Monday, December 5, 2011

Portrait of an ECBC Postdoctoral Associate

Dan Angelini, Ph.D., examines cultured stem cells through a microscope in the laboratory.

One of the most recent additions to the National Research Council’s (NRC) Postdoctoral Resident Research Associateship Program (RAP) is Dan Angelini, Ph.D., a senior research associate in ECBC’s Research and Technology (R&T) Directorate.

Angelini received his Ph.D. in Pathology from University of Maryland, Baltimore in 2004, where he examined the role of tumor necrosis factor alpha in the regulation of the pulmonary vascular endothelial paracellular pathway as it related to the acute respiratory distress syndrome. Before coming to ECBC, Angelini worked at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine from 2005 to 2011.

Since coming to work at ECBC, Angelini has been working under the direction of Harry Salem, Ph.D., chief scientist for the life sciences. RAP postdoctoral associates are accepted for one year, with an option for renewal for another year. During the year of postdoctoral work, Angelini will complete a scientific journal article for peer review and work on a number of other research projects under the direction of Salem.

“The NRC Postdoctoral Program is a great way of recruiting new young and motivated scientists for our research programs,” said Salem. “They come to us with the latest technologies from the best academic institutions with cutting-edge science. It's a two way street – it gives the new postdocs the opportunity to evaluate us and for us to evaluate them.”

Angelini’s work for ECBC has been focused on stem cell research, primarily the use of stem cells to examine the pulmonary toxicity of chemical warfare agents and other chemical/biological agents.

“I would say that I spend about 40 percent of my time in the lab, 40 percent of my time writing papers and articles and 20 percent of my time doing administrative things, like going to meetings and travelling,” Angelini said. “Being in a postdoctoral program is really a continuation of your training, but more independent than graduate studies. You want to publish as many papers as possible, which will help you with the career path you’ve chosen and the kind of research with which you’d like to be involved. Eventually, I’d like to be in the position to be a Principal Investigator (PI).”

A PI is the lead scientist or engineer for a particular project and is responsible for designing experiments, writing proposals and papers, managing technical efforts and meeting milestones and objectives.

“Right now, I’m working on a review article of stem cells in the lung,” said Angelini. “I’ve been working in the lab with mesenchymal stem cell cultures, which are adult stem cells that are primarily derived from bone marrow. These cells could be used for in vitro toxicology assays.”

An “assay” is a procedure in molecular biology for testing or measuring the activity of a drug or biochemical in an organism or organic sample.

Angelini said that he chose to study and work in pathology because the field offers ample opportunities for innovation and finding solutions to problems. “It’s like solving a mystery,” said Angelini. “I like feeling like I’m trying to figure out something that nobody’s done before. After the postdoctoral program, my goal is to be able to do this type of work permanently. One great thing about being at ECBC has been the friendly, supportive environment on the team and throughout the directorate, all the way up through branch and division chiefs. They have a great network across the board. One of the best aspects of the team here is that there are so many different kinds of scientific expertise, so there’s always someone who can answer any questions you may have.”

The NRC, which is part of the National Academies, promotes excellence in scientific and technical research by offering graduate, postdoctoral and senior-level research opportunities at sponsoring federal laboratories and institutions. Since 1985, ECBC has sponsored 63 postdoctoral associates through its Postdoctoral Resident RAP.

For more information about the NRC’s Research Associateship Programs, visit

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