Researchers join forces with EPA's existing experts to address new challenges

Leveraging a powerful tool that helps the U.S. EPA attract accomplished scientists and researchers with the best and brightest minds, the Agency announces three appointees who will join with other EPA professionals to battle the latest environmental challenges. EPA's mission of protecting human health and the environment has always been a factor in drawing committed, expert scientists and engineers...

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 25, 2006 -- Leveraging a powerful tool that helps the U.S. EPA attract accomplished scientists and researchers with the best and brightest minds, the Agency announces three appointees who will join with other EPA professionals to battle the latest environmental challenges.

EPA's mission of protecting human health and the environment has always been a factor in drawing committed, expert scientists and engineers. In order for EPA to attract highly skilled and well compensated experts, Congress recently provided EPA with a tool, similar to one that the National Institutes of Health has, to hire these experts.

With the ever-increasing ability to measure and monitor our environment at different scales, we are amassing huge quantities of data. Being able to interpret and understand that information is now a crucial component in EPA's mission of protecting human health and the environment. Complementing EPA's existing research expertise in this area are three new appointees who bring specialized knowledge in systems biology, computational toxicology and bioinformatics to the Office of Research and Development. Drs. Stephen Edwards, Richard Judson and Imran Shah will use their state-of-the-science experience to tackle crucial research needs of the Agency.

"World class science is conducted every day by EPA researchers and I'm particularly proud that we continue the tradition of hiring brilliant minds," said George Gray, assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Research and Development.

Dr. Stephen Edwards has accepted the position of Systems Biologist within the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL) in Research Triangle Park, N.C. NHEERL is the focal point for toxicological, clinical, epidemiological, ecological and biogeographic research within EPA. Here, Dr. Edwards will spearhead the development of a systems approach, integrating relationships and interactions at all levels of a biological system from the sub-cellular to whole organism to connect the effects of environmental pollutants to human health. Dr. Edwards will play a significant role in leading teams of NHEERL investigators to improve the scientific underpinnings of the Agency's risk assessments. With a strong combination of experimental and computational experience, Dr. Edwards will be a natural liaison with the recently formed National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT).

Dr. Edwards received his bachelor of science in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his doctorate in pharmacology from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. From 2000 to the present he has served as a senior research scientist and research fellow at Rosetta Inpharmatics, Merck & Co., in Seattle, Washington, a recognized leader in the computational and systems approaches to drug development. In this position he both led teams and served with complex research organizational units in the development and use of computational systems-based approaches in the framework of drug development. He is senior author of a number of high profile peer-reviewed scientific publications and presentations.

Dr. Richard Judson has accepted the position of bioinformatician with the NCCT. At the NCCT, which uses computers to assist in calculating and analyzing huge amounts of information and to develop complex models that can improve how the Agency's researchers evaluate public health and environmental risks, Dr. Judson will lead the development and implementation of computational solutions that will ease the interpretation and rapid processing of large amounts of molecular data into characterizations of chemical exposure, hazard or risk.

Dr. Judson will utilize his knowledge of advanced bioinformatic methods, tools and resources in functional genomics, proteomics, systems biology and toxicology to interpret and understand the significance of toxicogenomic datasets relative to the characterization of chemical exposure, hazard or risk. He will be the primary technical liaison among ORD researchers and the STAR Centers for Environmental Bioinformatics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. His expertise will also be important in the development of enterprise solutions for the handling of genomic data in EPA's regulatory program in conjunction with the Genomics Task Force.

Dr. Judson received a bachelor of science in chemistry and chemical physics from Rice University and a doctorate in chemistry from Princeton University. Subsequently, he was a researcher at Sandia Laboratories where he developed high performance computing applications in chemistry, physics and bioinformatics. From 1999 to 2005, he was with Genaissance Pharmaceuticals, where he was senior vice president and chief scientific officer. While there, he was responsible for pharmacogenetics research and development, genetic test development and proprietary informatics platforms. He is the founder of GAMA BioConsulting in Guilford, Connecticut, and is a member of the editorial board of PharmacoGenomics. He is author of more than 60 publications in a variety of scientific fields and is the holder of several patents.

Dr. Imran Shah will fill the position of computational systems biologist in the NCCT, providing leadership and guidance in the development of computational, systems-based models that support improved assessment of the public and ecological health implications of environmental stressors. Dr. Shah's experience in mathematics, computational modeling and biology will be key to his design of systems level biological models which will further our understanding of how environmental stressors such as pollution impact living organisms. He will play significant roles in developing the computational infrastructure for the virtual liver programs and ToxCast, a model that will predict or forecast toxicity.

Dr. Shah received a bachelor of science in physics from the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London, U.K., and a doctorate in computational biology from George Mason University. From 2001 to 2004, he was the first director of the doctoral program in bioinformatics in the School of Medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver. He comes to EPA from Icoria, a clinical data company, where he was head of computational systems biology and led the development of their metabolomic biomarker discovery pipeline. He is senior author of numerous peer-reviewed scientific publications and presentations in this highly specialized area. In addition, he has patents pending on algorithms for modeling biochemical networks and for discovering biomarkers of disease.

These exceptional researchers were hired under Title 42 of the United States Code that authorizes EPA to attract accomplished environmental researchers by offering competitive salaries. The EPA can compete with the private sector and other federal agencies that currently use the Title 42 authority to bring on board scientists and engineers who are leading scientific advances and applications in their fields. Eligibility for Title 42 appointments includes stringent requirements that are designed to ensure each appointee will contribute significantly to the EPA's mission. The appointments are five-year terms and are not subject to the provisions of the Career Federal Service.

EPA's laboratories, research centers and grantees are building the scientific foundation needed to support the Agency's mission to safeguard human health and the environment.

• National Health and Environmental Effects Research Lab: www.epa.gov/nheerl
• National Center for Computational Toxicology: www.epa.gov/comptox
• Office of Research and Development: www.epa.gov/ord
• EPA's Title 42 authority is codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR Part 18): www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_06/40cfr18_06.html

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