NIH News Release
Office of the Director, NIH

Monday, October 30, 2000
Marc Stern
(301) 496-2535

President Honors Outstanding Young Scientists

President Clinton on Oct. 23 named 59 young researchers-including ten NIH grantees and two scientists in the intramural programs — as recipients of the fifth annual Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on young professionals at the outset of their independent research careers. The researchers received their awards Oct. 24 in a White House ceremony.

The awards, established by President Clinton in February 1996, embody the high priority the administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers ready to contribute to all sectors of the economy. Eight federal departments and agencies join together annually to nominate the most meritorious young scientists and engineers who will advance the science and technology that will be of the greatest benefit to fulfilling the agencies' missions. The scientists and engineers receive up to a 5-year research grant to further their study.

"I am delighted that two scientists here at NIH and ten grantees were given this high honor. Such talented young researchers are essential to the future success of medical research," said NIH principal deputy director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein.

The recipients associated with NIH, and their grantee institute, include: Philip Ashton-Rickardt, University of Chicago, NIAID; Michael L. Dustin, Washington University, NIAID; Leslie S. Ritter, University of Arizona at Tucson, NINR; Monica Kraft, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, NHLBI; Charles E. Murry, University of Washington, NHLBI; Henrique von Gersdorff, Oregon Health Sciences University, NIDCD and NEI; Karl Kandler, University of Pittsburgh, NIDCD and NEI; S. Barak Caine, Harvard Medical School, NIDA; Christopher S. Chen, Johns Hopkins University, NIGMS; Geoffrey A. Chang, Scripps Research Institute, NIGMS; Orna Cohen-Fix, NIDDK intramural program; and Jeffrey S. Diamond, NINDS intramural program.

Using yeast as her model organism, Cohen-Fix studies processes that ensure that chromosomes segregate properly during cell division. When the processes go wrong, cells accumulate an abnormal number of chromosomes. This situation is seen in some types of cancer. She is a cell biologist in the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Biology, NIDDK. Diamond studies the communication between nerve cells in the brain (synaptic transmission) and the mechanisms by which those communications are changed in the process of learning and memory; he is in the synaptic physiology unit, NINDS.