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Vol. LX, No. 24
November 28, 2008
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NEI Hosts 2nd Annual ‘Focus on Fellows’

Community building: NEI fellows and students interact with senior scientists during the Focus on Fellows luncheon roundtables.
Community building: NEI fellows and students interact with senior scientists during the Focus on Fellows luncheon roundtables.

NEI scientists packed a Twinbrook campus conference room recently for the institute’s second annual Focus on Fellows event, coordinated by Dr. Sarah Sohraby, NEI deputy scientific director. The 2-day meeting involved presentations by fellows and invited speakers, training sessions, a career development panel and roundtable discussions.

“This is an extensive event with a wide range of activities that are designed to allow you to communicate with your colleagues more completely,” said Dr. Sheldon Miller, NEI scientific director, during welcoming remarks.

Sohraby’s goals in organizing these meetings are to stimulate peer feedback on scientific projects, expose fellows to various career possibilities, encourage collaborations and networking and, most importantly, unite clinicians and scientists— an effort underscored by NEI clinical director Dr. Frederick Ferris’s opening talk on the history of clinical trials.

During his keynote lecture, NHGRI scientific director Dr. Eric Green emphasized the widespread relevance of genomics research, while illustrating fundamental elements of a successful career in science.

Focus on Fellows concluded with an awards presentation, which included two $1,000 travel awards for best oral presentations. The first went to Dr. Yan Li, who spoke about the roles of microRNAs in regulating eye development.

A fellow in NEI’s Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Biology, Li said that since the meeting, she and colleagues from other NEI labs have been discussing future collaborations.

The other travel award honored Dr. Zhijian Wu of NEI’s unit on ocular gene therapy. His presentation described a gene therapy method for treating a genetic eye disease known as X-linked juvenile retinoschisis.

“I found it a beneficial experience,” Wu said. “This was a good chance for me to present my work to NEI faculty members and fellows, and I received a variety of responses to my project that will be very helpful to my research.”

Sohraby also presented Scientific Director’s Awards to Dr. Anna Hansen, a member of the NIH immunology interest group steering committee, and Dr. James Friedman, leader of the retinal disease interest group.

“With Focus on Fellows, we are highlighting the importance of strong science and also recognizing fellows’ efforts outside the lab,” Sohraby said. “As this event becomes an NEI tradition, I hope that it will foster both a scientific and a social community within our institute.”  NIHRecord Icon

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