Kellie L.K. Tamashiro, a
neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins who studies obesity, is
the recipient of one of 58 National Institutes of Health
grants in support of young investigators with promising
research. She was chosen from among almost 900 applicants
in one round of a grant cycle that will see a total of 150
and 200 awardees for 2006.
The new $927,000 Pathway to Independence grant,
introduced early this year, is part of an earmark program
for talented postdoctoral scientists. The program supports
both independent research and mentoring by more senior
"New investigators provide energy, enthusiasm and
ideas that propel the scientific enterprise toward greater
discovery and push forward the frontiers of medical
research," said Elias Zerhouni, director of the NIH.
Chi Dang, vice dean for research at the Johns Hopkins
School of Medicine, said, "Academic medical centers
consider this NIH program absolutely vital to recruiting
and retaining the best and brightest young scientists.
America's competitive edge depends on the training and
advancement of these new researchers, who will make the
discoveries that will advance human health in the
The first, mentoring phase of the grant (two years of
support at $90,000 per year) allows awardees to complete
supervised work, publish results and search for an
independent research position. The second, independent
phase ($249,000 per year for three years) supports awardees
as they secure an assistant professorship or equivalent
position, establish their own research programs and apply
for a bread-and-butter NIH investigator-initiated (R01)
grant. The R01 is the major means by which NIH supports
individual research projects.
"This is a great opportunity, one that will let me
continue my current research and stay competitive as I work
to establish my own lab someday," said Tamashiro, who is a
postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Timothy H. Moran
in the School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral
Tamashiro's research goal is to describe the short-
and long-term effects of fetal stress and nutrition on
behavior and brain development. "Using the rat as a model,
we want to evaluate the effects of the mother's stress and
a high-fat diet during gestation and nursing on such things
as brain cell activity and energy balance in the babies,"
Human population studies have suggested that a
stressful or unhealthy environment in the womb has
long-term consequences for offspring, including
hypertension, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes,
mental illness and obesity, Tamashiro said.
In making the grant announcements, Zerhouni said, "we
hope that the Pathway to Independence is a bridge that will
support new investigators at precisely the point between
mentoring and independence that we have seen as a most
vulnerable time in the career path. We must invest in the
future of our new scientists today if we expect to meet the
nation's health challenges of tomorrow," he said. "In
today's challenging budget environment, it is critical that
NIH preserve the ability of young scientists with fresh
ideas to enter the competitive world of NIH funding.
Nothing is more important."
For more about the NIH Pathway to Independence
program, go to