News Release

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

NIEHS funds five early career researchers for innovative science

Five exceptional early career scientists will receive new grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. The awards, totaling $2.5 million, are part of the Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) program.

“This is one of the best tools we have to retain their talent for research.”

Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., Director, NIEHS

NIEHS created the ONES program to support researchers, in the formative stages of their careers, who conduct cutting-edge research to study how the environment influences human health. The highly competitive grant started in 2006 and has become a model for funding emerging scientists.

“A ONES award gives promising environmental health scientists the opportunity to pursue innovative ideas early in their careers,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., NIEHS director. “When funding for research becomes scarce, young innovators start looking for other jobs. This is one of the best tools we have to retain their talent for research.”

The 2016 ONES awardees will study substances in our environment, such as arsenic, dioxins, and DDT; how these chemicals cause harm, including heart problems, insulin resistance, and allergies; and how they are removed from the body through protective mechanisms.

2016 ONES award recipients

  • Daniel Gorelick, Ph.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, will study how pollutants, such as dioxins, use the aryl hydrocarbon receptor protein to cause toxic effects on the heart.
  • Michele La Merrill, Ph.D., of the University of California, Davis, will explore whether exposure to the pesticide DDT, during or before pregnancy, causes insulin resistance, by interfering with the production of body heat.
  • Maitreyi Mazumdar, M.D., of Harvard Medical School, Boston, and Boston Children’s Hospital, will research whether prenatal exposure to arsenic may increase risk of infant neural tube defects.
  • Somshuvra Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D., at the University of Texas at Austin, will study the process through which cells remove the toxin manganese, which can cause a syndrome similar to Parkinson’s disease.
  • Cheryl Rockwell, Ph.D., of Michigan State University, East Lansing, will study how the food additive tert-butylhydroquinone, or tBHQ, promotes allergies, in order to identify similar environmental chemicals that may affect the immune system.

“The ONES awardees are a talented group of scientists with tremendous potential,” said Gwen Collman, Ph.D., NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training director. “We hope that receiving this grant at a pivotal time will propel them into successful careers in environmental health research.”

Grant Numbers:  R01ES026337, R01ES024946, R01ES026317, R01ES024812, R01ES024966

NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of NIH. For more information on environmental health topics, visit Subscribe to one or more of the NIEHS news lists to stay current on NIEHS news, press releases, grant opportunities, training, events, and publications.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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This page last reviewed on March 1, 2016