Investigators Retreat: A Forum to Bridge Frederick and Bethesda Cancer Research

By Andrea Frydl, Contributing Writer
The Ronald Reagan Building

The atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building has a ceiling height of up to 125 feet

By Andrea Frydl, Contributing Writer

Nearly 700 researchers, scientists, and laboratory technicians convened in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC, for the 2014 NCI Intramural Scientific Investigators Retreat on Jan. 14.

The event featured presentations and posters exploring topics in cancer research from KRAS signaling to animal care.

One of the highlights of the event was a presentation made by Valerie Beral, Ph.D., from University of Oxford, discussing “Rosalind Franklin and Cancer in Women.” 

The main goal of the retreat was to bring together intramural researchers from the various NCI campuses to collaborate, network, and learn from each other, according to the retreat website.

A group of people

Many attendees found the event to be an energizing and rewarding experience. “The PI [principal investigators] retreat is a terrific opportunity to get a broad-perspective view of the depth in which the NCI is tackling the fight against cancer,” said Howard Young, Ph.D., Laboratory of Experimental Immunology, Center for Cancer Research (CCR). “It enables attendees to meet face-to-face with their colleagues based in Bethesda, Frederick, and Shady Grove, and develop new levels of cooperation and collaboration.”

Robert Wiltrout, Ph.D., CCR director, noted that the event would not have been possible without the hard work of the organizing team. He specifically mentioned the leadership provided by NCI employees, including John Czajkowski and Marianne Henderson. 

Poster presentations explored a range of topics—from animal sciences to cell biology. Many laboratories from CCR and Frederick National Laboratory (FNL) were represented. 

Yanling Liu, Ph.D., Advanced Biomedical Computing Center (ABCC), FNL, presented a new 3D molecule. In his presentation, Liu displayed a 3D protein molecule on a video screen, and viewers wearing 3D glasses could maneuver the digital molecule with an electronic pen. “This is so amazing, wow! The technology from the ABCC is cutting edge,” said Jim Cherry, Ph.D., Office of Scientific Operations, NCI at Frederick.

Julie Hartman and Andrea Frydl, from the Office of Scientific Operations, NCI at Frederick, presented a poster on student training opportunities at the NCI at Frederick, which garnered a significant amount of foot traffic, according to Hartman. “It has been great to be down here to talk to the PIs about our student training options, especially the Werner H. Kirsten Program. I think we got several people to sign up as mentors because of this poster,” she said.

Frank Blanchard standing by the SPGM sign

“Because the NCI community is scientifically quite diverse and spread geographically across a number of sites in the Washington metro area, collaboration and communication can sometimes be difficult for intramural researchers. The PI Retreat offers a unique opportunity for intramural researchers from all of our locations to come together to share their ideas, find areas of shared or complementary interest, and initiate new collaborations. The 2014 retreat marks the seventeenth year for the retreat since it was established in 1996, and the quality and hard work of our organizing team is critical to its success. Thanks to the NCI and contractor staffs who work together effectively to make it happen,” Wiltrout said of the event.

For more information about the NCI PI Retreat, visit:

To see photos from the event, visit:

Two people having a discussion

Two people pause for a photo in front of a poster

Photos courtesy of Andrea Frydl.