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resident Bush sent to Congress a $28.8 billion budget request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in fiscal year (FY) 2006. This represents a virtually flat 0.7% increase of $196 million over the current year’s funding and far below the projected biomedical inflation rate of 3.5%. If enacted, it would be the first time since 1964 that NIH received an annual increase of less than 1%. NIH’s proposed budget for 2006, before transfers from other sources and agencies, totals $28.5 billion, a 0.5% increase of $146 million over the current year’s appropriation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be cut by 12.1% to $4 billion, a reduction of $555 million. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive a 2.4% increase of around $132 million
Postdocs Rank NIDDK Among Top “Best Places to Work”
he NIDDK is among 5 federal organizations, 4 universities, 3 private institutions, 2 cancer centers, and 1 hospital to rank in the top 15 “Best Places to Work for Postdocs 2005,” survey by The Scientist magazine. More than 3,500 survey respondents rated a valuable training experience, access to research equipment and library resources and a good mentoring relationship as the factors contributing to a great workplace. The new ranking, released Friday (February 11), examined working conditions for postdoctoral fellows working in the life sciences as part of the magazine’s third annual survey. The magazine invited more than 40,000 individuals who registered at its Web site and identified themselves as a non-tenured life scientist GASTROENTEROLOGY 2005;128:814 – 816
to $5.6 billion, which is still $47 million less than its FY 2004 funding level. The President’s overall budget request for the fiscal year beginning October 1 totals $2.57 trillion. This marks it as one of the most austere in recent history with overall non-defense discretionary funding cut by an average of 1%. Nine of 15 cabinetlevel departments would receive less money next year than they do this year. In the past, the NIH has benefited from supporters in Congress who had managed to boost the agency’s final budget beyond that which the president proposed. Research advocates hope that will again happen this year. The Federation of American Societies for Microbiology (FASEB), the American Society for Microbiology, and other research organizations had urged that NIH receive a 6% increase to $30.07 billion. The proposed NIH budget would provide $15.5 billion for new (com-
peting) and continuing (noncompeting) research project grants, a 0.4% increase of $56 million. This would fund about 38,746 total projects, 402 less than this year. The average new research project grant would be funded at $347,000, about the same amount as in FY 2005. Most NIH Institutes and Centers would receive increases of less than 1%. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which funds most of NIH’s bioterrorism-related research, is once again the agency’s biggest gainer at $4.5 billion, a 1.8% increase of $57 million. “If we had an unlimited budget, we would spend more on many programs,” said Mike Leavitt, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. “Since we don’t, we have focused money on the most urgent priorities that will make the biggest difference in the health and well being of Americans.”
working at a non-commercial research institution in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, and Israel. Overall, the magazine evaluated the 125 U.S. institutions and 66 non-U.S. institutions that had five or more responses. According to Lou Simchowitz, head of the fellows’ office at the 15th-ranked NIDDK, government institutions have dedicated money, personnel, and resources to addressing postdocs’ needs. He points out that some benefits are institute-specific, such as NIDDK’s grant-writing workshops and careertransition awards, which provide bridge funding to young scientists during career transitions. But postdoc offices throughout the National Institutes of Health also cosponsor programs, such as brown-bag career development lectures, with support from the NIH intramural research office, he added.
Almost all the top 15 institutions have either a postdoc office, which mediates between administrators and fledgling scientists, or an association, which is an advocacy group run by postdocs themselves. In the past 15 years, the number of on-campus post-doc associations increased from 10 to almost 30. These organizations help facilitate dialogue between postdocs and administrators and raise awareness of postdocs’ needs. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ranked 6th in the overall results for U.S. institutions, but was first among academic institutions. Melanie Sinche, Director of the University’s Office of Postdoctoral Services said, “We were delighted to be recognized in this way but acknowledge that challenges still exist in the training of postdoctoral scholars. It is incumbent upon all institutions employing postdocs to
Gastroenterology News continued
ensure that postdocs and principal investigators are communicating effectively with one another, particularly in regards to career goals.” She points out that UNC offers a series of mentoring workshops for faculty as well as postdocs, in an effort to teach these two groups how to develop mutually beneficial goals. Joining UNC in the top 3 slots for U.S. academic institutions were
Washington University in St. Louis and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other U.S. academic institutions listed were Michigan State University, fourth; Medical College of Wisconsin, fifth; University of Michigan, sixth; Virginia Commonwealth University, seventh; University of Alabama at Birmingham, eighth; Emory University, ninth; and the University of Kansas, 10th.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency campus in Research Triangle Park topped the overall list, followed by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, National Cancer Institute in Maryland, and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park. More details can be found in The Scientist, February 14, 2005.
Further Insights Into Crohn’s Disease
sity of California at San Diego School of Medicine in La Jolla, observed that Nod mutations in mice, equivalent to the Nod2 mutations found in patients with Crohn’s disease, made the animals more susceptible to bacterial-induced intestinal inflammation. The mice also showed elevated levels of 2 key signaling molecules involved in inflammation, nuclear factor -B (NF-B), and cytokine interleukin-1␤ (IL-1␤). “Mutant mice exhibited elevated NF-B activation in response to MDP (bacteria-derived muramyl dipeptide) and more efficient processing and secretion of the cytokine interleukin-1␤ (IL-1␤). These effects are linked to increased susceptibility to bacterial-induced intestinal inflammation and identify NOD2 as a positive regulator of
NF-B activation and IL-1␤ secretion,” the authors state. Writing also in this issue of Science, researchers led by Dr. Richard Flavell, professor and chairman of immunobiology, and professor of molecular, cellular, & developmental biology at Yale University School of Medicine, found that Nod2-deficient mice were susceptible to oral bacterial infections and that this vulnerability corresponded with impaired responses by Nod2-deficient cells to molecules that bind to Nod2. These mice also had lower concentrations of anti-microbial peptides in their gut, which the authors suggest indicates that a similar defect may contribute to inflammatory bowel disease in humans. More details can be found in Science, February 4, 2005
lates to expanding educational activities abroad and increasing our international members; increased public policy efforts; aggressive support for the AGA Foundation and its efforts to acquire funds to promote educational activities “and, most importantly, to support research relevant to the science and practice of our subspecialty; and effective implementation of our new strategic plan,” he asserts. “The organization must continue to satisfy the goals and objectives of a very diverse constituency, ranging from full-time practicing gastroenter-
ologists to hard-core, laboratorybased Ph.D. investigators,” LaRusso says. “In my judgment, particularly since our reorganization into sections, the organization has done an excellent job in this regard. One of many examples is the establishment of the new journal, Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, to serve our clinical constituency, an initiative in which I played an important role as Chair of the Publications Committee.” This continues to be the single most important internal challenge and opportunity for the organization, he adds.
lthough the exact cause of Crohn’s disease remains unknown, genetic and environmental factors that affect host-microbe interactions in the gut are thought to play major roles in its etiology. Mutations in the Nod2 gene, which helps the immune system recognize bacteria in the gut, are known to increase susceptibility to the disease. Two reports in February 4, 2005 Science have provided new insights into the normal physiological role of Nod proteins and how impaired Nod function leads to inflammation. In the first report, researchers headed by Dr. Michael Karin, professor of pharmacology at the Univer-
Vice-President Elect LaRusso Shares AGA Future Issues
ice President-Elect of the AGA, Dr. Nicholas F. LaRusso, Chair of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, outlines a number of “central issues of concern and opportunity for the organization over the next several years.” Among these are continued efforts to serve the heterogeneous constituencies of the organization; the nature of interrelationships with AGA sister organizations; the “internationalization” of the organization, particularly as it re-