the 1995 Bhatnagar Prize (India's Nobel Prize). Others have excelled in science administration and teaching — one of her mentorees was Toby Horn, who spent many years heading the Molecular Biology Program at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

Dr. Barbara Vonderhaar

Vonderhaar devotes much time to mentoring younger students. She has often remarked that her goal is to train her replacement, and that a career in science does not begin at the postdoctoral level. Over the years she has had 15 high school, 53 undergraduate and 6 medical/graduate students as well as 2 high school teachers work in her lab.

Her mentoring has reached beyond her laboratory to her institute, NCI, where she initiated programs to allow postdocs to present their work and meet with senior investigators. She also established a seminar series on mammary gland biology, and a grant-writing workshop for young investigators.

Vonderhaar has served on the mentoring committee for Women in Cancer Research, and participates in mentoring activities for the American Association for Cancer Research. She is the fourth woman to serve on the board of trustees for the Gordon Research Conferences, the second to serve as chairman of the board. In that capacity, she implemented a program to fund students and faculty from primarily minority colleges to attend the Gordon Conferences, and lobbied to increase the number of women speakers and board members.

Vonderhaar's dedication to advancing the careers of others is clearly summed up by an old Chinese proverb that hangs above her desk: "If you are planning for a year, sow rice. If you are planning for a decade, plant trees. If you are planning for a lifetime, educate a person."

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