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Vol. LX, No. 18
September 5, 2008

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‘Superstar’ Scientists Complete Pharmacology Postdoc Program

  The 2008 class of PRAT graduates includes (from l) Drs. Carolyn Ott, Anna Calcagno, Lisa Hazelwood and Philip Lorenzi.  
  The 2008 class of PRAT graduates includes (from l) Drs. Carolyn Ott, Anna Calcagno, Lisa Hazelwood and Philip Lorenzi.  

The last 3 years have been a little hairy for Dr. Carolyn Ott. It wasn’t because of the long hours she worked or the extensive data she analyzed. It was her subject matter—the small hair-like projections on cells called cilia.

Ott was a postdoctoral fellow in the NIGMS Pharmacology Research Associate (PRAT) program. She and other 2008 graduates of the program presented their research at the recent PRAT awards ceremony.

This year’s graduates and the institutes in which they work are: Dr. Anna Calcagno, NCI; Dr. Lisa Hazelwood, NINDS; Dr. Philip Lorenzi, NCI; and Ott, of NICHD. Fellows Dr. Michael Kostelansky, NIDDK, and Dr. Revell Phillips, NINDS, left the program early to accept outside positions.

NIGMS established the PRAT program in 1965 to give postdoctoral fellows with a background in pharmacology the opportunity to obtain advanced training in new fields or to give fellows with other scientific backgrounds a chance to gain advanced experience in pharmacology. The program has these individuals working with senior scientists at NIH or FDA labs.

“PRAT fellows are given two types of mentoring,” said program co-director Dr. Pamela Marino. “They receive mentoring from their research preceptor in the technical aspects of their training and they learn about the business side of science, like how to network and prepare for an academic career, from their participation in PRAT program activities.”

The fellows speak highly of this career mentoring.

“The career development is just amazing,” said Lorenzi. “I got a wide array of exposure to different options directly from people in those career paths. From the first day, I felt that we were being groomed to be superstar scientists.”

The graduates join a community of about 400 outstanding alumni, including Nobel laureate Dr. Alfred Gilman of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and NICHD’s Dr. Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, who delivered the keynote address at this year’s ceremony and who was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

This strong alumni network comes in handy when PRAT fellows are looking for positions. Lorenzi recalls a recent interview at Bristol-Myers Squibb where one of the first people he met was a former PRAT fellow.

“Being able to talk to these people just because of this one common link is a benefit that I didn’t count on when I joined the program. I was pleased before this and now I’m even more pleased about the fruit that the PRAT fellowship has been bearing for me,” he said.

The strength of the program also shows in the wide range of careers open to PRAT alumni.

“Our graduates have gone everywhere, from academia and industry to government labs and policy offices,” said program co-director Dr. Richard Okita.

So where will cilia-studying Ott end up?

“At this point, it’s wide open,” she said. “I hope to start my own lab and next fall I’ll apply for academic positions across the country.”

For information on the PRAT Program, eligibility and how to apply, visit NIHRecord Icon

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