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NIEHS Makes NCI Scientist Feel at Home

You might think that a scientist asked to pack up his laboratory and move it to a different organization in a different state 300 miles away would feel a little out of sorts.

That's just what happened to Michael Waalkes, but he's not the least bit upset about it.

Waalkes had worked in Frederick, Md., for 15 years as part of the National Cancer Institute's Frederick Cancer Research Center. Last summer, NCI permanently detailed the inorganic carcinogenesis section that he heads to NIEHS in Research Triangle Park, N.C., as part of an interagency agreement designed to increase cooperation between the two institutes. Now he's digging his new digs and appreciating his new colleagues.

The inorganic carcinogenesis section includes (from l) Guiying Li, Cai Yuan, Beth Romach, Michael Waalkes, Bill Achanzar, Brenda Lawson and Masufumi Takiguchi.

"The area is marvelous, I love it," Waalkes said. "I felt somewhat isolated in the cancer institute because not many other people were studying metals. I feel at home here; there's lots of interest in our work. I'm a toxicologist, so it's nice to be among my own."

Waalkes, whose group is attached to the NIEHS Laboratory of Pharmacology and Chemistry but remains a part of NCI, also said that NIEHS's previous isolation from other NIH institutes was the exception, not the rule. "Most NIH campuses have mixtures, so it was unusual for NIEHS to be alone."

He said the opening of the new F Module scientific wing in 1996 created space for his lab, and that the work of the ICS -- defining the molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis by inorganic agents; research programs in arsenic, cadmium and lead carcinogenesis; and analysis of metals in biologic materials -- fills a niche in the NIEHS mission.

Waalkes has basically rebuilt his laboratory from scratch. He brought with him one colleague -- a grad student who has since moved on -- equipment and materials. The rest of his staff is mostly recruits -- postdocs, IRTAs and visiting fellows. Brenda Lawson, his assistant, transferred from EPA. He has also hired two contract employees from Pathology Associates, Inc., as senior scientists.

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