Young Women In Bio RTP visited the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) on the afternoon of June 12, 2019, to learn more about how we can better treat or prevent human disease. Twenty girls and their guardians received a tour of the NIEHS lab areas and listened to a presentation to learn how environmental factors, like pollutants, can affect human health. The highlight of the afternoon was a panel discussion with female scientists that work at NIEHS. The girls asked lots of questions about the scientist’s daily work and how they became interested in working in STEM. The scientists’ work branched many fields, including immunohistochemistry, environmental epigenomics, toxicology, and clinical research, so the girls learned about many different biology and environmental science fields.
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An ongoing NIEHS study that captivated the girls' interest was the Sister Study. From 2003-2009, more than 50,000 women from across the United States and Puerto Rico were recruited for this study to uncover the cause of breast cancer. All participants had a sister who previously had breast cancer. Researchers hypothesized that by studying sisters they had a higher probability of identifying risk factors of breast cancer as sisters will have had shared environments, genes, and experiences. The Sister Study continues to track the health and lifestyle of participants each year. The knowledge gained from the Sister Study will help people to better understand both the genetic and environmental causes of breast cancer and will be used in the future to develop recommendations for preventing breast cancer.
Special thanks to John Schelp for coordinating our visit as well as Michelle Campbell, Cindy Innes, Yvette LeGrande, and Kyla Taylor for sharing their experiences as female scientists!