skip navigation nih record
Vol. LXII, No. 15
July 23, 2010

previous story

next story


NCI Breast Cancer Researcher Vonderhaar Retires

Dr. Barbara K. Vonderhaar

After 39 years of service to NIH, Dr. Barbara K. Vonderhaar hung up her lab coat and became a scientist emeritus recently. Rising from the ranks of staff fellow at a time when few women were encouraged to enter, let alone advance in the sciences, Vonderhaar achieved a senior investigator position, ultimately becoming chief of the Mammary Biology and Tumorigenesis Laboratory at NCI.

Vonderhaar received her Ph.D. from the McArdle Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin for studies on estrogen and its receptors. She then moved into the breast biology field during postdoctoral studies with Dr. Yale Topper. Her early investigations into mouse prolactin activity in the breast served as a springboard for her successful independent career.

Studies conducted in Vonderhaar’s laboratory were the first to isolate a receptor for prolactin from any source and to characterize an antibody to recognize these receptors. Her lab was also the first to show that prolactin was made in, and released by, breast cancer cells. Their data demonstrated that this locally produced hormone plays a critical role in breast tumor growth.

Cumulatively, Vonderhaar’s research has resulted in nearly 150 publications with several manuscripts still in revision. She is an internationally recognized leader in the mammary gland field and has served as associate editor for a variety of peer-reviewed journals. Vonderhaar was a founding co-chair of the Intramural Program for Research on Women’s Health, co-chair of the Breast and Gynecologic Malignancies Faculty and co-chair of the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium. She has won numerous awards including the NIH Merit Award and was elected to the Senior Biomedical Research Service.

Vonderhaar may be most appreciated, however, for her mentoring of young scientists. More than 150 high school, undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral researchers, many of whom have assumed high-profile positions in medicine, industry, academia and administration, benefited from working with her. The Bethesda chapter of the Association of Women in Science recognized her efforts with its first Excellence in Mentoring Award.

“To me, Barbara is the rare combination of an outstanding mentor, scientist and friend—at times critical and tough but always caring and supportive of that next step,” said Dr. Jessica Faupel-Badger, associate director of the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at NCI and former Vonderhaar postdoctoral fellow.

Vonderhaar has also trained and supported technicians and visiting scientists. “She has allowed me the freedom to explore scientific ideas, to build my confidence and independence. We are true collaborators,” said Senior Research Assistant Erika Ginsburg, who has worked with Vonderhaar nearly 30 years.

As an emeritus, Vonderhaar looks forward to continuing to consult with her NCI collaborators as well as co-writing a forensic science book for attorneys with her son, traveling with her husband, Brendan, and spending more time with her granddaughter, all between rounds of golf.

NAGC Awards NIH Communicators

The National Association of Government Communicators announced its 2010 Blue Pencil (printed material) and Gold Screen (audiovisual and electronic media) Awards, “Highlighting Some of the Industry’s Best in Government Communications,” recently. NIH’ers nabbed several. Award winners are listed below by category, product title, producers and place.

Brochures/Booklet. NIAID Edge of Discovery. Courtney Billet, Cynthia Fabry, Robert Taylor, Lynne Komai. 2nd place

Electronic Publication. NIH Research Matters. OD. Dr. Harrison Wein, Vicki Contie, Alyson Olander, Sara Cohen. 2nd place

Soft/hard cover book (21-49 pages). Stroke: Challenges, Progress and Promise. NINDS. Dr. Daniel Stimson, Marian Emr, Margo Warren, Paul Girolami. 2nd place

Soft/hard cover book (50 or more pages). Exercise and Physical Activity. NIA. Karen Pocinki, Anne Brown Rodgers, Monica Snellings. 2nd place; Caring for Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease. NIA. Jennifer Watson, David Burton, Wendy Mettger. Award of Excellence

External newsletter. NIH News in Health. OD. Dr. Harrison Wein, Vicki Contie, Margaret Georgiann, Bryan Ewsichek. Award of Excellence

Web site I. Know Stroke web site. NINDS. Marian Emr, Margo Warren, Ruth Shapiro. Award of Excellence

Web article. “Evolutionary Biology, Cichlids, Gene Networks, and Teeth.” NIDCR. Bob Kuska. Award of Excellence.

NICHD’s Basser Honored for MRI Technology

Dr. Peter J. Basser
Dr. Peter J. Basser, chief of NICHD’s section on tissue biophysics and biomimetics and director of the Program in Pediatric Imaging and Tissue Sciences, recently was honored as a fellow of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM). He received the honor for his role in inventing and developing the technology known as diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging, or DTI.

DTI can provide three-dimensional images of the body’s fibrous tissues such as nerves, muscles and tendons. This technology allows researchers and physicians to make detailed maps of the nerve pathways through which various parts of the brain communicate. Such maps, and other information DTI provides, allow physicians to plan brain surgery, to pinpoint the location of brain tumors or to track damage to brain tissue among stroke survivors.

DTI works by measuring the random motion of water molecules, a process called diffusion. DTI measures the rate of diffusion in different directions, adding new information about the tissues to what traditional MRI provides.

In the early 1990s, Basser invented the technology with two collaborators at NIH, Denis LeBihan and James Mattiello. Basser developed the basic physical and mathematical underpinnings of the technique and designed the experiments to test it. NIH issued the first license for a private corporation to use the technology in 2002. DTI is now available to patients in many large hospitals worldwide, especially in academic research centers.

“This was a long-term, high-risk, high-reward project,” Basser said. “It required continued support and the availability of outstanding imaging resources. We probably couldn’t have developed it anywhere but here, in NIH’s intramural program.”

In addition to being named a fellow of the society this year, Basser received ISMRM’s highest research honor in 2008, its Gold Medal. That same year, Dr. Carlo Pierpaoli, a coworker of Basser’s, was named a fellow of the society. Pierpaoli has worked to develop biological and clinical applications of DTI.

NIEHS Honored for Sustainability
NIEHS Deputy Associate Director for Management Chris Long, environmental awareness advisory committee co-chair Dick Sloane and sustainability coordinator Trisha Castranio.

Representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services Green Champions Awards program offered NIEHS kudos for its accomplishments in sustainability and presented the institute with the 2009 Organization Green Champion Award on June 10. Receiving the honor are (from l) NIEHS Deputy Associate Director for Management Chris Long, environmental awareness advisory committee co-chair Dick Sloane and sustainability coordinator Trisha Castranio. NIEHS efforts to “go green” have included establishing an Environmental Management System, upgrading campus lighting fixtures and installing the institute’s first solar roof, cutting water use by nearly 20 percent and reducing the amount of chemical and regulated waste by 43 percent over the past 6 years. In addition, 27 percent of NIEHS’s federal employees use alternative workplace and commuting methods.

NINR Welcomes Four New Council Members
NINR director Dr. Patricia Grady (third from l) welcomes new council members (from l) Dr. Glenna Dowling, Dr. Everette J. Freeman and Dr. Elaine Larson. Not shown is Dr. Susan Reinhard.

NINR director Dr. Patricia Grady (third from l) welcomes new council members (from l) Dr. Glenna Dowling, Dr. Everette J. Freeman and Dr. Elaine Larson. Not shown is Dr. Susan Reinhard.

NINR recently welcomed four new members to its National Advisory Council for Nursing Research:

Dr. Glenna A. Dowling, professor and chair of the department of psychological nursing at the School of Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco and director of the Institute on Aging Research Center, is an expert on gerontology nursing and chronic progressive neurological disorders. Her research focuses on the effects of such diseases on circadian and rest-activity rhythm function in older adults.

Dr. Everette J. Freeman, president of Albany State University, is a leader in higher education, widely recognized and lauded for his commitment to equity in the academic community and specialized interest in organizational development, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission compliance and industrial relations.

Dr. Elaine Larson, associate dean for research and professor of pharmaceutical and therapeutic research at Columbia University School of Nursing, has served as editor of the American Journal of Infection Control since 1994. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, the Infectious Disease Society of America, the New York Academy of Medicine, the Institute of Medicine and the National Academies of Practice.

Dr. Susan Reinhard is senior vice president for public policy with AARP and chief strategist with the Center to Champion Nursing in America. She is an expert in nursing and health policy with extensive experience in translating research and developing coalitions to promote policy change and in teaching nurses and other professionals how to better interact with consumers and their families.

back to top of page