August 26, 2019
Nutrition alumna Sharmin Hossain PhD ‘18 recently participated in the U.S. National Institute on Aging’s Butler-Williams Scholars Program, a weeklong program targeted toward emerging researchers interested in the topic of aging. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) is one of the 27 institutes and centers in the National Institutes of Health.
Hossain currently works for the NIA as a postdoctoral research fellow on the HANDLS (Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span) study, a 20-year longitudinal study investigating the sources of persistent health disparities in overall longevity, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Her current position is an extension of the NIA internship she received while still a doctoral candidate at UMass Amherst.
“My 2017 internship at NIA helped lay the groundwork for my current research, and I consider myself very fortunate for that opportunity,” says Hossain. “While at UMass I also received diverse training on everything from nutrition and epidemiology to molecular and cellular biology, and I owe my current position to exceptional faculty mentors.”
Hossain was among five postdoctoral fellows selected by the NIA’s Intramural Research Program to participate in this year’s Butler-Williams Scholars Program, held July 29 through August 2, 2019 on the NIH’s Bethesda, MA campus.
“To be honest, I was not prepared for the news of my acceptance into the program,” adds Hossain. “We worked very hard on my proposal at NIA, but I was also aware of how competitive the program is. That’s why this achievement was very significant for us. On the first day of Butler-Williams, it finally sunk in that I made it!”
The program included lectures, seminars, and small group discussions in research design relative to aging, including issues relevant to aging of ethnic and racial minorities. Lecture topics included the biology of aging; genetics and Alzheimer's disease; and health, behavior, and aging. Discussion sessions focused on methodological approaches and interventions. The program also included consultation on the development of research interests and advice on preparing and submitting research grant applications to NIA.
“This week was intense for all of us. We had lectures, group discussions and one-on-one sessions with program officers, all geared towards our specific proposals and general areas of interest,” explains Hossain. “But the mock review sessions took the crown for me. We were given a couple of actual NIH grants to review with the exact guidelines that would be followed at a real review session, and then completed two mock sessions on two different grant mechanisms. This experience was eye-opening. I now understand what the reviewers focus on and how decisions are made. This is instrumental for me going forward, because I know how my thought processes aligned with the actual decisions made. As an aspiring academic, the entire Butler-Williams experience is critical in planning the next steps for my career.”
For more information on the Butler-Williams Scholars Program, click here.