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Vol. LXI, No. 3
February 6, 2009

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NIH Couple Retires After 87 Total Years
By Belle Waring
Dr. J. Frederic and Mrs. Elizabeth Mushinsk

The Mushinskis are retiring after a combined 87 years at NIH.

Dr. J. Frederic and Mrs. Elizabeth Mushinski, whose match was made at NIH, are set to retire after 87 total years in NCI’s Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics.

“We are each still here in the same place,” said Dr. Mushinski, “still married...still working.”

And still happy,” said Mrs. Mushinski.

In 1965, Dr. Mushinski, a young research associate, joined Dr. Michael Potter’s lab. That’s where he met Elizabeth Bridges—“Betty”—a biologist on staff. They were investigating the molecular and genetic mechanisms responsible for antibody production—immunoglobulin genes.

“I was dead set against going out with somebody in the lab,” said Dr. Mushinski. “But we both had a great love of music.”

On their first date, they attended a concert. For the second, Dr. Mushinski proposed the opera Turandot. Although his tickets were standing room only, Bridges accepted.

“I thought, ‘This is my kind of woman,’” said Dr. Mushinski. “Anybody who would stand for 3 hours to hear an opera!”

Turandot is the story of a princess who’s a bit hard to get, “especially because she’s killing all of her suitors,” Dr. Mushinski said.

Life, happily, did not imitate art. When Dr. Mushinski departed for a year in Germany, Bridges visited him. And that, he said, solidified it.

“After a whirlwind courtship—not!” said Dr. Mushinski. “We were married on May 1, 1971.”

The saying goes that long-term couples finish each other’s sentences, but the Mushinskis’ conversational style is not interruption so much as segue, a type of musical transition:

Mrs. M.: A lot of romances start in the lab.

Dr. M: It’s very intimate, friendly.

Mrs. M.: It’s an informal situation. You do get close, wandering around, doing what you need to do. You’re not always sitting in one spot.

Dr. M.: Hierarchies get blurred. In Germany, it’s Herr Doktor Professor. Here, our boss is Mike.

Mrs. M.: The lab is more of a family.

Dr. M.: Although we were never really in the same lab room, we were in the same section, so I was afraid [to date a colleague]. This whirlwind romance took 6 years.

Mrs. M.: I wasn’t afraid. This might be a physician difference.

Dr. M.: But you had seniority.

Along with their work on protein expression and chromosomal translocation, as well as their love of music, they have in common a medical family background.

Mrs. Mushinski hails from a small town in North Carolina where her father was a physician “back when doctors made house calls, sometimes on horseback,” she said. She recalled playing with the microscope her father kept at home.

After she graduated from Wake Forest University with a degree in biology, she moved to Richmond, Va., to work in a genetics lab, where she first heard about NIH. She joined Potter’s lab in 1964.

“It’s been wonderful,” she said.

Dr. Mushinski spent his childhood in Beaver Falls, Pa. When he was 15, after his father’s death, he, his two younger (twin) sisters and his mother moved to Bethesda, joining his grandmother and 3 aunts, all registered nurses.

After majoring in chemistry at Yale, he obtained his medical degree at Harvard Medical School in 1963.

“Back then, you had to choose—Ph.D. or M.D.,” he said. He was advised that an M.D. would give him more options, “although that’s less true now.”

He became a principal investigator in the Laboratory of Genetics, which became the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics. He also joined the PHS Commissioned Corps, from which he is retired.

They both observe how NIH has changed: when they met here in 1965, there were more trees, no fence and it was easier to get tenure.

“One of my aunts worked in the OR in the Clinical Center,” said Dr. Mushinski. “We got to see the CC being dedicated.

“Money was just pouring into NIH,” he continued. “There was nothing you couldn’t do.”

“There seemed to be more possibilities,” said Mrs. Mushinski. “But every generation thinks things were better in their youth. Some things now are much better—computers.”

“We were allowed only 2 drafts [of a paper] because using carbon paper was so onerous,” said Dr. Mushinski, gesturing towards his monitor screen with a paper in progress: “Fifth draft,” he said.

After retirement, he plans to keep working as a volunteer both at Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts and at NIH, where he’ll keep writing papers and doing experiments. She is taking piano lessons. They both plan to spend more time with Stella, their beloved beagle mix.

Mentoring young scientists “is the part we’ll miss the most,” said Dr. Mushinski. “They’re our family.”

Colbert Named NIAMS Pediatric Branch Chief
Dr. Robert A. Colbert

Dr. Robert A. Colbert has been named chief of the Pediatric Translational Research Branch in NIAMS’s Intramural Research Program. He most recently served as director of the division of rheumatology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, with which he has been affiliated since 1994, when he joined the department of pediatrics.

Colbert earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from Boston University in 1978, and his M.S. in biochemistry from the University of Vermont in 1980. In 1986, he received his Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and the following year he received his M.D. from the same institution. Rochester was also the place where Colbert served his internship and residency in pediatrics, at the university’s Strong Memorial Hospital. He then completed a clinical fellowship in pediatric rheumatology at Duke University Medical Center and North Carolina Memorial Hospital of the University of North Carolina. He finished his postdoctoral research training in the department of microbiology and immunology at UNC.

Colbert is certified in pediatric rheumatology by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a member of several organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Immunologists and the American Pediatric Society. He has authored 53 papers and has served as an investigator on a number of NIAMS and other NIH and industry-funded research studies. He has received numerous honors and awards, including Pfizer Postdoctoral Fellowship and Scholar Awards, the James R. Klinenberg Science Award from the Arthritis Foundation and, more recently, recognition by the American College of Rheumatology with the Deborah Kredich Pediatric Rheumatology Service Award.

Winn Named Division Deputy at NCI
Dr. Deborah Winn
Dr. Deborah Winn is the new deputy director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences.

Dr. Deborah Winn has been named deputy director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS). She had been serving as acting associate director of DCCPS’s Epidemiology and Genetics Research Program (EGRP) since 2006. Prior to that, she was a senior epidemiologist and chief of the former Clinical and Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch in EGRP.

During her tenure in DCCPS, Winn has directed and coordinated NCI’s extensive extramural program of population-based research in cancer epidemiology. She has played critical roles in NCI’s bioinformatics efforts in population sciences and has served as a key spokesperson for NCI on epidemiologic topics of interest to Congress and the public. In addition to her long-standing collaborations and research activities in head and neck cancer epidemiology, she has represented NCI on several NIH working groups and advisory committees for genetics research. She also has served on national and international committees focusing on issues such as women’s health and the environment and tobacco-related health risks and regulation.

Prior to joining DCCPS in 2000, Winn was a senior investigator and branch chief for oral epidemiology at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. She also is former deputy director of the division of health interview statistics at the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Winn holds an M.S.P.H. and a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Patti Rosa Rosa Is NIAID Mentor of the Year

A committee of NIAID postdoctoral employees recently selected Dr. Patti Rosa as the first NIAID Mentor of the Year for having an exceptionally positive impact on the professional experience of postdoctoral fellows. Rosa is a senior investigator working on Lyme disease in the Laboratory of Zoonotic Pathogens at Rocky Mountain Laboratories. ďIím proud and pleased by this because itís the part of my job that I worry about the most,Ē Rosa says. She will be presented the award Mar. 9 during NIAIDís annual fellows retreat.

APAO Installs New Board for 2009
Shown with acting Asian and Pacific Islander American Program manager Tyrone Banks (third from l) are new APAO board members (from l) Donna Wells, Dr. Rashmi Gopal-Srivastava, JoAnne Wong, Dr. Alex Wang and Phyllis Chui.

Shown with acting Asian and Pacific Islander American Program manager Tyrone Banks (third from l) are new APAO board members (from l) Donna Wells, Dr. Rashmi Gopal-Srivastava, JoAnne Wong, Dr. Alex Wang and Phyllis Chui.

The NIH Asian and Pacific Islander American Organization (APAO) recently held its annual awards ceremony at which the newly elected 2009 APAO board members were installed. The new officers include Dr. Rashmi Gopal-Srivastava of the NIH Office of Rare Diseases, president; Dr. Alex Wang of CIT, vice-president; Donna Wells of NEI, treasurer; JoAnne Wong of NIMH, co-executive secretary; and Phyllis Chui of NLM, co-executive secretary.

APAO conducts monthly meetings open to all who are interested in furthering its mission. It supports equality and fairness in the workplace and enhances cultural awareness through programs such as the observance of Asian Heritage Month, an annual awards ceremony and diversity events. For more information on APAO and its activities, visit or contact one of the officers.

NIAMS Student Wins Gold at Biology Olympiad
Jonathan Liang

Jonathan Liang, a 17-year-old student at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, thought it was pretty cool when he made it into the highly selective NIH intern program. He’s been working at NIAMS in the Molecular Immunology and Inflammation Branch, headed by Dr. John O’Shea. Recently, he distinguished himself even further by being selected to compete in the 19th International Biology Olympiad held in Mumbai, India. What’s more, he came home with a gold medal.

In the NIAMS lab, Liang has been assisting researchers who look at the role that epigenetic modification—that is, heritable changes in a cell that are influenced by the environment, but are not contained in the sequence of the DNA—plays in helper T cell functions.

His time at NIH has been inspirational. “Science is more interesting than [a lot of people] think,” he said. “The opportunity to improve the quality of life for people living with diseases is something that I really want to be a part of.”

The International Biology Olympiad is the largest high school biology competition in the world and the road to Mumbai was a long one for Liang. First he had to compete with 10,000 other students in a series of three national examinations.

Only four U.S. competitors were selected from that pool. Along with his three American colleagues and two scientific mentors, Liang traveled to Mumbai, where he competed with students from 55 countries. The international finalists competed in four 1-hour practical exams and a final theoretical exam. Of the 23 international gold-medal winners, Liang ranked among the top three.

Dr. Lai Wei, who is mentoring Liang at NIAMS, had nothing but praise. “The most impressive thing to me is his passion to learn. I’ve never seen any other high school student who is as self-motivated…to grasp everything and think creatively.”

Most student interns only come for the summer, but Liang works in the NIAMS lab throughout the school year and will obtain credit for his time here. In the fall, he’ll continue on to college. After he completes his undergraduate work, he plans either to attend medical school or pursue a Ph.D.

FEW Chapter Names New Leadership

The Bethesda chapter of Federally Employed Women (FEW) recently held an installation ceremony for new officers. They include Patricia Butler, secretary; Towanda Carroll, treasurer; Lanette West-Johnson, vice president; and Helen Robinson, president.

The chapter began operating in 1990 with four women at NIH who addressed such issues as job opportunities, training programs and issues concerning women, including ending sex discrimination in the workplace. The chapter will celebrate 20 years of existence at NIH in 2010. More information on upcoming events and programs will be available soon, along with the makeover of the chapter’s web site.

NIAID’s Paul Wins Delbrück Medal

NIAID immunologist Dr. William E. Paul was recently awarded the Max Delbrück Medal in Berlin. Paul, chief of the Laboratory of Immunology, was honored for his work on a key regulator of the immune system, interleukin 4. Andreas Radbruch, scientific director of the German Rheuma Research Center Berlin, said of Paul, “His claim to fame is the discovery of the molecular bases of the immunological memory driving allergy. His discoveries have been essential for our current understanding of how immunological memory works as such and how we may be able to manipulate it for the benefit of vaccination.”

Dr. William E. Paul

NIAMS Intern Wins Honor
Alexander Matsche with NIAMS’s Sharon Nouzari Louis
Alexander Matsche with NIAMS’s Sharon Nouzari Louis in the Great Hall of the Hubert H. Humphrey Bldg. in Washington, D.C.

Alexander Matsche, a biomedical research intern in the Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch, NIAMS, has been selected for the 2008 Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) Outstanding Student Award.

Matsche was one of two students selected to receive the award from more than 450 students hired through the program; he was the only winner from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the Department of Defense coordinate the WRP, which connects federal and private sector employers with highly motivated post-secondary students with disabilities.

This past summer at NIAMS, Matsche analyzed the roles of ERK1/2 and ERK5 signaling in adult human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells during cartilage differentiation. A graduate of Gallaudet University, Matsche will be completing his work as an intern at NIAMS and then plans to attend Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California, San Diego, to get his doctor of pharmacy degree. Ultimately, he would like to be involved in the development of new drugs, either by returning to NIH or by working for a drug company. NIHRecord Icon

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