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NIDCD Highlights

Senator Baldwin Visits the NIH

Photo of early-stage intramural investigators with Sen. Baldwin
Early-stage intramural investigators, including the NIDCD’s
Elyssa Monzack, Ph.D., (2nd from right), pose for a group
photo with Sen. Baldwin (5th from left) andSally Rockey, Ph.D.,
(far right) who is director of theOffice of Extramural Research at NIH.

In July, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) visited the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., to meet with NIH leadership, including NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and chatted with several young intramural investigators. The purpose of the senator’s visit was to learn more about what inspires young investigators to pursue biomedical research careers and to identify ways to help ensure the success of the next generation of scientists. 

The NIDCD’s Elyssa Monzack, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the Section on Sensory Cell Biology headed by Lisa Cunningham, Ph.D., was one of the young intramural investigators who participated in the meeting with the senator. During the visit, Dr. Monzack discussed how mentorship and patient training experiences contributed to her decision to become an academic researcher and shared how she finds research on the sensory systems intriguing because it is how we fundamentally interact with our environment. She is currently conducting research aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the protective effects of heat shock proteins against drug–induced hearing loss and sensory hair cell death, with the goal of translating the findings into clinical therapies.

In September, shortly after visiting NIH, the senator unveiled the Next Generation Research Act, legislation intended to support the next generation of researchers and young scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Among its provisions, the bill would create a new initiative within NIH to improve opportunities for early stage investigators, promote policies aimed at improving opportunities for young scientists, and commission a comprehensive study to help determine the best ways to support young scientists. The senator stated that we need “to continue to support and invest in the best and brightest minds to further science and move our country forward” and noted that it was concerning that the average age of an NIH extramural grant recipient is now “42 years old—up from 36 in 1980.” The senator expressed that based in part on the “inspiring people” she met with during her visit, more initiatives are needed to “encourage the next generation of biomedical researchers.”

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