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Scientific Session Highlights for Students and Postdocs

The following scientific sessions were organized or endorsed by the SOT Graduate Student Leadership Committee and/or the Postdoctoral Assembly. Some include graduate student and postdoctoral members speakers and all are on topics relevant to trainees. Graduate students and postdocs are encouraged to attend these sessions.

Symposium Session: Genotypic and Intrinsic Risk Factors That Increase Susceptibility to Inhaled Pollutants

Tuesday Morning, March 15, 9:30 AM–12:15 PM

Chairperson(s): Desinia B. Miller, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC; and Gabriel Knudsen, National Cancer Institute at NIEHS, Research Triangle Park, NC.

Endorser(s): Graduate Student Leadership Committee
Occupational and Public Health Specialty Section
Postdoctoral Assembly

The mandated Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to mitigate high-level harmful emissions from natural and man-made sources. These standards strive to protect the health of the most vulnerable human population from potential pollutant-induced adverse health outcomes. However, because of limited research on susceptible subpopulations, the determinations of NAAQS for at-risk groups have proven to be difficult. As a result, an uncertainty factor of 10 is employed in the absence of actual data on susceptibility. A few epidemiological and experimental studies have implicated risk factors such as genotype, sex, ethnicity, life stage, and underlying diseases in human inter-variation that increase susceptibility to adverse health effects of inhaled pollutants. However, the mechanisms of how these factors increase sensitivity to inhaled pollutants in at risk groups have not been well understood. The aims of this symposium are to 1) address the underlying health conditions that can influence risk of adverse health effects associated with inhaled pollutants and 2) identify biologically plausible mechanisms and/or interactions between these risk factors and inhaled pollutant injury. The six trainee presenters will focus on different risk factors and examine how underlying conditions alter the adverse health effects of inhaled pollutants, with the emphasis on potential mechanisms. The first two presenters will focus on gene-environment interactions that affect susceptibility to inhaled pollutants, while one of the speakers will also address the differential risk due to sex. The third speaker will use inĀ utero data to discuss how air pollution exposure during different life stages can modify health risk. The last three presenters will focus on pre-existing respiratory and metabolic conditions that have been implicated in increased susceptibility to inhaled pollutants. Altogether, attendees will learn about different characteristics that influence susceptibility and gain insight into likely mechanisms by which air pollution effects are altered in at-risk groups. Additionally, it will provide identification and further characterization of potential sensitive populations to consider in future epidemiological and inhalation risk assessment studies.

  • Interaction of Alpha-Synuclein with Divalent Metal Manganese Alters Disease Progression in Transgenic Models of Parkinson’s Disease. Dilshan S. Harischandra, Iowa State University, Ames, IA.
  • Human Airway Epithelium: Ethinyl Estradiol-Mediated Sex Differences in Smokers and Non-Smokers. Megan Rubelli, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.
  • InĀ Utero Secondhand Smoke Exposures Increase the Lungs’ Susceptibility to Developing Emphysema-Related Respones As Adults. Alexandra Noel, Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Baton Rouge, LA.
  • The Effect of Diesel Exhaust Exposure on Patients with Allergic Rhinitis—Implications for NK Cell Physiology. Erica Pawlak, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.
  • Inhaled Ozone Causes More Severe Lung Lesions in Hyperglycemic, Insulin-Resistant KKAy Mice As Compared to Normoglycemic, Insulin-Sensitive C57BL/6 Mice. Daven N. Jackson-Humbles, Michigan State University, Ann Arbor, MI.
  • Obesity As Risk Factors for Ozone-Induced Cardiopulmonary Effects and Metabolic Impairment. Samantha J. Snow, US EPA, Durham, NC.

Education-Career Development Session: The Evolution of the Postdoc: Transitioning from Trainee to Professional in the Modern Era

Wednesday Afternoon, March 16, 12:30 PM–1:20 PM

Chairperson(s): Karilyn E. Sant, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA; and Samantha Snow, US EPA, Research Triangle Park, NC.

Endorser(s): Career and Resource Development Committee
Graduate Student Leadership Committee
Postdoctoral Assembly

The postdoctoral experience has changed considerably over the past decade. The number of postdocs in the United States has been consistently growing, as has the time spent in this transitional position. The average age at which scientists are appointed to their first faculty job and awarded their first NIH grant has been increasing. This “hypercompetitive” culture in biomedical research has resulted in several publications and reports by the National Academies and the National Postdoctoral Association that focused on the best practices needed to improve the quality of the postdoctoral experience. This session is designed to bring leaders from across various research sectors to discuss what it means to currently be a postdoc in an academic, government, and industry setting. Speakers will focus on (1) the modern state of postdocs in their sector; (2) the advantages/ disadvantages of pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship in their sector; (3) the postdoc as a mentored position; and (4) how we move forward to produce a high-quality, sustainable workforce. Each speaker will discuss how their sector is addressing the current needs of postdocs and the workforce, and will provide the audience with their thoughts on how to navigate to different career paths. Speakers will also address how a postdoc in their sector may help produce a diversified workforce. This discussion will be highly relevant to all student and postdoctoral attendees, as well as senior scientists currently mentoring trainees. This career development session will inspire toxicologists to think critically about their training and to develop an improved roadmap to navigate to their ideal careers.

  • Challenges, Opportunities, and Future Directions of the Traditional Academic Postdoc in Toxicology. Ilona Jaspers, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.
  • Postdoc Training: Thinking Beyond the Bench. Linda Birnbaum, NIEHS, Research Triangle Park, NC.
  • Pfizer’s Postdoctoral Program: An Example of an Industry’s Approach to Ensuring a High-Quality Postdoctoral Experience. Jon Cook, Pfizer, Inc., Groton, CT.
  • Institutional Transformation Strategies for Acceptance of Multiple Career Pathways As Successful Outcomes for Trainees in the Biomedical Research Workforce. Ambika Mathur, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.

Education-Career Development Session: “Talksicology”: Effective Oral Presentation Techniques

Wednesday, March 16, 5:00 PM–6:20 PM

Chairperson(s):Barbara L. F. Kaplan, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS; and Richard Pollenz, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL.

Endorser(s): Career and Resource Development Committee
Education Committee
Postdoctoral Assembly

Effective dissemination of research findings in seminars, interviews, scientific meetings or to the public has always been a critical skill for toxicologists. While effective oral presentation skills are formally taught in most training programs, gaps in the training exist and many programs do not measure success or offer direct evidence of effectiveness. The main goal of this workshop is to provide attendees with an opportunity to assess effectiveness, and improve their own presentations and oral communication skills. The session is designed to be engaging and interactive. The first part of the workshop will be the analysis of a “flawed” presentation in real time in which the audience will use smart phone-based technology (PollEverywhere) to rate and discuss the presentation. This exercise will be followed by short sessions from three experts from academia and industry who will provide examples and techniques for oral presentations specific to 1) a research seminar, 2) an interview, and 3) a situation in which the scientists must communicate to the media or lay public. Effective oral communication during poster presentations will also be presented. This workshop will be applicable for anyone wishing to enhance oral communication skills and is particularly pertinent to developing scientists who want to improve in this craft.

  • Introduction. Barbara L. F. Kaplan, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS.
  • How Not to Engage the Audience. Richard Pollenz, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL.
  • Make an Impact with Your Research Seminar. Barbara L. F. Kaplan, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS.
  • Presenting Your Research, Presenting Yourself. Lois Lehman-McKeeman, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Princeton, NJ.
  • Effectively Delivering Complex Messages to Non-Technical Audiences That Have a Short Attention Span. Steven J. Hermansky, ConAgra Foods, Omaha, NE.