Recent Endowment Fund Award Recipients

2021 Endowment Awardees

The SOT Endowment Fund is a family of funds that support SOT programs and members. Many of the funds sponsor awards designed to encourage, assist, and highlight toxicology research and toxicologists.

Andersen/Clewell Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Md Mahbubul Huq Riad
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Kansas State University

Dr. Riad felt very honored to receive the award, as he submitted these abstracts just after starting his postdoctoral position. This award will boost his confidence, as he received it for his first SOT meeting abstracts. This award will help and motivate him to pursue his research in the field of biological modeling and risk assessment. 

Dr. Riad's first project aims at describing the development of a PBPK model for Oxytetracycline in minor ruminant species such as sheep and goats to predict the drug concentrations in edible tissues. The model has the capability to be used to predict withdrawal intervals following the extra-label use of Oxytetracycline in sheep and goats. The final model will directly support ensuring the safety of animal-derived food products.

His second project aims at developing a network-based risk assessment framework for the spatial spreading of COVID-19 and the impacts of environmental factors in disease transmission. This project can contribute significantly to the field of infectious disease model and risk assessment and will significantly impact the biological modeling of infectious diseases and risk assessment.

 

Bruce A. Fowler Metals Endowment Fund

Recipient: Matthew Gribble
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD, DABT
Institution/Affiliation: Emory University

Dr. Gribble was honored, delighted, and pleasantly surprised to be selected for this year's Bruce A. Fowler Metals Young Investigator Endowment Fund Award. He has not decided quite what to use the funding for but thinks it will be helpful for paying the publication costs for a student paper. He encourages his students to develop their work along the lines of their interests, rather than necessarily trying to get them to work on his lab's funded projects. This year an undergraduate in his group is presenting a poster at SOT titled Shared Genetic Pathways between Metformin and Arsenic for which there is currently no specific funding; she was analyzing publicly available data from the Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD). This award could pay for the relevant publication costs for this paper or a similar project.

Dr. Gribble is an environmental epidemiologist and data scientist, and partners with laboratory, environmental, and population health scientists to try to gain additional insights from their data. His metals research has largely been in epidemiological studies of arsenic (a metalloid), in particular a partnership with the Strong Heart Study of American Indians which has included genetic epidemiology of arsenic susceptibility genetics with the Strong Heart Family Study. He also does a variety of projects making use of publicly available datasets, such as the work presented by an undergrad from his lab at this year's SOT meeting.

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Tarana Arman
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD (ongoing)
Institution/Affiliation: Washington State University

Ms. Arman is immensely grateful to the award selection committee for finding her work competitive for the coveted Carl C. Smith Graduate Student Award. This award provides her with immense strength and confidence to continue pursuing her career in research.

Ms. Arman's overall research focuses on understanding the mechanistic interactions of a freshwater algal toxin (microcystin) with pre-existing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is the most common liver disease worldwide, affecting almost 25% of the population. One of the primary causes of NAFLD is a poor diet and if unchecked is a risk factor for liver fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).The global frequency of microcystins is increasing due to anthropogenic activities and warming climate. The prototypical microcystin, microcystin-LR (MCLR), has been shown to cause a NAFLD-like phenotype and is also epidemiologically linked to HCC. Her group has previously shown that animals with pre-existing NAFLD after MCLR toxicity have a greater propensity to progress to a more severe liver phenotype. The current research focuses on defining the mechanisms of differential hepatic recovery and possible carcinogenesis after withdrawal from MCLR toxicity in healthy animals versus animals with pre-existing NAFLD. One of the key findings of this study is that despite a recovery period after MCLR toxicity, continuing of a poor diet led to unresolved fibrosis in the animals with pre-existing NAFLD.

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Ashwini Sri Hari
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BTech, MEng
Institution/Affiliation: University of Colorado (Anschutz Medical campus)

Ms. Sri Hari was ecstatic and couldn't believe that she had won first place for the Mechanisms Specialty Section Carl C. Smith Graduate Student award! Reception of this award has given global recognition for her work in the field of mechanistic toxicology (with special focus on neuroscience). Professionally, this award would speak volumes regarding the scientific rigor, experimental insights, and novelty of her work. The mention of this award on her resume will undoubtedly help in securing grants and in her career transition to an independent toxicology researcher.

Exposure to neurotoxicants such as nerve gas agents, certain industrial chemicals, and organophosphate pesticides can impair the balance between excitatory and inhibitory signals in the brain, thus triggering neurons to fire excessively in an uncontrolled manner (seizures). Recurrent seizure activity can lead to the production of reactive species (RS) that can overwhelm the cell's antioxidant defenses, damage cellular macromolecules, and cause cell death. Depletion of the most abundant cellular antioxidant, glutathione (due to excess RS production) has been observed in both human patients and animal models with seizures. Repletion or elevation of glutathione levels decreased oxidative stress and increased seizure threshold. However, a burning question remains: how does the modulation of glutathione redox status help control neuronal hyperexcitability/seizures? Ms. Sri Hari's research focuses on investigating the link between glutathione redox status and hyperexcitability. As part of her dissertation research, she uncovered the role of the redox-sensitive mTOR pathway as the  mediating link. Additionally, Ms. Sri Hari identified specific protein targets in this pathway to be oxidative modified in response to glutathione depletion. She won this award for unraveling the role of the mTOR pathway as the mechanistic/mediating link between glutathione redox status and neuronal hyperexcitability. 

Ms. Sri Hari has always been passionate about investigating underlying mechanisms that cause toxicity. After her predoctoral training, she will pursue postdoctoral research in neurotoxicology with special focus on critically disrupted signaling pathways to identify new/better drug targets to mitigate neurotoxic effects. After successful completion of her postdoctoral work and gaining invaluable mentoring and research experience, she plans to become a highly successful, independent researcher continuing to contribute to the field of toxicology.

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Jenna Strickland
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Ms. Strickland is excited and extremely grateful to receive the Carl C. Smith Award. She is well aware of the history and prestige surrounding this award and it is truly an honor to have her work recognized by the Mechanisms Specialty Section.

Acute liver failure (ALF) from acetaminophen (APAP) overdose represents a significant health burden with a high rate of mortality in the United States. High systemic levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) are frequently observed in ALF patients with the poorest prognosis. While this has long been recognized in clinical settings, the mechanistic basis for IL-10 dysregulation and its association with outcome in ALF remains poorly defined. Her team's results indicate that exaggerated IL-10 expression in an experimental setting of APAP-induced ALF contributes to disrupted intrahepatic macrophage trafficking and pro-repair polarization, which are essential for liver repair. Additionally, their studies indicate that Kupffer cells, the resident macrophages of the liver, may be the primary source of IL-10 in APAP-induced ALF. Furthermore, Kupffer cells expressed several markers consistent with a myeloid-derived suppressor cell phenotype, including high-level expression of IL-10 and PD-L1 in this setting. These are the first studies to document a mechanistic basis for the link between high IL-10 levels and poor outcome in patients with ALF.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Tanvi Banota
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BA
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Banota was incredibly honored to receive the Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award! She has been fortunate to have many strong female scientist role models in her lab and she is excited to represent women in toxicology. This award will help Ms. Banota continue to keep her focus on her research and to present and attend more conferences to continue sharing her science, including future SOT conferences.

Ms. Banota's research investigates the macrophage-mediated inflammatory response to toxicants in the lung. Her current project focuses on the role that a particular receptor, farnesoid X receptor (FXR), plays in regulating inflammation in response to nitrogen mustard-induced injury. They observed that FXR plays a role in modulating macrophage activation and recruitment and may be a potential target for drugs or therapeutics to combat mustard exposure and the associated inflammation. In the future, she hopes to pursue an MD/PhD and continue to explore the inflammatory mechanisms of disease, especially the lasting effects of chronic inflammation, and bridge the gap between science and medicine as a physician-scientist.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Danielle Kozlosky
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Kozlosky was thrilled upon receiving word of winning this award. She was having a rough day with research in lab, but coming home to this news jump-started her motivation back in lab. With this award she will work on bringing ties to novel digital pathology imaging techniques back to her university.

Cadmium (Cd), a ubiquitous heavy metal and environmental toxicant, is found at measurable levels in almost all pregnant women. Prenatal exposure to Cd causes fetal growth restriction (FGR), likely due to disruption of placental nutrient transfer. Emerging epidemiological data suggest that the developmental toxicity of cadmium may differentially affect male versus female offspring. Previous studies have shown that Cd is known to FGR in rodents. Ms. Kozlosky's particular research, which won her this award, is novel as she begins to look into sex differences with respect to Cd-induced developmental toxicity. Her data point to male fetuses showing significantly more evidence of FGR post Cd-exposure compared to females; but female placentas have a higher accumulation of total Cd than male placentas. Additional studies are underway to determine the mechanisms by which Cd causes a sex-dependent impact on fetal nutrition and growth in mice.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Rebekah Petroff
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Michigan

Dr. Petroff was delighted to receive word of this award. Women in Toxicology (WIT) Special Interest Group is an inspirational community within SOT, and she is honored to be selected for one of their awards this year. This award will help her incorporate additional trainings and opportunities into her postdoctoral work. 

In Dr. Petroff's postdoctoral position, she is working to study how chemicals in our environment can affect the epigenetics and health of developing infants and children. This award was awarded for her proposal to study the epigenetic effects of the common class of chemicals, phthalates, as well as her commitment and service to science outreach and education, in her institution as well as in the broader community. Dr. Petroff looks forward to continuing to push science outreach efforts forward, as she works towards her goal of becoming a primary investigator involved in public health practice.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Lauren Walker
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Dr. Walker is humbled and honored to be this year's recipient of the Postdoctoral CWIT Award. So many amazing individuals have been recognized by WIT in the past, and she is honored to be included among them. Receiving such a competitive award early in her career will help broaden her network connections within SOT as well increase the visibility of her work.

Dr. Walker's long-term career goal is to become an independent biomedical researcher overseeing a research program focused on elucidating mechanisms of adverse developmental and reproductive responses mediated by toxic chemicals. The intellectual freedom, opportunities to mentor the next generation of researchers, and chances to engage with public community members and stakeholders are the most appealing aspects of pursuing a career in academic research. She intends to focus her research on elucidating the molecular basis of how environmental contaminants interfere with signaling networks during development, giving rise to birth defects and childhood diseases. In her research pursuits, she aims to identify potential targets for therapeutic interventions and pathological biomarkers to support early detection and diagnosis.

Dr. Walker's graduate research training provided a strong foundation in molecular biology, biochemistry, and cellular biology principles and techniques that are crucial for investigation of cellular signaling and toxicological mechanisms. While completing her PhD thesis, she identified novel roles for important transcription factors in early bone development using a combination of cellular and animal models of bone development. Dr. Walker's current work as a Postdoctoral Fellow studies how environmental chemicals negatively affect the ability of immune cells to defend the placenta from infections. Pregnant women exposed to certain environmental pollutants are at risk of giving birth to their babies too early. Her research seeks to more fully understand how these chemicals exert toxicity in the placenta and to determine new strategies to prevent high-risk pregnancies. Building upon predoctoral research in developmental toxicology, her current postdoctoral research goals and training plan also provide a solid foundation on which to develop a tangential, independent project  to pursue as an independent researcher in the future.

Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund

Recipient: Undergraduate Internships 
Award Year: 2021

Consistent with the SOT goal of enhancing recruitment of students into toxicology, the Faculty United for Toxicology Undergraduate Recruitment and Education (FUTURE) Committee awards funding to enable additional undergraduate summer internships in toxicology. The intent of this program is to increase opportunities for research in toxicology by capitalizing on existing programs. In 2021, this program was supported in part by the Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund.

Award selection preference is given to institutions demonstrating success in current summer internship programs and those recruiting from student groups typically under-represented in the sciences, including programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Institutions are encouraged to carefully consider the applications from students accepted for the SOT Undergraduate Diversity Program and requires that students who receive SOT funding will do research related to toxicology or risk assessment under the mentorship of an SOT member.

For insight into the program and previous undergraduate internship awardee experiences, please see blogs written by Mindy Reynolds and Emily Ford and Wesley Gray

Dharm V. Singh Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Subham Dasgupta
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Oregon State University

Dr. Dasgupta was honored to receive this award and be recognized by his peers and fellow Indians within the field of toxicology. The award will provide him with the impetus and encouragement to further pursue his research and elevate it to newer explorations. The monetary support will also facilitate registration for the SOT Annual Meeting as well as several terrific CE courses to gain exposure to diverse techniques and approaches within the field of toxicology.

Dr. Dasgupta's research interests lie in systematically understanding mechanisms of developmental effects of stressors using multi-'omic approaches. This specific research investigates the health effects of radiofrequency radiations (RFRs) on developmental health using zebrafish as a model. Rollout of 5G frequencies have been met with several controversies about potential health effects that are based on poor or no scientific evidence. The team systematically investigated how short term 3.5 GHz RFR exposures—a frequency that corresponds with cell phone 5G signals—affects development and showed that these radiations are predominantly benign, although subtle behavioral and molecular disruptions were noted.

Dharm V. Singh Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Shagun Krishna
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: NIEHS

Dr. Krishna is excited to have won this award and feels wonderful to receive recognition for her work from the broader scientific community. It also invokes a great deal of confidence and momentum in realizing goals in her research career. She would take the opportunity to thank her mentor Dr. Nicole Kleinstreuer and all the judges and members of jury. 

Dr. Krishna works in the field of computational toxicology in the cardiovascular space. The heart and vascular system have been shown to be vulnerable to several environmental agents such as pesticides, flame retardants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), plasticizers, ambient air pollution, and metals. However, in general, the cardiotoxic potential of these environmental chemicals is relatively understudied. She is involved in designing strategic paradigm to screen for potential environmental chemical cardiotoxicity that may also help in preclinical testing to identify pharmaceutical CV safety liabilities. To screen compounds for potential CV effects, she is leveraging in silico tools and in vitro high-throughput screening (HTS) data. She is working to generate in silico predictive models that can provide predictions of CV toxic events across large numbers of chemicals. The piece of research work that Dr. Krishna is presenting here is part of project entitled Evidence mapping of environmental chemicals to adverse cardiovascular outcomes based on cardiovascular (CV) Failure Modes. This study will help to identify environmental chemicals contributing to CVD and areas with the most scientific evidence, which will help in study design. It will also help in identification of areas where scientific evidence is lacking and where more research is needed. The product, an evidence map, will inform the identification, selection, and prioritization of platforms and environmental chemicals that will be used to evaluate cardiovascular toxicity.

Dharm V. Singh Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Kumaravel Mohankumar
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Dr. Mohankumar was very happy and glad upon receiving the award. When he received the notice, he indicated it added a little bit more excitement and boosted his day-to-day research work. He was also pleased the value of his abstract was recognized, which will empower him to focus on a more detailed study on the mechanism of this disease and the applications of more potent buttressed analog of DIM-C-pPhOH that act as antagonist for NR4A1. Through receipt of this award, the impact of his research will be recognized by the scientific community and this will help transition his career into drug research and clinical applications. He is thankful and appreciative of the support of the scientists of Indian origin.

Most of Dr. Mohankumar's research has focused on the molecular toxicology and potential clinical applications of a series of bis-indole derived compounds (C-DIMs) that are ligands for the orphan nuclear receptor 4A1 (NR4A1, TR3, Nur77). His overall interest in the field of toxicology has been focused on development of highly potent NR4A1 ligands that are relatively non-toxic alternatives to current therapies and their potential clinical applications for treating endometrial cancer and endometriosis. His research is focused on identifying targetable pathways and genes that will inhibit endometriosis and endometrial cancer cell growth without exhibiting deleterious side effects. Globally, his group (Dr. Stephen Safe) has been a pioneer for studying the orphan nuclear receptor, NR4A1 and they have discovered a series of potent ligands for this receptor. Studies in their laboratory have identified and characterized the orphan nuclear receptor 4A1 (NR4A1, Nur77) as a novel drug target in hormone-dependent (i.e., breast) cancer and other hormone-independent solid tumors including lung, pancreatic, colon, and kidney cancers and rhabdomyosarcoma.

Dr. Mohankumar's specific research for this award was identifying flavonoids as a novel class of NR4A1 ligands and showing that both quercetin and kaempferol bind NR4A1. He first determined that NR4A1 was an important regulator of endometriosis and then screened the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol to identify the most effective ligand using stromal and epithelial cells as a model for endometriosis. Treatment of these cells with flavonoids such as quercetin and kaempferol inhibited cell growth and related genes. These compounds exhibited NR4A1 antagonist activities in both functional and transactivation assays in endometriotic and endometrial cancer cells. Also, in this study he used flavonoid-derived NR4A1 ligands (antagonists) to investigate their effects on mTOR signaling. The results showed the importance and pro-endometriotic role of NR4A1 in endometriosis and also demonstrated for the first time that flavonoid-derived NR4A1 antagonists represent a novel class of mTOR inhibitors, which is a signaling pathway being extensively investigated in endometriosis and is considered a potential therapeutic target.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Osama Abdulla
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD Candidate
Institution/Affiliation: University of South Carolina School of Medicine

Mr. Abdulla was so happy and grateful when he got the email about winning this award. He thanked the Society for the award and indicated he was speechless and that this would motivate him to work more and more to get awards to get that amazing feeling again.  

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Itishree Kaushik
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD Candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Ms. Kaushik was extremely overjoyed to receive this award. She indicated that receiving the Carcinogenesis Specialty Section award for students working on cancer research is extremely precious.

Her study focuses on identification of the anti-cancer effects of a novel anthelmintic compound moxidectin. Her team's study for the first time identified the role of Protein Kinase A (PKA) in the progression of pediatric medulloblastoma.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Rupesh Shrestha
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, PhD Candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Mr. Shrestha was extremely delighted and thrilled to win this award. This achievement has further encouraged him to devote himself into his research. It has strengthened his belief in the idea — if you work hard, you will be rewarded. The financial help from this award has also helped him to cover for the registration and abstract submission for SOT Annual Meeting this year. This is going to help him further when he will apply for SOT in 2022.

Mr. Shrestha is currently working on research focusing on the effects of a novel series of small molecules that are antagonists of NR4A1, a crucial receptor in rhabdomyosarcoma. His long-term goal is to discover drugs that are less toxic and more effective in rhabdomyosarcoma treatment. He won this award for finding that NR4A1 regulates G9a, a gene that has pro-oncogenic functions in many cancers, including rhabdomyosarcoma, and is a key regulator in cancer cell growth, survival, and migration. He further discovered that NR4A1 antagonists can reduce the expression of G9a and affect the expression of G9a-regulated downstream genes in rhabdomyosarcoma.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Lindsay Volk
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BA
Institution/Affiliation: University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy

Ms. Volk expressed it was a great honor to receive the Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Graduate Student Endowment Award. This award will further Ms. Volk's research and career goals by enhancing her applications for research funding and future career positions. 

Environmental exposure to arsenic enhances the carcinogenicity of DNA-damaging agents such as ultraviolet radiation leading to increased risk of developing cancer. The goal of her research is to elucidate mechanisms underlying the cocarcinogenic actions of arsenic to improve the health of the over 200 million individuals worldwide exposed to high levels of arsenic. Through the inhibition of DNA repair proteins, arsenite exposure can result in the accumulation of DNA damage, increasing the burden on Rad18-dependent DNA damage tolerance and double strand break repair mechanisms. Rad18 contains two zinc finger domains which are structurally conducive to arsenite binding and disruption. Due to the increased propensity for mutagenesis with arsenite exposure, the central hypothesis of this study is arsenite disrupts the function of Rad18. Preliminary results have indicated an arsenite-mediated loss of structure and function in both Rad18 zinc fingers, along with alterations in Rad18 localization. Mass spectrometry analysis revealed for the first time arsenite binding to the UBZ zinc finger domain. Further studies will determine the requirement of Rad18 and its zinc fingers in the disruption of genome stability by arsenite. 

Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award Fund

Recipient: Keith Rogers
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina

Mr. Rogers was extremely grateful to receive this award, and was very excited to be able to implement the program that he had proposed. He hopes to be able to help connect students at small minority institutions such as his alma mater with tier one research universities to be able to involve students in respiratory toxicology research that they otherwise would not have the opportunity to be exposed. In addition to how this program will enrich the lives of many minority undergraduate students, he believes that he will also be enriched by teaching both the background and technical aspects of respiratory toxicology research to the students.

Mr. Rogers's research is centered on investigating the respiratory health effects that stem from inhaling burn pit smoke. Burn pits are designated areas for disposal of military waste to be incinerated by open air combustion without any standard waste management protocols; this disposal system was prevalent in Afghanistan and Iraq, where in 2014 an estimated 60,000 pounds of solid waste, including medical, food, ammunition, and packaging waste were burned daily. Emissions derived from burning these wastes can release toxic compounds such as dioxins and heavy metals into the air, which have been shown to damage lung tissue and increase susceptibility to lung and airway diseases. As air pollutants are known to contribute to respiratory disease, he replicated such burn pit exposures and exposed human nasal and bronchial cells to them to look for markers of inflammation and cellular stress.

Mr. Rogers's future goals include finishing his PhD in Toxicology and Environmental Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill, and then going on to a postdoc and eventually applying for an academic faculty position at a small HBCU in order to mentor aspiring minority scientists and create or add to an inhalation toxicology program at such a school by continuing to create collaborations with tier one research universities.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Nivedita Chakrabarty
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

Dr. Chakrabarty was super thrilled to receive the DDTSS award. It inspires her for further development in this area.

Trichloroethene (TCE), a non-flammable, volatile chlorinated solvent, is an occupational and ubiquitous environmental contaminant. TCE exposure has led to several adverse health problems and has also been associated with the induction of autoimmune diseases (ADs) such as systematic lupus erythematosus (SLE), schleroderma and autoimmune hepatitis (AIH). According to NIH, about 14.7 to 23.5 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. Oxidative stress plays an important role in TCE-mediated autoimmunity, but the underlying molecular mechanism is not well understood. Her team mainly investigates possible contributions of oxidative stress related transcription factor nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like2 (Nrf2) and altered non-coding RNAs, including microRNAs (miRNA) can influence target genes, especially by modulating apoptosis, inflammation, and autoimmunity-related genes in TCE-mediated autoimmunity. In addition, they hope to illustrate the potential of antioxidant sulforaphane as a therapeutic agent for autoimmune disease caused by TCE.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Preeti Chauhan
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Dr. Chauhan felt it to be a huge honor with this award that means a lot to her, and gave thanks to SOT for acknowledging her work. This award will provide her with good opportunity to achieve a level of accomplishment in her research endeavors. She is sure receiving this award will help further upgrade her professional research knowledge and expertise.

Dr. Chauhan's research work focuses on understanding mechanisms by which environmental toxicants and food constituents modulate innate and acquired immune function and how dietary modulation of lipid metabolism can prevent toxicant-triggered autoimmune disease. As she is working in the immunotoxicology area, she believes that this research experience is going to help her to grow as a research scientist and to become an independent scientist along with her strong determination in the immunotoxicology research. Dr. Chauhan has won this award under the Drug Discovery Toxicology Specialty Section (DDTSS) for Postdoctoral Award poster competition. In her research, she has explored the short-term effect of crystalline silica in lupus-prone female NZBWF1 mice. A single acute intranasal exposure of this particle triggered early inflammation, histopathological changes, transcriptome, and autoimmunity in the lungs of mice. This short-term murine model provided valuable new insight into potential early mechanism caused by crystalline silica and also offered a rapid venue for evaluating interventions against particle-triggered inflammation and autoimmunity.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Durgesh Kumar Dwivedi
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education & Research (NIPER) S.A.S. Nagar

Dr. Dwivedi was very excited and happy to receive the very reputed and prestigious Drug Discovery Toxicology Specialty Section Student Poster Competition award. He immediately shared the good news with his PhD adviser, Prof. G.B. Jena, and thanked him for his support and encouragement. This award will help him to get recognition in the Society of Toxicology, which is very crucial for a research career. Further, this award will provide recognition of his work and complement his research in the field of drug discovery toxicology.

Dr. Dwivedi's research interests revolve around the maintenance of antioxidant status and inhibition of inflammatory conditions in liver fibrosis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and early hepatic carcinogenesis in rodents. He has targeted two critical events, namely oxidative stress and inflammation, which are the principal causes in the initiation as well as the progression of liver diseases. For this purpose, Dr. Dwivedi aimed at two molecular pathways, NLRP3 inflammasome and Nrf2/ARE, by selecting pharmacological interventions glibenclamide and dimethyl fumarate. Inflammasomes are the cytoplasmic multimolecular complexes, which initiate and perpetuate inflammation upon stimuli/stress. A medication named glibenclamide, used in the treatment of type II diabetes in the patients, has been reported to inhibit NLRP3 inflammasome and hence could be useful in targeting inflammation in liver diseases. Whereas, the Nrf2/ARE pathway has been reported to mitigate oxidative stress. Another medication, named dimethyl fumarate, used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis in the patients, has been reported to activate the Nrf2/ARE pathway and hence could be useful in targeting oxidative stress in liver diseases. Hepatoprotective responses of intervention agents were evident by the restoration of toxicant-induced oxidative stress, inflammatory responses, DNA damage, histopathological changes, and antioxidant levels. Simultaneous maintenance of antioxidant status by activation of Nrf2 and reduction of the inflammatory condition by the inhibition of NLRP3 could be a rational strategy for improving liver function and reducing the progression of end-stage liver diseases.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Kayla Frost
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Ms. Frost is humbled and esteemed to receive such a prestigious honor from the renowned Drug Discovery Toxicology Specialty Section. Achieving such recognition for her work not only encourages her to persevere through challenges, but excites her to have gained interest from others. She is anxious to continue pursuing her research and looks forward to updating everyone who has encouraged her on this journey with new findings at the meeting next year. She is overwhelmed with gratitude for this award and would like to thank the DDTSS leadership for this recognition.

The prevalence of obesity affects nearly a third of the global population and is also the number one cause of liver disease, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD results from fat accumulation in the liver and is present in 25% of the global population and increases to an alarming 90% in obese patients. If not controlled, NAFLD can lead to irreversible inflammation referred to as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH elicits physiological alterations in the body that disrupts the predicted action of a medication which can cause toxicity. This unpredicted toxicity to a standard dosing regimen is referred to as an adverse drug reaction and is the result of individual differences in our bodies. Investigation into the fate of drugs when influenced by NASH through representative rodent models facilitates advancements in preventing possible toxic adverse drug reactions. This is imperative for the increasing incidence of NASH and its obesity comorbidity as well as the hefty use of pharmaceuticals under standardized dosing regimens. These studies, accompanied by future pharmacokinetic studies, aid in the advancement of public health by decreasing potential adverse drug reactions and improving therapeutic efficacy to represent all shapes and sizes in precision medicine. 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Minhong Huang
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MSc, PhD candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University

Ms. Huang felt beyond thrilled and honored to receive this award. The award was a great encouragement for her perseverant efforts on research work. The recognition motivates her to continue professional growth and career development with confidence along the translational and drug discovery path.

Exposure to environmental neurotoxicants, such as pesticide/insecticide and heavy metals, bookmarks genome in the human brain without any alteration in DNA sequence. Though the epigenetic marks do not immediately trigger noticeable physiological symptoms and can easily be overlooked, they make dopaminergic neurons vulnerable and pose high risk of Parkinson's disease (PD). Ms. Huang's research work focused on this novel epigenetic dysfunction underlying the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease and unravels key epigenetic modification sites in high resolution. Through epigenetic mark distribution and transcriptomic alteration, her results show environmental stimuli and mitochondria impairment cooperate to affect PD pathogenesis. This research provides a novel perspective for studying the effects of chronic neurotoxicant exposure in PD and gives an important message to the local community that environmental exposure can mark the brain and stimulate the avalanche of neurodegeneration in later life.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Kumaravel Mohankumar
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Dr. Mohankumar was surprised to get the email and so glad to receive this award. The value of his abstract was confirmed and the award will empower him to focus on a more detailed study on the mechanism of this disease and the applications of more potent buttressed analog of DIM-C-pPhOH that act as antagonist for NR4A1. Through receipt of this award, the impact of his research will be recognized by the scientific community and this will help transition his career into drug research and clinical applications. Dr. Mohankumar thanked SOT for their support to the scientists of Indian origin, indicating it is much appreciated.

Most of Dr. Mohankumar's research has focused on the molecular toxicology and potential clinical applications of a series of bis-indole derived compounds (C-DIMs) that are ligands for the orphan nuclear receptor 4A1 (NR4A1, TR3, Nur77). His overall interest in the field of toxicology has been focused on development of highly potent NR4A1 ligands that are relatively non-toxic alternatives to current therapies and their potential clinical applications for treating endometrial cancer and endometriosis. His research is focused on identifying targetable pathways and genes that will inhibit endometriosis and endometrial cancer cell growth without exhibiting deleterious side effects. Globally, his group (Dr. Stephen Safe) has been a pioneer for studying the orphan nuclear receptor, NR4A1 and they have discovered a series of potent ligands for this receptor. Studies in their laboratory have identified and characterized the orphan nuclear receptor 4A1 (NR4A1, Nur77) as a novel drug target in hormone-dependent (i.e., breast) cancer and other hormone-independent solid tumors including lung, pancreatic, colon, and kidney cancers and rhabdomyosarcoma.

Dr. Mohankumar's specific research for this award was identifying flavonoids as a novel class of NR4A1 ligands and showing that both quercetin and kaempferol bind NR4A1. He first determined that NR4A1 was an important regulator of endometriosis and then screened the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol to identify the most effective ligand using stromal and epithelial cells as a model for endometriosis. Treatment of these cells with flavonoids such as quercetin and kaempferol inhibited cell growth and related genes. These compounds exhibited NR4A1 antagonist activities in both functional and transactivation assays in endometriotic and endometrial cancer cells. Also, in this study he used flavonoid-derived NR4A1 ligands (antagonists) to investigate their effects on mTOR signaling. The results showed the importance and pro-endometriotic role of NR4A1 in endometriosis and also demonstrated for the first time that flavonoid-derived NR4A1 antagonists represent a novel class of mTOR inhibitors, which is a signaling pathway being extensively investigated in endometriosis and is considered a potential therapeutic target.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Shengjie Xu
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Xu was surprised and honored to be selected as the recipient of the Drug Discovery Toxicology Specialty Section (SS) Student Poster Competition Award. She appreciates the recognition of the Drug Discovery Toxicology SS. This award encourages her to further pursue her research in obesity and asthma, and prepare for her long-term career goal in drug development. 

Ms. Xu's research focuses on the relationship of obesity and asthma with metabolomic approach. Her team identified a distinct metabolic phenotype of the airway smooth muscle cells derived from obese human lung donors. Further, they showed that the inhibition of glycolysis has a bronchoprotective effect in the human small airways. In the future, they aim to elucidate the mechanistic linkage of obesity and asthma, with an emphasis on the metabolism in the airways. Hopefully, the knowledge of her research could improve our understanding of obesity-associated asthma, and identify novel therapy for asthma treatment in the future.

Environmental Carcinogenesis Research Fellowship Fund

Recipient: Idoia Meaza
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

When Ms. Meaza received the award, she felt really honored to be recognized by such an excellent specialty section as the Carcinogenesis Specialty Section. She is earnestly grateful for this recognition. She sees this award as an opportunity to evolve as a young scientist and it motivates her to continue pursuing a career as a toxicologist. 

The awarded project is a collaborative work with her lab coworkers Rachel M. Speer and Jennifer H. Toyoda. This project focuses on how hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] causes cancer. Cr(VI) is a known human lung carcinogen that alters gene expression. Epigenetic modifications may explain how Cr(VI) alters gene expression. Thus, the team decided to consider whether Cr(VI) could alter microRNAs (miRNA) molecules known to affect gene expression. They performed a genome-wide miRNA expression study in human lung cells after exposure to particulate Cr(VI), the most potent form of Cr(VI). In this project, they showed particulate Cr(VI) does indeed alter miRNAs involved in Cr(VI) carcinogenesis pathways. Future work will investigating the role of individual miRNAs in Cr(VI) carcinogenesis pathways and their effects on target protein expression levels. Additionally, Ms. Meaza is particularly interested in studying the mechanism by which Cr(VI) might be remodeling chromatin topology, often observed in cancers. 

Founders Award

Recipient: Michael Gallo
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD, ATS, DABT
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

In a career spanning more than 40 years, Dr. Gallo has left an indelible mark on the practice of toxicology. An early and vocal advocate of rational risk assessment practices, a strong supporter of the application of contemporary techniques and technologies to toxicological questions, a meticulous and visionary principal investigator, and a mentor of students and colleagues alike, Dr. Gallo epitomizes the toxicology professional and scholar.

After service in the US Marine Corps, Dr. Gallo graduated from Russell Sage College with a BA in biology and chemistry and received his PhD in toxicology and experimental pathology from the Albany Medical College, where he then performed postdoctoral training in pathology under a National Institutes of Health fellowship. Dr. Gallo's early career was in corporate toxicology at Rhodia Inc. (Rhone-Poulenc, U.S), as a staff toxicologist and Chief Corporate Toxicologist, and subsequently at Food & Drug Research Laboratory as Vice President and Director of Research, and finally to Foster Snell Laboratory as Vice President and Director of Biological Laboratories. His broad experience in industrial toxicology instilled in him a strong appreciation of the requirements for science-based decision-making and ethical product stewardship. These principles formed a cornerstone of his standards of teaching and research practices for the rest of his career.

In 1980, Dr. Gallo joined the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School as an early participant in an ambitious initiative to develop a major program in toxicology at the university. Under the founding leadership of Dr. Bernard Goldstein and Dr. Gallo, the discipline of toxicology at Rutgers expanded rapidly and attracted many leaders in the field, including Dr. Robert Snyder. The New Jersey Governor's Office, recognizing the value of this expertise in addressing the state's concerns regarding environmental health, allocated the funds to build the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI) to encompass the full spectrum of toxicology—from basic research to public policy. Dr. Gallo was instrumental in building EOHSI into a world-class facility, and his influence on environmental public policy in New Jersey and throughout the US has been profound.

Throughout his academic career at Rutgers, Dr. Gallo tirelessly advanced the doctrine of toxicology. He assumed ever-greater responsibilities in academic administration, serving as Associate Dean (and later Senior Associate Dean) of Research for the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Associate Director of EOHSI, Associate Director of the Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology, and Director of the UMDNJ-Rutgers NIEHS P30 Center. He also was the first Interim Director of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and played a key role in recruiting the founding director and in the institute's subsequent development into an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Equally impressive is Dr. Gallo's critical role in nurturing the careers of generations of toxicologists, both within SOT and through numerous additional professional activities. He has served as a mentor and advocate for toxicologists-in-training for more than four decades at Rutgers and nationwide. He was a driving force in maintaining the Gordon Research Conferences in Toxicology, which have helped develop many young scientists. 

Dr. Gallo has influenced even more young scholars through his leadership positions within SOT. As a founding member and President of the SOT Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter, he initiated training activities for students in risk assessment to supplement the emphasis on mechanistic toxicology; these activities continue to this day. He also has served as Chair of the Membership Committee; a member of the Awards Committee, Congressional Subcommittee, and Endowment Fund Board; and Councilor of the Society. These contributions are all in addition to Dr. Gallo's myriad appointments on influential editorial boards, graduate school committees, external advisory boards, and national committees.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Lichchavi Rajasinghe
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Dr. Rajasinghe was extremely delighted and honored to be selected as the recipient of the  Food Safety Specialty Section Frank C. Lu Early Career Scientist Award. He would like to thank the committee members and the sponsors of this award.

Dr. Rajasinghe's research focuses on the effect of dietary lipids and crystalline silica (toxicant, cSiO2)-triggered autoimmunity. Consistent with epidemiological studies in humans, airway exposure of lupus-prone mice to cSiO2 markedly accelerates disease onset and increases autoimmune disease severity. DHA supplementation blocked those effects. His work, with the help of his lab team, has driven the discovery of autoimmune disease prevention by identifying prevention mechanisms of toxicant-triggered autoimmunity with dietary DHA. Omega-3s are the most widely consumed nutritional supplement after multivitamins, taken by ~30 million. DHA consumption by adults up to 5g per day is considered safe. Given public acceptance and safety of DHA, discovering how supplementation with this omega-3 can protect against toxicant-triggered AD could have enormous benefits for global health. In the long run, Dr. Rajasinghe is determined to devote his career to the improvement of the quality of life of fellow humans by advancing the field of food safety with his multidisciplinary background in biomedical sciences. He sincerely believes the Food Safety SS Frank C. Lu Early Career Scientist Award will allow him to acquire great benefits towards achieving his career goals.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Chittaranjan Sahu
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER)

Mr. Sahu was excited and pleased when he received this prestigious Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award notification via email late at night. Immediately, he shared this good news with his research adviser, parents, and colleagues and also thanked everyone for their support and encouragement. This award will help him to get recognition in the Society of Toxicology, which is very crucial for a research career as well as to identify next steps. Further, this award is a recognition of his research work and complements his research in the field of food safety toxicology. This award has had a positive impact on him. He would like to and thank the team for giving him this opportunity and looks forward to serving the Society as is possible.

Mr. Sahu is working as a PhD student (Dr. G. B. Jena lab) at the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), S. A. S. Nagar, Mohali, India.  He focused his research on the toxic impact on male reproduction due to food and nutrition component deprivation (dietary zinc deficiency) as well as bisphenol A exposure (mostly occurring food material contaminant, xenoestrogen). He got this kind of valuable experience and learning after designing toxicity studies to evaluate food safety/toxicology for reproductive health for the next generation. He has investigated the adverse/toxic effect of dietary zinc deficiency mechanisms perturbed by the bisphenol A toxicity in the testis, epididymis, and in the spermatogenesis processes. Both the factors combined (in food material) significantly showed the male sub-fertility condition during reproductive age in rats.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Milan Prajapati
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Brown University

Dr. Prajapati was humbled and delighted to receive this award. This award will help him continue to attend prestigious conferences such as the SOT Annual Meeting where he could share his research and build up a professional network. He strives to be as good as Dr. Plaa who was a prominent toxicologist, educator, mentor, and a great leader. 

Dr. Prajapati's research work revolves around working with different metals. He is currently studying molecular mechanism of metal homeostasis using models of inherited metal excess, especially iron and manganese.

The research presented at the 2021 SOT Virtual Annual Meeting is focused on identifying key molecular determinants of iron excretion from the body. Iron is an essential dietary nutrient and metal that is important for erythropoiesis and other biological processes but toxic in excess. While our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of iron absorption have advanced greatly over recent decades, very little is known about the underlying mechanisms of iron excretion. It is important to understand these excretory mechanisms by identifying key molecular targets that can be further exploited to develop therapeutics for the patient with diseases of iron overload such as hereditary hemochromatosis and others. 

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Cody Smith
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Dr. Smith was both surprised and honored to learn that he had won the Mechanisms Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award. It was very gratifying to not only be recognized for his research efforts but also his work teaching, training, and mentoring students in the laboratory. This is a competitive award, and he was humbled to have been selected from such a strong cohort of peers. He is eager to emulate Dr. Plaa's commitment to educating and training the next generation of toxicologists in his future career.

Dr. Smith's research is focused on investigating the role of the innate immunity in both contributing to and protecting humans from lung disease associated with exposure to inhaled pollutants, including ozone. His long-term career goal is to be an established investigator in the biomedical sciences directing a research program focused on elucidating cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying pulmonary diseases and responses to pulmonary toxicants. Deciphering these cellular signaling mechanisms will promote the development of more precise pharmacological strategies to target and mitigate lung disease and better inform regulatory guidelines for toxicant exposures. His present studies highlight disrupted surfactant protein and lipid homeostasis in the lung as a contributing factor to altered lung hysteresivity after ozone exposure in mice and established a critical role of peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma (PPARg) in restoring lipid homeostasis and rescuing ozone-induced decrements in pulmonary function.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Elvis Ticiani
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois at Chicago

Dr. Ticiani was thrilled and humbled to be among the Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award winners. He feels honored to have received this award.  The Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award will aid in funding his travel to meetings that offer significant educational opportunities in the field of mechanisms in toxicology, such as Future Tox, and will give him the opportunity to expand his career path by presenting these findings and allowing him to network with peers and experts in his field of study.

In this study, Dr. Ticiani has demonstrated how the emerging chemical bisphenol S (BPS) impairs invasion and proliferation of placental cells. His study demonstrated that BPS can act as a competitive antagonist to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), blocking epidermal growth factor (EGF) internalization and EGFR phosphorylation in human placental cells. These findings are significant because EGFR can impact key functions of placental development, including cell proliferation, differentiation, and fusion. His team's work suggests that gestational BPS exposure may be a potential risk for healthy placental development. 

Over the past decade, the bisphenol S (BPS) has been increasingly found in human urine samples in several countries, including the United States. This increase is due to its use as a replacing chemical for bisphenol A (BPA) in thermal receipt paper, canned food and beverage containers, and other consumer products. Structural and biochemical differences among bisphenol chemicals warrant the evaluation of emerging chemicals. Understanding how BPS can impact placental health is a step further towards healthier pregnancies. 

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Tarana Arman
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD (ongoing)
Institution/Affiliation: Washington State University

Ms. Arman is immensely grateful to the award selection committee for finding her work competitive for the coveted Dr. Harihara Mehendale Graduate Student Best Abstract Award. This award provides her with immense strength and confidence to continue pursuing her career in research.

Ms. Arman's overall research focuses on understanding the mechanistic interactions of a freshwater algal toxin (microcystin) with pre-existing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is the most common liver disease worldwide, affecting almost 25% of the population. One of the primary causes of NAFLD is a poor diet and if unchecked is a risk factor for liver fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).The global frequency of microcystins is increasing due to anthropogenic activities and warming climate. The prototypical microcystin, microcystin-LR (MCLR), has been shown to cause a NAFLD-like phenotype and is also epidemiologically linked to HCC. Her group has previously shown that animals with pre-existing NAFLD after MCLR toxicity have a greater propensity to progress to a more severe liver phenotype. The current research focuses on defining the mechanisms of differential hepatic recovery and possible carcinogenesis after withdrawal from MCLR toxicity in healthy animals versus animals with pre-existing NAFLD. One of the key findings of this study is that despite a recovery period after MCLR toxicity, continuing of a poor diet led to unresolved fibrosis in the animals with pre-existing NAFLD.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Rizwana Begum
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: Southern University and A&M College

Ms. Begum expressed that winning the ASIO award is a great acknowledgment of what she has achieved to date and an honor to be recognized by the wider scientific community. Personally, it gives her added confidence and recognition that she is on the right track. This award gives tremendous support to her ongoing research and is a great recognition of her work and career.

Ms. Begum's dissertation project focuses on vaping induced toxicity. The use of electronic vaping (EV) has recently been clinically linked to pulmonary complications, particularly among adolescent users. Additionally, it has been reported that more than 450 e-cigarette brands and about 8,000 flavorings are available in the US alone, with new tobacco products constantly being developed. Therefore, there is a critical need to better understand the health impact of short-term and long-term e-cigarette use. At the current stage of this project, she is studying the role of lipid rafts-caveolae and planar rafts in e-cigarette-mediated regulation of NADPH oxidases. The NADPH oxidases (NOX) in many diseases are a significant source of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress. The prototypical NOX, known as NOX2, consists of three subunits (p40Phox, p47Phox, and p67Phox) present in the cytosol as a complex and two membrane subunits (gp91Phox and p22Phox) that make up the cytochrome b558. Membrane rafts are plasma membrane regions rich in cholesterols and sphingolipids. They support numerous cellular processes including endo- and transcytosis, permeability, angiogenesis, control of the ion channel, lipid metabolism, and transduction of signals. Recent evidence indicates that this multi-subunit assembly may occur in fractions of the membrane enriched with caveolin (i.e., endothelial rafts/caveolae) and become activated after binding receptors in caveolae. But the mechanisms remain unclear and still need further confirmation with experimental evidence. The long-term goal is to identify biomarkers of e-cigs in an experimental model using resident epithelial cells and immune cells to provide a scientific basis to e-cigarette users about their harmful effects/toxicity. Results obtained from this study would be an important endeavor, as it may provide inflammatory responses to e-cigarette exposure to regulators.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Chittaranjan Sahu
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER)

Mr. Sahu feels honored for the recognition of his research work. This award will encourage him to achieve his goals and energize him to carry forward his ongoing and future research work in toxicology. Further, this international platform will provide him an opportunity to discuss his research findings with scientists and experts in this field as well as provide new directions to his research work and future career objectives. 

The present work is based on the oxidative stress and DNA damage associated progression of germ cell damage, in which bisphenol A (BPA) initiates the oxidative stress and DNA damage, zinc deficient due to diet facilitates the progression oxidative stress, DNA damage, and apoptosis. Dietary zinc deficiency to BPA-exposed rodents resembles the subfertility condition similar to human patients.

The experimental study design of this present work included the Male SD rats (90 ? 10 g; 4 weeks), which were procured from Central Animal Facility (CAF), NIPER, S.A.S Nagar. In the present study, male SD rats (4 weeks, after weaning) were acclimatized for one week. All the animals were randomly divided (n=7) into four different groups: group 1; control, provided normal pellet diet (NPD) and drinking water, group 2; zinc deficient diet (ZDD), fed with zinc deficient feed and double distilled water (ddW), group 3; bisphenol A (BPA), orally ingested with oral gavage 100 mg/day; provided NPD and drinking water, and group 4; ZDD+BPA provided ZDD, BPA 100 mg/day. All the animals were kept in metabolic cages to prevent Zn intake from waste matter and glass bottle for BPA leaching. The total duration of study was for consecutive 8 weeks after which all the animals were sacrificed for further laboratory experimentations. BPA were suspended in 1% carboxymethylcellulose.

Mr. Sahu's future goal is to progress further to explore the different molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways linked to the above research area. 

He found testicular damage associated with the decrease in antioxidant status such as Nrf-2, GPX, SOD, and decreased cell proliferation and differentiation process proteins like PCNA, Oct 4, and Sirt 1. Further, novel markers of DNA damage 8-OHdG and 8-OxodG were increased in BPA-exposed zinc-deficient animals. The present study included some interesting molecular mechanisms for the exacerbation of testicular and epidydimal functions. It was observed that serum testosterone and Zn, as well as testicular Zn levels, were decreased in rats at reproductive age. Serum uric acid, ALP, creatinine, and testicular MDA levels were increased significantly. The DNA damage increased as evident by comet and halo assay parameters of testes as well as sperm. The Zn deficiency and BPA exposure testicular functions were altered, as evident by the damage in the Leydig and Sertoli cells, as well as spermatogonia in seminiferous tubules. The present results provide several new insights into the molecular mechanisms and effects of Zn deficiency and BPA in the early development of testis, which ultimately exacerbated the germ cell structure and function by the oxidative stress, DNA damage and apoptosis-associated subfertility condition. Here, both agents were selected due to their dual nature of utmost determining factor found commonly and affected negatively on both Nrf2, DNA damage, and sperm parameters to prove the hypothesis that exacerbated by antioxidant pathways and DNA damage conditions in testis.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Shivani Singla
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD (Research scholar)
Institution/Affiliation: National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER)

It was an immense pleasure for Dr. Singla to receive this award from the Society of Toxicology. Dr. Singla was excited and felt extremely honored and humbled to learn that she was receiving this award. She immediately shared this good news with her adviser Dr. G.B. Jena and thanked him for his continuous support and encouragement. Further, this award motivated and encouraged her to do good work in the area of comorbid toxicity. She would like to thank the ASIO awards and SOT team for providing such a  good opportunity to young researchers to express their scientific ideas.

Dr. Singla's research focuses on elucidating the possible molecular mechanisms linked with comorbid toxicity and identifying the common therapeutic targets. Various epidemiological and clinical data, as well as the COVID pandemic, showed that mortality and morbidity rates are higher in comorbid conditions. Comorbidities make the medical treatment challenging due to drug-drug interactions. Her presenting research in SOT involves the role of molecular markers related with co-occurrence of Ulcerative colitis and Diabetes mellitus in both sexes.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Shilpa Thota
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MSc
Institution/Affiliation: Southern University and A&M College

Ms. Thota was really excited and grateful when she heard that she was the recipient of this award and would like to express her sincere gratitude for her selection. It is a prestigious honor that will benefit tremendously in her scientific pursuit. Ms. Thota's first reaction was to call her mentor Dr. Sanjay Batra to thank him for all his support and guidance. She was humbled that her research has been acknowledged and receiving this award will certainly provide recognition in the Society of Toxicology. Attending the national meeting of the Society of Toxicology is of great significance to her research and being selected for the prestigious Dr. Harihara Mehendale award will help in introducing and sharing her research with a wider audience. Recognition from this award will further motivate her to pursue a high standard of excellence in research and achieve her career goals.

Ms. Thota is working in the field of Pulmonary Immunotoxicity with a focus on Inhalation Toxicology. She is interested in determining the effect of pentachlorophenol on the mechanism(s) associated with protein homeostasis. Pentachlorophenol (PCP) was a widely used organochlorine pesticide and wood preservative in the United States. Due to its carcinogenic activity the use of PCP was restricted by EPA. It is easily absorbed through the skin and lungs. Since it is an environmental toxicant, chronic exposure leads to severe lung and liver toxicity in humans. To be more specific, Ms. Thota's project focus is to determine the molecular mechanisms associated with the regulation of autophagy mechanism on pentachlorophenol exposure in vitro. Autophagy plays a critical role in maintaining cellular homeostasis under stress conditions. Her goal is to unravel the pathways and factors that play a prime role in eliciting an immune response to pentachlorophenol for which she is using lung and liver epithelial cells, which could be targeted for the development of better therapeutic strategies. The work she will be presenting at the SOT Annual Meeting focuses on the epigenetic regulation of autophagy proteins during pentachlorophenol exposure. Epigenetic changes, such as DNA methylation and histone modifications have a role in the regulation of autophagy which plays a critical role in maintaining cellular homeostasis during stress/infections. She observed an altered global and specific DNA methylation at CPG promoter sites of autophagy inducer and marker protein and activation of histone modification associated with active gene transcription. But the molecular mechanisms affected by acute exposure are yet to be explored; this could be an interesting pursuit as it might provide answers to the regulators of inflammatory responses on exposure. She will use chromatin immunoprecipitation assays for DNA protein interactions and will determine the interaction of heat shock proteins, which serve as molecular chaperones, and autophagy proteins by proximity ligation assay (PLA). Her results are exciting as they provide a snapshot of the molecular events that are triggered exposure and augment the autophagic flux in pentachlorophenol-challenged cells.

Health and Environmental Science Institute Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Student Award Fund

Recipient: Carmen Lau
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, DVM
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Dr. Lau was actually quite shocked because she is not a toxicologist by training, and thought there would be far more worthy true toxicologists that are pursuing more appropriate courses of research that would receive this award. She is deeply honored by this award though, and this award has already aided her research by encouraging her to view the research in a scope that far exceeds her own knowledge and training. To have a group of toxicologists receive Dr. Lau and Dr. Johnson's research with enthusiasm demonstrates that her pathology background could be of immense use in this field, and that she should use this opportunity to both offer her capabilities to the field and allow the research to broaden her own perspective.

Dr. Lau's lab is predominantly focused on the effects of inhaled air pollution, both in human studies and in mouse models. Her work looks at the effects of a component of air pollution called ultrafine particulate matter (UFPs) on neonatal mice during gestation, and how exposure to the pollution in utero changes the immune response to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV is a common human pediatric disease that causes a significant number of hospitalizations in children; a lack of vaccines or specific therapeutic options makes this research crucial in limiting exposures to mothers that could promote more serious neonatal disease. Thus far, they have seen that the pollution does appear to make the murine neonates more susceptible to an increased severity of disease due to RSV, both in pulmonary inflammation and the amount of virus within the lung. The neonatal immune response shows an allergic/asthmatic phenotype typical of human infants who have severe RSV disease, which is further enhanced by the exposure to pollution. Dr. Lau's future work will look to further elucidate the mechanisms by which the UFPs are affecting the immune system, whether it is by a direct, transplacental effect on the fetuses or whether it is a result of indirect damage by a maternal oxidative stress response. They will also examine the role of Nrf2, a potent antioxidant producing gene, in the protection of exposed mice against RSV.

James A. Swenberg Carcinogenesis Merit Award Fund

Recipient: Jamie Bernard
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Dr. Bernard was delighted to win this award. She indicated it will be an honor to give a research presentation at the Carcinogenesis Specialty Section Reception at the 2021 SOT meeting in front of so many individuals that she highly respects. This exposure may help her to foster collaborations between industry, government, and academia. While she perceives zero barriers to her future goals, obtaining this award is an honor and provides recognition important for tenure and promotion.

Her team's laboratory discovered that fat releases a molecule which stimulates the carcinogenicity of breast and skin cells. This independent work challenges the current paradigm that adipose tissue drives carcinogenesis by stimulating systemic inflammation, hormone imbalances, and metabolic abnormalities. Unraveling the complicated interplay between these various biological mechanisms has been challenging given that the existing studies are mainly correlative and many of these physiological aspects affect people in different ways; for example, not everyone who is obese has inflammation and metabolic syndrome. Moreover, not everyone with a high BMI gets cancer. Our studies identified FGF2 as potential biomarker of risk for adiposity-associated tumors that may be more predictive than BMI.

This research has opened up new directions in toxicology with regards to understanding how excess adiposity influences tumor initiation by carcinogens. Dr. Bernard's team has generated data demonstrating that excess adiposity increases the sensitivity of cells to chemical-induced DNA damage and cancer. They hypothesize that this influences cancer risk in obesity, which helps shed light on a major unknown: how does obesity cause cancer? Showing that toxicological risk changes because someone is obese would be a major novelty and will be determined by their future studies.

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Shengjie Xu
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Xu was excited and honored to receive the Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award. She is grateful to the awards committee of the American Association of Chinese in Toxicology (AACT) and SOT. This award encourages her to pursue her research in translational science and mechanistic toxicology. In the future, she will be motivated to further improve her communicating and networking skills.

Ms. Xu's research focuses on investigating the relationship between obesity and asthma. Her team's previous findings showed that obesity exacerbates asthma onset and development. In her current study, Ms. Xu screened the metabolic profiles of human airway smooth muscle (HASM) cells with metabolomics. Her data showed that HASM cells derived from obese donors showed a unique metabolic profile, especially in glucose metabolism. Further, her results highlighted the bronchoprotective potential of glycolysis inhibition in human small airways. Ms. Xu's future research goal is to further investigate the mechanistic linkage of obesity and asthma, by studying the metabolic activities in HASM cells.

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Long Yuan
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Florida

Dr. Yuan was very honored upon receiving the award; it will give him more motivation in his future work and help him to broaden his horizons. His future goal is to become a scientist in toxicology and biological modeling, and his interest lies in application of the PBPK modeling and system biology modeling in facilitating safety assessments of chemical compounds. This award represents a great encouragement for him to keep pursuing his dream.

The project Dr. Yuan won this award for provides some evidence in predicting withdrawal intervals for meloxicam in food animals. The research project simulated meloxicam concentration in broiler chickens and laying hens, including all of the plasma, tissue, egg yolk, and egg white drug concentrations. This work is funded by the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD) program, since the drug received the highest number of inquiries on withdrawal interval recommendations in the call center in assessment of the drug risk in food animals. Also, other nanoparticle projects that he has been working on are also based on drug risk assessment in PBPK based toxicology and pharmacology.

As the area of risk assessment is a multidisciplinary field which requires different skills and understandings for future breakthroughs, researchers should be equipped with different knowledge sets, such as pharmacology, computer science, statistics, etc. The research will greatly expand the possibilities in combining multidisciplinary fields and encourage more scientists to join the group.

Laxman S. Desai Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Itishree Kaushik
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD Candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

The Dr. Laxman Desai Graduate Student Award is one of the most prestigious awards a graduate student of Indian origin can receive at SOT. Ms. Kaushik was very elated and excited to receive this award. Getting your research recognized by the experts in the field is a milestone in any graduate student's life and she believes she has successfully achieved that milestone. This award will help cover several expenses related to the conference. Additionally, she will be able to enroll in multiple online courses that will enlighten her with advances and scientific ideas to progress her research.

Ms. Kaushik's PhD thesis focuses on identifying the anticancer effects of moxidectin, a novel anthelmintic compound. To the best of her knowledge, this is the first study that elaborates upon the pro-tumorigenic effects of PKA/Gli1 signaling axis. Considering the survival and recurrence rate of pediatric medulloblastoma, this study focuses on evaluating the anticancer effects of her compound on medulloblastoma tumors. The study indicates that PKA/Gli1 signaling overexpression enhances the tumor growth. Additionally, moxidectin treatment inhibited this pathway significantly suppressed the proliferation of medulloblastoma tumors by 60%.

In future, she would like to perform advanced clinical studies and establish moxidectin as one of the potential therapeutic candidate for the management of medulloblastoma.

Laxman S. Desai Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Isha Mhatre
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Florida International University

Ms. Mhatre was very honored and thankful to the ASIO and SOT for recognizing her work and making these awards possible. She is grateful for the generosity and encouragement. She hopes that her research questions will aid in understanding the risk for Alzheimer's disease from a more relevant standpoint and ultimately lead to an impact for patients, either by preventive measures or by disease modification. Presenting this work to a large audience will provide her with excellent scientific feedback and significantly aid in her career development as an academic researcher in the field of neurotoxicology.

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a complex and multifaceted neurodegenerative disorder. Older age and the presence of the APOE4 genotype have emerged as significant risk factors for the disease, with reports potentially identifying women as a susceptible group that modulates the etiology of AD. Neuroinflammation has emerged as a prominent player in AD research and is closely associated with the hallmark neuropathologies of AD. This is supported by the identification of more than 20 gene variants associated with AD by recent genome-wide association studies. As the incidence and cost of treating AD continue to rise dramatically, there is a desperate need to understand the interactions between these nonmodifiable risk factors and inflammatory responses to develop therapeutic interventions.

This study primarily focuses on understanding the mechanisms of how APOE genotype, age, and female susceptibility modulate the response to an inflammatory stimulus such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in humanized targeted replacement APOE3 and APOE4 mice. This model is a more relevant translational representation because the endogenous mouse APOE gene is replaced with either human APOE3 or APOE4 variants and they lack other traditional aggressive mutations. Her findings suggest that exposure to LPS significantly increases the gene expression of proinflammatory cytokines in the frontal cortex and hippocampus, with some cytokines showing significant increases in old APOE4 females. Elevated levels of proinflammatory cytokines were seen in the serum of young APOE4 mice, while they were increased in both APOE3 and APOE4 aged mice. Altogether, these data show that the APOE genotype, age, and sex together modify the response to LPS in humanized targeted replacement APOE mice.

Laxman S. Desai Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Ashwini Sri Hari
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BTech, MEng
Institution/Affiliation: Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Ms. Sri Hari was ecstatic when she received this award! On winning this award, she felt that her doctoral research has gained recognition on a global platform and the importance of redox regulated signaling pathways (as key pathological mechanisms) in neurotoxicology has garnered critical attention. This prestigious award will undoubtedly help Ms. Sri Hari: a) in her career transition process, b) connect with ASIO peers and mentors around the globe, and c) establish herself as an independent researcher in toxicology (by supporting her grant application).

Normal and controlled firing of neurons is required for proper brain function. When neuronal firing goes haywire (hypersynchronous and excessive firing) due to exposure to nerve gas agents, industrial chemicals, or organophosphate pesticides, seizures manifest. Recurrent and chronic seizure activity can impair cellular antioxidant defense systems, which in turn can trigger more seizures, neuroinflammation, and cell death. However, a burning question remains: how do alterations in cellular antioxidant status (especially glutathione) control neuroinflammation and seizure activity? Ms. Sri Hari's work focuses on investigating the mechanistic/signaling link between cellular glutathione redox status and neuroinflammation/seizure activity. Her dissertation research addressed this question and she determined that elevating cellular glutathione levels attenuates seizure activity in neurotoxicant-induced in vitro and in vivo acute seizure models. Next, she ascertained the role of the dynamic mTOR pathway as the mediating link between cellular glutathione redox status and neuroinflammation/seizure activity. This research work was recognized by ASIO and she won the prestigious Dr. Laxman Desai Graduate Student Best Abstract award.

Ms. Sri Hari's goal is to gain better insights into the dysregulation of key cellular pathways in models of neurotoxicant-mediated injury and identify novel druggable targets. After her predoctoral training, she will pursue postdoctoral research in neurotoxicology with special focus on critically disrupted signaling pathways to identify new/better drug targets to mitigate neurotoxic effects. After successful completion of her postdoctoral work and gaining invaluable mentoring and research experience, she plans to become a highly successful, independent researcher continuing to contribute to the field of toxicology.

Mary Amdur Student Award Fund

Recipient: Eva Vitucci
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina

Ms. Vitucci was so excited to receive this award and encouraged to keep pursuing her research interests on the effects environmental exposures have on human health. This award will help fund her travel to next year's SOT where she will be able to continue learning important elements of inhalation toxicology research that she can implement into her research.

Ms. Vitucci builds in vitro models of the lung and its vasculature to identify how air pollution affects the blood vessels that line the lung. The ultimate goal of her research is to use this knowledge to help the field identify how air pollution causes cardiovascular disease. She hopes her work will help encourage the use of organotypic in vitro models in the field of toxicology and advance the field's understanding of the role cell communication plays in mediating exposure responses.

Metals Specialty Section Student Research Award Fund

Recipient: Heng Bai
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MPH
Institution/Affiliation: University of Pittsburgh

Ms. Bai was shocked after receiving Dr. Jennifer Freeman's email. She found it to be truly a pleasant surprise. This award is definitely a milestone and morale booster for her. It will motivate her to work harder in the future, and encourage her to overcome challenges when doing research. The financial support will make it possible for more research materials. Ms. Bai would like to express her sincere appreciation to the Society of Toxicology for the recognition. She would also like to send her gratitude to her mentor, Dr. Aaron Barchowsky, who supported her unconditionally, and Dr. Iva Miljkovic and Dr. Ana Navas-Acien, who offered her precious guidance when conducting the research that brought her this award.

Ms. Bai is a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health. Her research is to explore whether environmental exposures, such as to arsenic and cadmium, change the possibility of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases (such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes) in human population. In the future, she would work as a public health researcher and discover hidden environmental factors that impact human health by conducting environmental-epidemiological studies, and contribute to the field of chronic disease prevention.

The research for which Ms. Bai won this award is about finding the connections between arsenic exposure and body composition, which is the proportion and distribution of fat and muscle in human body. It is a cross-sectional study with a subpopulation from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) cohort. Her team hypothesized that arsenic exposure is associated with altered body composition (such as lower abdominal muscle quality, altered abdominal fat distribution) based on the fact that arsenic exposure was found to be associated with nutritional status changes and increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. They connected participants' urinary total arsenic and arsenic metabolites with body composition parameters (such as CT-measured abdominal muscle density and area, fat density and area) by linear regression models. They found that poor arsenic metabolism might be associated with body composition changes, or lower muscle quality, that lead to increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Metals Specialty Section Student Research Award Fund

Recipient: Alexander Rodichkin
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BSc
Institution/Affiliation: Florida International University

Mr. Rodichkin was absolutely elated to hear that he won! Receiving this award will help him to further develop his CV, potentially opening up new doors in the future.

His work focuses on characterizing SLC39A14-KO murine model. SLC39A14 is a manganese (Mn) uptake protein that is responsible for Mn excretion through the hepatic-biliary tract. In the last decade a number of individuals, born from consanguineous marriages, were discovered presenting highly elevated brain and blood Mn levels, along with early onset Mn-induced dystonia-parkinsonism. For nearly 200 years we have known about deleterious effects of Mn overexposure and the associated neurotoxicity, however we still don't precisely know the neuropathological changes associated with the disease. Using the SLC39A14-KO murine model allows us to delineate the effects of Mn on neurological health, specific neuronal systems and use the life-course approach.

Here the team focused on the neurobehavioral phenotype, dystonia, and the dopaminergic system of the basal ganglia, which is typically associated with movement abnormalities seen in Parkinsonism. They have discovered that in the presence of elevated blood and brain manganese concentrations, the SLC39A14-KO mice show significant impairment of locomotor function, coordination, and endurance, as well as exhibit dystonia-like behavior. In the context of the changes in the neurobehavioral phenotype, these animals' dopaminergic system appears to be structurally intact. However, the function of the dopaminergic neurons is compromised as measured by in-vivo microdialysis in the striatum.

Metals Specialty Section Student Research Award Fund

Recipient: Jennifer Toyoda
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

Ms. Toyoda was delighted to receive this Metals Specialty Section award. Not only does it recognize her project and the work of many preceding her, she is excited to bring attention to novel research in molecular mechanisms of hexavalent chromium carcinogenesis. Her lab hopes to fill critical knowledge gaps in the field and eventually enable better risk assessment and improved health outcomes in the fight against lung cancer.

Ms. Toyoda's goal is to help elucidate how hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] causes cancer. Specifically, this project shows Cr(VI) disrupts key proteins that regulate centrosome numbers in the cell and thus may drive numerical chromosome instability. Data show Cr(VI) targets the inhibitor protein, securin, by decreasing gene expression, leading to loss of its critical function in controlling centrosome duplication. These results are being explored in cell culture, in animal inhalation studies, and in human lung tumors. 

Metals Specialty Section Student Research Award Fund

Recipient: Abhishek Venkatratnam
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina

Dr. Venkatratnam was very humbled to receive this news and would like to thank the judges from the Metals Specialty Section for selecting his application for this award. The metals research award will help shed light on the role of inorganic arsenic in increasing the risk of diabetes and other diseases.

This work is from his postdoctoral research manuscript titled Sex-dependent effects of preconception exposure to arsenite on gene transcription in parental germ cells and on transcriptomic profiles and diabetic phenotype of offspring. One novel aspect highlighted in this research is the potential role of genetic and maybe epigenetic mechanisms that would increase risk to disease or health outcomes. His study provides clues that many of such molecular mechanisms are often perturbed with inorganic arsenic exposures. Dr. Venkatratnam believes that the study shows that there is a persistent need to evaluate adverse health outcomes with exposure to metals and that this will help towards emphasizing the role of metals toxicity at SOT.

Metals Specialty Section Student Research Award Fund

Recipient: Xian Wu
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: NIEHS/DNTP

Dr. Wu was delighted to win the award and glad that his research was recognized by metal toxicology experts. It will definitely help him finish the research on metal toxicity mechanism study using human stem cell models. It also made him confident in the future to update the model to better mimic human development using organoids.

Dr. Wu's research focuses on the human stem cell models for toxicology research, especially in the brain and heart stem cells 3D models. So far, he has found them quite helpful in the metal developmental toxicity study. In this research, the cardiomyocyte differentiation model from embryonic stem cells in 2D and 3D organoids has been established. Also, the different windows of exposure including mesoderm formation, cardiac induction, and cardiomyocytes function were used in the cadmium toxicology mechanism study. From the data in the study, he found the cadmium inhibits mesoderm formation, which reduces the germ layer cell population for cardiac induction.  Finally, the cardiomyocyte formation was inhibited and the cardiac organoid function was weakened.

Metals Specialty Section Student Research Award Fund

Recipient: Jamie Young
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

Dr. Young's reaction upon receiving this award was that of surprise and gratitude. During such an unprecedented year it a great feeling to have her hard work and dedication recognized by her peers and colleagues. Winning this award will help her to continue to network with professionals in an inter- and transdisciplinary manner that will aid in her goal of becoming a successful independent research scientist in the field of metals toxicology. 

The research for which Dr. Young won this award focuses on the interactions between cadmium and high-fat diet in the development of liver disease and the use of dietary zinc to stop disease initiation and progression. This project takes into consideration that environmental exposures are typically multigenerational and lifelong, and that factors, such as diet and exposure to toxicants, are involved in the development of disease. Her team proposes whole life, low dose cadmium exposure will enhance metabolic syndrome associated with consumption of a high-fat diet, resulting in liver disease and that zinc plays a key role in determining this outcome. Dr. Young's future goal is to become a successful independent research scientist in academia. She has a particular interest in the sexual dimorphism of diseases associated with metal toxicity and the creation of sex-specific therapies to address such diseases.

Mitzi and Prakash Nagarkatti Research Excellence in Immunotoxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Yining Jin
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Dr. Jin was so excited when he received SOT 2021 Mitzi and Prakash Nagarkatti Research Excellence in Immunotoxicology Award. He truly appreciates that this award supports him to present his three-year study in mitigating the rise in food allergy to peers and the public. The Mitzi and Prakash Nagarkatti Research Excellence in Immunotoxicology Award is a great match to his current research in studying the toxicity affecting the immune system in our daily lives. This award will greatly help Dr. Jin present his result and encourage him to proceed on the exploration of the mechanism of the prevalence of food allergy and identification of the specific causative factor. It will give him invaluable experience and undoubtedly shape the future of his research.

Over the decades, the mechanism underlying the reason why the prevalence of food allergy has been increasing are incompletely understood. The team proposed that one common food additive, tBHQ, promoting immune response to allergens, exacerbates symptoms of food allergy. Their data suggested that this specific food additive, at concentrations relevant to human exposure, exacerbates the allergic response in ovalbumin-sensitized mice. The results also completely demonstrate the mechanism that tBHQ exacerbates allergic response in ovalbumin-sensitized mice through activation of antioxidative responses transcription factor Nrf2. They developed an adoptive transfer mouse model to prove the effect of tBHQ is CD4 T cells Nrf2 dependent. Future work will test whether other cell types are involved in the tBHQ-induced exacerbation of food allergy in an Nrf2 dependent manner.

Molecular and Systems Biology Student Award Fund

Recipient: Lillie Marie Barnett
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, BA
Institution/Affiliation: University of Georgia

Ms. Barnett is honored to be selected for the MSBSS Graduate Student Research Award.  As her dissertation draws to a close and she prepares to enter the job market, this award will allow her to network with other scientists and to expand her bioinformatics skills through attending workshops and conferences. These include those sponsored by the NIH Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences and the Gordon Conference on Molecular Toxicology. These workshops and conferences will contribute immensely to Ms. Barnett's marketability as a researcher when she applies for postdoctoral research positions in the upcoming year. 

Her research focuses on Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) and their toxicity to the kidney. Specifically, she is interested in understanding the cellular/molecular mechanisms that are responsible for BFR-induced toxicity with a special emphasis on how these mechanisms differ between rodents and humans. In Ms. Barnett's current SOT abstract, she uses RNA sequencing and gene set enrichment analysis in rat and human cell lines after exposure to three different BFRs in order to explore these questions. Upon obtaining her PhD, she hopes to pursue a postdoc, followed by a career as a research scientist for a government agency such as the EPA, the NIH, or the CDC.

Molecular and Systems Biology Student Award Fund

Recipient: Madelyn Huang
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Dr. Huang is so honored to be chosen for this award! As this area of research is new to her, she is especially glad to see that this work is appreciated by others in the field and hopes to continue to engage in systems biology research in the future.

In her current position, Dr. Huang manages the design, conduct, and reporting of in vivo safety studies evaluating environmental chemicals nominated to the National Toxicology Program. Her goal as a toxicologist is to advocate for public health, particularly as it relates to food safety and nutrition. 

This research evaluates how Diversity Outbred (DO) mice, which are genetically diverse, emulate the different manifestations of metabolic disease in humans. Characterizing the DO mice will be useful for identifying individuals susceptible to endocrine disrupting chemicals as well as improving personalized medicine for the treatment and prevention of metabolic diseases. She used a machine learning approach to identify metabolic subgroups and biomarkers that are important in predicting body weight gain in the DO population. In addition, transcriptomics of three tissues important in maintaining glucose levels were used to investigate systems-level molecular differences between metabolic subgroupings.

Molecular and Systems Biology Student Award Fund

Recipient: Tasha Thong
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Michigan

Ms. Thong was excited and honored upon receiving this award. She finds this project extremely compelling because it aims to address a pressing public health and environmental justice issue, racial disparities in breast cancer. It really means a lot to her that other researchers find this work as meaningful as she does!

Ms. Thong's research is focused on uncovering the biological basis for racial disparities in breast cancer by exploring the relationship between normal mammary stem cells, genetics, and environmental exposures. More specifically, this project aims to shed insight into why African American women experience significantly worse breast cancer outcomes than their European American counterparts by characterizing differences in normal breast stem cell biology and the responses of these cells to environmental exposures such as bisphenols, which have been measured at higher levels in African American women in population level biomarker analyses. Through this work, she hopes to leverage precision toxicology to achieve the long-term goals of reducing breast cancer disparities, incidence, and the development of better targeted therapies.

Molecular and Systems Biology Student Award Fund

Recipient: Eva Vitucci
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Eva Vitucci

Ms. Vitucci was really excited to have received this award and share her research with the Molecular and Systems Biology Specialty Section. This award will help fund her travel to next year's SOT where she will be able to continue learning important elements of molecular toxicology research that she can implement into her research.

Ms. Vitucci builds in vitro models of the lung and its vasculature to identify how air pollution affects the blood vessels that line the lung. The ultimate goal of her research is to use this knowledge to help the field identify how air pollution causes cardiovascular disease. She hopes her work will help encourage the use of organotypic in vitro models in the field of toxicology and advance the field's understanding of the role cell communication plays in mediating exposure responses.

Molecular and Systems Biology Student Award Fund

Recipient: Kathryn Wierenga
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Ms. Wierenga was very honored to receive this award! It has been a difficult and frustrating year for research, with lockdowns and restrictions. It was extremely encouraging to receive recognition for her work. The experiments she described in the abstract began as a side project, but have really produced some exciting and promising results. This reward will allow her to continue pursuing this project, the results of which she intends to publish this spring. 

Ms. Wierenga is investigating how environmental and dietary factors influence the immune response. Specifically, she focuses on how immune cells in the lung respond to inhaled particles, and how dietary omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the inflammatory response following particle exposure. The immune cells that she studies are alveolar macrophages, which can be isolated from adult mouse lungs, but it is very difficult to obtain sufficient numbers for large experiments. A major aspect of her PhD has been the development of a cell culture model that mimics alveolar macrophages, so that they don't have to be repeatedly isolated. Ms. Wierenga won this award for research she performed to characterize this cell line, including direct comparisons to alveolar macrophages. She has shown that these cells look and act like alveolar macrophages in response to different inflammatory stimuli. She is currently doing experiments where she exposes these cells to environmental particles and assess how they respond to this exposure, and she is investigating how treatment with omega-3 fatty acids influences this response.

Pacific Northwest Toxicology Development Fund

Recipient: Anna Chlebowski
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Western University of Health Sciences

Dr. Chlebowski was both surprised and honored to be a recipient of the PANWAT postdoctoral presentation award. All of the postdoctoral fellows presented amazing research, and being recognized as one of the top presentations was truly an honor. This award will help her finish her research projects, and transition from her postdoctoral fellowship to new career ventures.

Dr. Chlebowski's research uses induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as models for neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration. This particular project investigated the toxicity of cycad plant toxins in iPSC-derived astrocytes of a healthy individual from Guam. These and related studies strive to understand if and how toxins found in the cycad plant contribute to the development of neurodegenerative disorders endemic in the western Pacific, where cycads are used for traditional food and medicine. 

Pacific Northwest Toxicology Development Fund

Recipient: Subham Dasgupta
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Oregon State University

Dr. Dasgupta felt terrific upon receiving this award and being recognized by his peers within the field. His research on rapid systemic assessments of radiofrequency radiations is relatively novel within the field of toxicology. The award will definitely provide impetus and monetary support to present his research at SOT and think about future research directions and possibilities from the constructive inputs he received from the PANWAT audience.

Dr. Dasgupta's research uses zebrafish as a model to systematically investigate mechanisms of stressor-induced toxic effects during development. He is interested in anchoring phenotypic and molecular markers to understand specific biological pathways and molecules that are disrupted on exposure to environmental stressors. His specific research here is to assess the impacts of radiofrequency radiations (RFR), that are used by cell phones, on developmental health and discover molecular mechanisms of RFR exposures. This is driven by several controversies that 5G frequencies have adverse health effects−an opinion that is not scientifically founded. Within the study, the team used zebrafish embryos to show that RFRs with frequencies within the 5G spectrum are relatively benign, but may have some levels of minor molecular effects and minor long-term behavioral effects.  

Pacific Northwest Toxicology Development Fund

Recipient: Joo Kim
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Washington

Mr. Kim was very honored to learn that he would be receiving an award for a talk he gave during the last PANWAT meeting (Nov. 2020). He believes that the award will inspire him as both an undergraduate researcher and student to conduct more research related to the field of toxicology while also solidifying the knowledge he has gained throughout his experience working within the department.

Mr. Kim's project was to look at what influence a gene-knockout (absence) of the antioxidative stress sensor gene Nrf2 may have on the host gut microbiome. By analyzing the host gene and host microbiome interaction, his aim was to deduce how the bacterial diversity and composition may have changed due to this knockout and how downstream health effects, such as metabolism and related diseases, may play a role in further explaining this relationship. As an undergraduate researcher, Mr. Kim's duties were to conduct wet lab chemistry work such as extracting DNA from mice fecal samples, sequencing these DNA samples, and examining these samples to further extract bacterial composition and diversity data through computational methods. His future goal is to pursue similar lines of research on microbiome but in unique instances where we can see how exposures to foreign agents (xenobiotics) can impact the host gut microbiome and thus influence microbiome related downstream health effects.

Pacific Northwest Toxicology Development Fund

Recipient: Amy Leang
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Washington

Ms. Leang felt honored for the recognition, especially among all the outstanding presentations throughout the day. The award will help cover some fees for continuing education coursework.

For this specific project, she worked with the Washington State Department of Ecology to evaluate open access data for chemical alternatives assessments using dimethyl phthalate as a case study. Ms. Leang looks forward to conducting additional research to help regulatory toxicologists and other interested parties fill in data gaps on chemicals of interest using new approach methodologies, while also promoting the use of FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) data.

Pacific Northwest Toxicology Development Fund

Recipient: Joe Lim
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Washington

Mr. Lim has been participating yearly to share projects he has been working on and their progress. He was happy that others were also interested in what he found and the types of projects that he does, especially this year. The award gave Mr. Lim additional motivation to work on existing and new projects. It also helped him think more about scientific communication.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are persistent organic pollutants that were used as flame retardants. His previous research showed, using a mouse model, that exposure to BDE-99 (a class of PBDE congeners enriched in human breast milk) early in life can impact the liver function in adulthood, long after the exposure stopped. Upon exposure, the gene expression of the livers in neonatal mice showed strong evidence that certain nuclear receptors (i.e., PXR, CAR) are activated, which early activation of PXR have been shown to have long-term impact. His team hypothesized that the persistent hepatic response is from the BDE-99 mediated activation of PXR and CAR. They used knockout models of these PXR and CAR and found that mice without these nuclear receptors are resistant to cellular senescence, suggesting a linkage of PXR and CAR and cellular aging.

Mr. Lim's work suggests that PXR and CAR, which are classical xenobiotic-sensing nuclear receptors, may have protective roles against cellular aging. Subsequent investigations are needed to validate this finding, but his work shows that the role of PXR and CAR might not only be restricted to regulating the metabolism of xenobiotics. Currently, it is less known whether there are long-term impacts in the body from exposures that occur early in life. Although the exposure to persistent organic pollutants cannot be stopped in the short-term, through investigating the mechanisms of long-term responses following neonatal exposures, treatment options can be developed.

Pacific Northwest Toxicology Development Fund

Recipient: Gabby Mascarinas
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Washington

Ms. Mascarinas was very excited to receive this award, as it will motivate and incentivize her to continue pursuing research as well as communicating science effectively. She indicated it felt good to be recognized for the work. 

In the Cui Lab at the University of Washington, Ms. Mascarinas helped research the potential harmful liver effects of a drug that helps reduce high blood pressure and other heart problems. She also assists in other projects in the lab when help is needed. She hopes to go to graduate school and receive an MPH in epidemiology and eventually work in a local health department. Here, she hopes to reduce health inequities in underserved communities, such as those living near Superfund sites and brownfields. 

Pacific Northwest Toxicology Development Fund

Recipient: Bruk Molla
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: AS
Institution/Affiliation: Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington

Mr. Molla was happy to receive this award. It gives him the motivation to do more research in toxicology and related fields and helps him see that the work in the early stages of his academic career is recognized and supported by many faculty and professionals.

Mr. Molla's team was looking into how PCSK9 inhibitors affect liver cholesterol levels by measuring the amount of bile acid contents and bile acid processing genes from different tissues. They used genetically engineered mice models and fed them standard, low, or high-fat diets to see the effects in the liver and other tissues. This work in the PCSK9 inhibitor research can shed some light on how these drugs can impact the liver bile acid content levels that may be dangerous. It also sheds light on the importance of having an appropriate diet, especially when people are on medications. Mr. Molla believes the research opens avenues to further studies that can help enhance the human and environmental health aspect of our society.

Pacific Northwest Toxicology Development Fund

Recipient: Prarthana Shankar
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Oregon State University

Ms. Shankar was very excited and grateful to learn that she received the award for the best Graduate student lightning talk this year! The thought-provoking questions that conference attendees asked at the end of her presentation has helped improve the scope of the project.

Ms. Shankar is investigating the toxicity of a class of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that were exposed to via vehicle exhaust, for example. Upon exposure, several molecular events take place which then lead to toxicity. The goal of her research is to understand which of these events are important for toxicity, and if she can identify certain predictive molecular signatures that could indicate PAH exposure. The research Ms. Shankar presented on uses a co-expression network analysis approach to identify these biomarkers of exposure. In the future, she would like to work in chemical regulation, to provide the data needed for assessing safety of specific chemicals.

Pacific Northwest Toxicology Development Fund

Recipient: Hao Wang
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Washington

Dr. Wang was very happy that he won this award. It shows that people recognize his research and think it is important. This award is also an encouragement to him to continue in his research. Meanwhile, the award can provide financial support to participate in the coming SOT Annual meeting.

Dr. Wang's research focuses on the neurotoxic effects and potential mechanisms of cadmium on hippocampus-dependent learning and memory, as well as olfaction. His study found that inducing activation of generating new neurons in the region of the brain involved in cognition can rescue adult mice from cadmium-induced impairments of cognition. This is the research that won this award. His future goal is to investigate the other mechanisms of cadmium-induced neurotoxicity.

Perry J. Gehring Biological Modeling Student Award Fund

Recipient: David Filipovic
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BSc, MSc
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

When Mr. Filipovic first received notification of the award he was beside himself, in a veritable mix of shock and overwhelming joy. He is touched that the research his team worked so meticulously and arduously on was being recognized by the Biological Modeling Specialty Section (BMSS), a specialty section he has always admired and been fascinated by ever since his first exposure to SOT. Coming from a background of Computer and Electrical Engineering and recently crossing over into Biomedical Engineering, Mr. Filipovic found BMSS to be a great match to his ideals of applying mathematical models to resolving complex biological problems.

Receiving the Perry J. Gehring Biological Modeling Endowment Award motivates him to keep moving forward and to keep pushing the envelope in the field of biological modeling. Mr. Filipovic is more excited than ever to expand his knowledge base and learn novel techniques and applications that he can apply to his day-to-day research. He believes this award will allow him to let go of financial distractions and focus on his research even more deeply and will have a profound effect on increasing the quality and amount of research he is involved in, and for this he is truly grateful.

Mr. Filipovic's work focuses on the development of mathematical models that can be used to better understand physiological phenomena (e.g., what exactly happens to a chemical once it makes its way inside the human body?). These models are especially relevant for toxic chemicals that have been shown capable of crossing over from the pregnant mother into the growing fetus, where they can result in adverse effects on fetal development. In order to better understand the relationship between maternal exposure and fetal clinical outcomes it is necessary to have a better view of both the magnitude and the duration of internal fetal exposure (i.e., how much of the chemical did the fetus receive from the mother and for how long of a time did it retain it).

The work he received the Perry J. Gehring Biological Modeling Endowment Award for consisted of the development of two such models for two chemicals used in the production of plastic consumer products: Bisphenol A and S (BPA and BPS). Due to an increasing body of research pointing to the endocrine disrupting effects of BPA, plastic consumer product producers have been switching to the use of less studied alternatives, such as BPS. However, recent research has demonstrated that BPS has similar, if not worse, endocrine disrupting effects. His team's models demonstrate that BPS also possesses greater fetal accumulation potential, resulting in the greater accumulation of BPS in the fetus over time (when compared to BPA), potentially leading to more adverse clinical outcomes.

In the future Mr. Filipovic plans on developing similar mathematical models for understanding the fate of dioxin, a prevalent environmental pollutant. By applying the developed models to data from several different strains of mice, he plans to derive potential explanations of what might be the driving force resulting in different accumulation of dioxin in the mice liver, across different strains. If successful, this work could become a stepping stone towards understanding how differences in genetics might result in differences in chemical fate.

Perry J. Gehring Diversity Student Travel Award Fund

Recipient: Alexandra Svetlik
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: King University

Ms. Svetlik was very excited to receive the Diversity Student Travel award. She is pleased her abstract was accepted to display all of what she has accomplished. This award will help her with her future to pursue a PhD in toxicology.

Parkinson's disease is prevalent in agricultural workers who use the fungicide manzate. Ms. Svetlik's research includes the use of the fungicide manzate and nicotine. With this fungicide and carcinogenic, she treated nematodes with first the nicotine and then manzate to induce Parkinson's disease-like symptoms in the nematodes. This is used to determine if nicotine can help with the treatment of Parkinson's disease. Her future goal is to obtain a PhD in toxicology and afterwards to work for the government or a private company. The research she won this award for shows the pre-treatment of nicotine is neuroprotective in C. elegans. On Day One, she obtained all the nematodes to the same life stage and incubated them for 18 hours. Day Two, she pre-treated nematodes with nicotine, and on Day Three, she treated them with manzate. On Day Four, she performed touch assays for specific locomotion. The nose touch is to look at the dopaminergic receptors. The gentle touch is overall body movement and the harsh touch is for nicotinic acetylcholinergic receptor.

Perry J. Gehring Risk Assessment Student Award Fund

Recipient: Katie O'Shaughnessy
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BA, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: US EPA

Dr. O'Shaughnessy was honored to have received this designation from the Risk Assessment Specialty Section (RASS). Her research project proposes that noninvasive biomarkers could be a technology to monitor neurotoxicity in toxicology studies, as well as in human populations exposed to pollutants. However, if this technology were to be used by the toxicology community, it is crucial to demonstrate that this approach is sound. Having RASS acknowledge the importance of this research is a huge step forward, and encourages the team that they are on a promising path.

Dr. O'Shaughnessy's research as a postdoctoral fellow investigates mechanisms of developmental neurotoxicity induced by environmental pollutants. She primarily uses a rat model, along with molecular tools like advanced imaging and RNA-sequencing to discover and describe these mechanisms. The research project that was recognized by the Perry J. Gehring Endowment Award determined whether the presence of small molecules found in blood samples may be used a biomarker (or readout) of brain damage in young rats. The team discovered that two such small molecules (microRNAs) were present in the blood of animals that were exposed to a toxic chemical, and these molecules were correlated to abnormal brain development. They hope that one day this technology would permit rapid screening of developmental neurotoxicity in toxicology studies, and one day could also be used to monitor children living in highly polluted areas. Dr. O'Shaughnessy's goal is to continue this type of research either as an academic or federal Principle Investigator in the near future.

Perry J. Gehring Risk Assessment Student Award Fund

Recipient: Brianna Rivera
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Oregon State University

Ms. Rivera was surprised to have received this award, and felt it was truly an honor. Receiving this recognition showed her how important her work is to the area of risk assessment and mixtures research, and the need for research at the intersection of exposure science and toxicology. Ms. Rivera intends to use these funds towards virtual workshops in order to continue to educate herself on the existing approaches to mixtures risk assessment. Continuing to stay current and learning new approaches will enable her to not only refine her research, but also ensure that the research is novel.

Ms. Rivera is currently a graduate student at Oregon State University. Her research is largely focused on chemical mixtures and risk assessment. Her research projects involve investigating what types of chemicals individuals are exposed to and how their behavior and environment influences that exposure. Additionally, she investigates ways to translate exposure data to the bench top in order to evaluate the hazard associated with that exposure. Specifically, the project that received this award was focused on developing a novel method to prioritize drivers of toxicity in order to form simpler mixtures which are representative of real-world exposures. The main objective of this work is to provide regulators with an alternative way to conduct mixtures risk assessment that takes into account mixture interactions and other nuances related to mixtures safety assessments. Upon graduating, Ms. Rivera intends to pursue a career in government or consulting with hopes that she will continue to work in the area of mixtures toxicology. 

Renal Toxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: Maxine Abustan
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Upon hearing Ms. Abustan was a finalist for the Renal Specialty Section award, she was ecstatic. During the meeting, she was extremely grateful to receive the award. This award will help her pursue additional in vitro models and tools that can be applied to her current research.

Ms. Abustan's current project helps establish in vitro organ-on-a-chip and 3D cell culture models for renal toxicity testing involving drug transporters. Her research further expands in vitro 3D and organ-on-a-chip cell culture models for toxicity research, aiding in the reduction of animal use in toxicity testing.

Renal Toxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: Jephte Akakpo
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center

Mr. Akakpo was very excited and happy to win first place. This award demonstrates his expertise in renal toxicology and is a nice addition to his CV.

Mr. Akakpo is extremely fortunate to work on multiple projects which focused on elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of acetaminophen (APAP) mediated kidney and liver injury and subsequent repair. He has been investigating the therapeutic potential of different interventions after APAP intoxication in rodents, primary mouse hepatocytes, hepatoma cell line HepaRG, primary human hepatocytes, primary renal epithelial tubular cells, and human volunteers. His role in the lab has been to examine the effects of drug metabolism and tissue distribution of metabolites using targeted and untargeted metabolomics coupled with mass spectrometry imaging. Mr. Akakpo's additional roles have been to investigate covalent protein binding, particularly mitochondrial protein binding, mitochondrial dysfunction, and oxidative stress on the liver and kidney after APAP overdose.

His future goal is to pursue independent career in translational toxicology to decipher the mechanism of APAP nephrotoxicity, which remains unclear. While biomarkers of APAP metabolism are typically assessed in whole-tissue homogenates, this lacks the spatial information relevant to understanding mechanisms of APAP-induced nephrotoxicity. Desorption Electro-Spray Ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging (DESI-MSI) allows the simultaneous generation of ion images for APAP and its metabolites under ambient air, without chemical labeling or prior coating of tissue which may induce chemical interference or perturbation of small molecule localization. To gain spatially relevant information on APAP metabolism in the kidney and its relationship with various renal compartments,  drug metabolism was evaluated in the kidney, liver and plasma of male C57Bl/6J mice.

Renal Toxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: Lillie Marie Barnett
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, BA
Institution/Affiliation: University of Georgia

Ms. Barnett is honored to be selected for the Renal Toxicology Award. As her dissertation draws to a close and as she prepares to enter the job market, this award will allow her to network with other scientists and to expand her bioinformatics skills through attending workshops and conferences. These include those sponsored by the NIH Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences and the Gordon Conference on Molecular Toxicology. These workshops and conferences will contribute immensely to her marketability as a researcher when she applies for postdoctoral research positions in the upcoming year.

Ms. Barnett's research focuses on Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) and their toxicity to the kidney. Specifically, she is interested in understanding the cellular/molecular mechanisms that are responsible for BFR-induced toxicity with a special emphasis on how these mechanisms differ between rodents and humans. In her current SOT abstract, Ms. Barnett uses RNA sequencing and gene set enrichment analysis in rat and human cell lines after exposure to three different BFRs in order to explore these questions. Upon obtaining her PhD, Ms. Barnett hopes to pursue a postdoc, followed by a career as a research scientist for a government agency such as the EPA, the NIH, or the CDC. 

Robert J. Rubin Student Travel Award Fund

Recipient: Itishree Kaushik
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD Candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Ms. Kaushik was extremely elated upon receiving this award. This is one of the most prestigious awards she has obtained. These accomplishments not only recognize her talent and research but also motivate her to work even harder in the future. Therefore, she would like to extend her deepest gratitude to the selection committee of 2021 RASS Robert J. Rubin Endowment award. This award will help Ms. Kaushik attend the 2022 SOT Annual Meeting, which will further advance her exposure to the field of toxicology.

Ms. Kaushik's research work focuses on identifying novel cancer therapeutics by utilizing drug repurposing technique. Additionally, she also critically evaluates the molecular mechanisms that govern cancer progression and the targets of drugs. Her team evaluates the side effects (if any) associated with drugs to uncover the potential therapeutic use in future.

Robert J. Rubin Student Travel Award Fund

Recipient: Shengjie Xu
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Xu was honored and thrilled to be selected as the recipient of the Robert J. Rubin Student Risk Assessment Specialty Section Award. This award will further motivate her to spend more time and energy on her research work. Also, with the recognition of the Risk Assessment Specialty Section , Ms. Xu is encouraged to explore broader applications of her research and learn more about risk assessment in graduate school.

Obesity is a major risk factor associated with asthma exacerbations and reduced response to asthma treatments. However, the underlying reason remains poorly understood. To investigate this relationship, Ms. Xu screened the metabolic profile in human airway structural cells derived from obese and lean donors. Her findings indicate that the metabolic alteration is associated with the observed asthma-like symptoms in obesity. Ms. Xu's results also showed that the inhibition of glucose metabolism protects human small airways from contraction via various cellular processes. In the future, she will elucidate the mechanism of the observations and hopefully apply this promising target for novel asthma therapy.

Roger O. McClellan Student Award Fund

Recipient: Andressa Varella Gonsioroski
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: DVM
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Gonsioroski was very happy to receive the Comparative Toxicology, Pathology, and Veterinary Specialty Section Roger O. McClellan Student Award. This award will help with her future plans of pursuing a pathology residency and becoming a veterinary toxicologic pathologist.

Dr. Gonsioroski's research focuses on the effects of water disinfection byproducts on female reproductive system. Water disinfection is one of the most important public health achievements of the 20th century worldwide, substantially reducing the incidence of waterborne diseases. However, the disinfection process can lead to the unintended formation of disinfection by-products (DBPs) in drinking water due to the reaction between organic matter in the source water and disinfectants. The presence of DBPs in drinking water has become a health concern because epidemiological studies have demonstrated associations between DBP exposure and increased risk of cancer development and adverse reproductive outcomes in humans.

To date, more than 700 DBPs have been identified in drinking water; however, only 11 of these compounds are regulated. Iodoacetic acid (IAA) is one unregulated DBP and studies have reported that this compound is cytotoxic and genotoxic in mammalian cells. In addition, IAA has been shown to be an ovarian toxicant in vitro. Her current research investigates the effects of IAA on mice ovaries in vivo. Her work attempts to elucidate the mechanisms of action through which IAA affects the female reproductive system, specifically the follicles of the ovary.

After Dr. Gonsioroski receives her PhD degree, she hopes to pursue a pathology residency and become a veterinary toxicologic pathologist. She hopes she can combine her knowledge in reproductive toxicology and veterinary medicine to become a veterinary toxicologic pathologist with important achievements in the future.

Ronald G. Thurman Student Travel Award Fund

Recipient: Maxine Abustan
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Upon hearing Ms. Abustan was a finalist for the Ronald G. Thurman Travel Award, she was ecstatic. During the meeting, she was extremely grateful to receive the award. This award will help her attend national scientific meetings, allowing her to present research and learn more about other innovative advancements in the toxicology field.

Ms. Abustan's current project helps establish in vitro organ-on-a-chip and 3D cell culture models for renal toxicity testing involving drug transporters. Her research further expands in vitro 3D and organ-on-a-chip cell culture models for toxicity research, aiding in the reduction of animal use in toxicity testing.

Ronald G. Thurman Student Travel Award Fund

Recipient: Durgesh Kumar Dwivedi
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education & Research (NIPER) S.A.S. Nagar

Dr. Dwivedi was very excited and happy to receive the very reputed and prestigious Ronald G. Thurman Student Travel award. He immediately shared the good news with his PhD adviser, Prof. G.B. Jena, and thanked him for his support and encouragement. This award will help him to get recognition in the Society of Toxicology, which is very crucial for a research career. Further, this award will provide recognition of his work and complement his research in the field of mechanistic toxicology.

Dr. Dwivedi's research interests revolve around the maintenance of antioxidant status and inhibition of inflammatory conditions in liver fibrosis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and early hepatic carcinogenesis in rodents. He has targeted two critical events, namely oxidative stress and inflammation, which are the principal causes in the initiation as well as the progression of liver diseases. For this purpose, Dr. Dwivedi aimed at two molecular pathways, NLRP3 inflammasome and Nrf2/ARE, by selecting pharmacological interventions glibenclamide and dimethyl fumarate. Inflammasomes are the cytoplasmic multimolecular complexes, which initiate and perpetuate inflammation upon stimuli/stress. A medication named glibenclamide, used in the treatment of type II diabetes in the patients, has been reported to inhibit NLRP3 inflammasome and hence could be useful in targeting inflammation in liver diseases. Whereas, the Nrf2/ARE pathway has been reported to mitigate oxidative stress. Another medication named dimethyl fumarate, used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis in the patients, has been reported to activate the Nrf2/ARE pathway and hence could be useful in targeting oxidative stress in liver diseases. Hepatoprotective responses of intervention agents were evident by the restoration of toxicant-induced oxidative stress, inflammatory responses, DNA damage, histopathological changes, and antioxidant levels. Simultaneous maintenance of antioxidant status by activation of Nrf2 and reduction of the inflammatory condition by the inhibition of NLRP3 could be a rational strategy for improving liver function and reducing the progression of end-stage liver diseases.

Ronald G. Thurman Student Travel Award Fund

Recipient: Siennah Miller
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Ms. Miller is very grateful to receive the Mechanisms Specialty Section Ronald G. Thurman Student Travel Award. This year, it ensured she was able to attend the virtual meeting, network with scientists and share her research with others. The opportunity to attend scientific meetings as a senior graduate student is extremely important for Ms. Miller's career growth, and she appreciates the recognition of this award. 

Ms. Miller's research focuses on the equilibrative nucleoside transporters (ENTs) and their role in drug disposition to the male genital tract. The work that she presented at the SOT 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting focused on a specific chemotherapy, clofarabine, and how it enters the epithelial cells of the testis through equilibrative nucleoside transporters. She also showed that it is capable of entering the testis in rodents through the ENTs by inhibiting the transporters pharmacologically. Ms. Miller is graduating at the end of 2021 and hopes to work in a DMPK group at a pharmaceutical company in Boston. 

Ronald G. Thurman Student Travel Award Fund

Recipient: Nga Nguyen
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center

Dr. Nguyen was happy to know that she got the award.

Her research focuses on the mechanisms of inflammatory liver injury and drug-induced liver injury, and she is particularly interested in acetaminophen toxicity and the role of immune cells in liver repair. Chemokine receptor expression on hepatocytes is new and has not been well investigated, though it could function as a bridge to connect hepatocytes to immune cells. The role of CXCR2 in liver repair after acetaminophen overdose and how the pattern of its expression is regulated by Kupffer cells is the main research that has helped Dr. Nguyen win this award.

Ronald G. Thurman Student Travel Award Fund

Recipient: Gabriel Tao
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Houston

Mr. Tao was thrilled that his team's research was recognized by this award. He is grateful to the Mechanisms Specialty Section and the Society of Toxicology for this opportunity. This recognition will propel his career in toxicology research.

Irinotecan is a first-line treatment for many gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. However, its fatal GI toxicity raises safety concern. Irinotecan is the prodrug of 7-Ethyl-10-hydroxy-camptothecin (SN-38). In liver, irinotecan generates deactivated metabolite SN-38G via hepatic UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT)1A1. Subsequently, SN-38G is excreted into the GI tract where it is reactivated by microbial β-glucuronidase (GUS) to yield reactive metabolite, SN-38. In the present study, the team leveraged knockout mice and RT-PCR to study the early time course of irinotecan-induced GI toxicity. Previous studies showed that mice started diarrhea after 6 days consecutive injection of irinotecan. The team's results in wildtype mice showed that Ugt1a1 expression in GI tract decreased after 24 hr. since first dose before showing any diarrhea. PXR and CAR, the two main nuclear receptors governing Ugt1a1 expression, were both reduced. No change in Ugt1a1 was observed in liver. The second experiment showed that after 48 hr. since first dose, in TLR4-/- and MyD88-/- mice, no Ugt1a1 reduction was observed in distal GI tract. In TLR2-/-, TLR4-/-, and MyD88-/- mice no significant PXR and CAR depletion was observed. Interestingly, in TLR2-/- mice, intestinal Ugt1a1 expression was down-regulated without much change in PXR or CAR. This may attribute to other intracellular pathways activated by TLR4. Collectively, the team concluded that after two doses of irinotecan, mice may lose capability of detoxifying SN-38 in gut. In duodenum, knockout of TLRs/MyD88 pathway did not protect Ugt1a1 from declining as it did in other intestine segments. TLR4 plays more important role in Ugt1a1 reduction than TLR2, despite that TLR2 and TLR4 share MyD88 as common adaptor protein. Those results indicated that irinotecan reduced intestinal Ugt1a1 via a TLRs/MyD88-dependent mechanism, which eventually triggers the onset of diarrhea. Their finding unveils a novel mechanism underlying irinotecan-induced GI toxicity. It provides a new direction to prevent chemotherapy side effects.

Sheldon D. Murphy Memorial Fund

Recipient: Minhong Huang
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MSc, PhD candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University

Ms. Huang is thrilled and humbled to receive this award. To her, it is an honor that her research work has been recognized. This award would be an impetus to pursue her research career.

Ms. Huang's research is to learn how neurotoxicants from the surrounding environment bookmark the brain without changing DNA sequence or showing physiological symptoms. But later these marks trigger the avalanche of neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease. By studying these marks, which are technically called epigenomic modification, she hopes to explore potential strategic intervention to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease.

Sheldon D. Murphy Memorial Fund

Recipient: Yining Jin
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Dr. Jin was very excited when he received the award notification. Receiving this award will support him to demonstrate the mechanism that tBHQ exacerbates allergic response in ovalbumin (OVA) sensitized mice through activation of Nrf2. This award will also provide an opportunity to show the public how important his team's research is, bring public awareness of the allergy epidemic, and help the audience to identify what potential risks, such as food additives, we are exposed to on a daily basis. This will be an invaluable experience that will undoubtedly shape the future of his research.

Over the last several decades, there has been a striking increase in the incidence of food allergies in industrialized societies. The identification of specific causative factors has still remained elusive. Dr. Jin's study identified that tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ), a food preservative present in many processed foods, also an activator of Nrf2 (the stress-activated transcription factor), at concentrations relevant to human exposure, exacerbates the allergic response in ovalbumin (OVA) sensitized mice. His team's current work demonstrates the mechanism that tBHQ exacerbates allergic response in ovalbumin (OVA) sensitized mice through activation of Nrf2. The team developed an adoptive transfer mouse model to prove the effect of tBHQ on t cells is Nrf2 dependent. They will test the effect of tBHQ on other major cell types involved in the allergy in future work.

Sheldon D. Murphy Memorial Fund

Recipient: Danielle Kozlosky
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Kozlosky was extremely thrilled upon receiving word that she had been honored with this award. She was having a rough day with lab work, but coming home to this news was the motivation she needed to remind herself to keep going when times get tough. With this award, she will pursue bringing the use of novel digital pathology imaging instrumentation to her university (Rutgers).

Cadmium, a heavy metal, has been shown to cause a prominent gestational pathology, fetal growth restriction in rodents, and has been implicated in the obscure etiology in humans. Interesting, emerging epidemiological data suggest that the developmental toxicity of cadmium may differentially affect male versus female offspring. Data from Ms. Kozlosky's study herein indicate that male mice may be more sensitive to cadmium-induced toxicity than female and control mice. This novel indication won her this award. Future studies are underway to determine the mechanisms by which cadmium causes a sex-dependent impact on fetal nutrition and growth in mice. Furthermore, she plans to look at the protective role of one specific placental transporter protein against cadmium-induced fetal growth restriction.

Sheldon D. Murphy Memorial Fund

Recipient: Lichchavi Rajasinghe
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Dr. Rajasinghe was extremely delighted and honored to be selected as the recipient of Mechanisms Specialty Section Sheldon D. Murphy Student Endowment Award. He would like to thank the committee members and the sponsors of this award.

Dr. Rajasinghe's research focuses on the effect of dietary lipids and crystalline silica (toxicant, cSiO2)- triggered autoimmunity. Consistent with epidemiological studies in humans, airway exposure of lupus-prone mice to cSiO2 markedly accelerates disease onset and increases autoimmune disease severity, and DHA supplementation blocked those effects. His work, with the help of his lab team, has headed to discovery of how immune cell responses, the autoimmune interactions and mechanisms occurring in the lungs when cSiO2 is inhaled using ex vivo, in vitro and in vitro studies. Alveolar macrophages and neutrophils as the primary cells in the lung that responded to cSiO2 and induce their cell death. This sets off a feedback loop culminating in pulmonary exposure to cSiO2, leading to the accumulation of autoantigenic cell corpses that overcome tolerance of the immune system via autoantibody production, cytokine/chemokine storms, and systemic autoimmunity. Importantly, DHA supplementation protected against silica-induced cellular death in alveolar macrophages/surrogates and enhanced the clearance of dead cell corpses via phosphatidylserine (PS)-mediated phagocytic process, known as efferocytosis. He also discovered presence of oxidized DHA species of phosphatidylserine molecules on corpse is the reason for enhanced efferocytosis using series of in vitro and in vivo studies.

His work has led to an increased mechanistic understanding of autoimmune diseases and lupus and has developed means to prevent the development of the disease at the translational level by the consumption of omega-3 DHA. In the long run, Dr. Rajasinghe is determined to devote his career to the improvement of the quality of life of fellow humans by advancing the field of toxicology with his multidisciplinary background in biomedical sciences. He sincerely believes the Sheldon D. Murphy Student Endowment Award will allow him to acquire great benefits towards achieving his career goals.

Sheldon D. Murphy Memorial Fund

Recipient: Lok Ming Tam
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of California, Riverside

Dr. Tam was absolutely delighted and honored to receive this award. It is a great acknowledgement that his research, conducted as part of his PhD, is recognized by the broader toxicology community. This award will aid him in sharing his research with the toxicology community, broadening networks, and building collaborations through attending conferences.

Dr. Tam's research interests lie in unraveling mechanisms for environmental etiology of human diseases elicited by common environmental contaminants, including arsenic. Eventually, he wants to set up a research program and establish himself in mechanistic toxicology. Specifically, Dr. Tam won this award for his investigation of the mechanism underlying arsenic-elicited disruption of ribosome-associated protein quality control, wherein he identified a specific E3 ubiquitin ligase that arsenic targets for its disruption of ribosomal stalling leading to its subsequent decline in translational fidelity.

Sheldon D. Murphy Memorial Fund

Recipient: Eva Vitucci
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina

Ms. Vitucci was shocked and very thankful to receive the Sheldon D. Murphy Memorial Fund award. This award will help fund her travel to next year's SOT where she will be able to continue learning important elements of mechanistic toxicology research that she can implement into her research.

Ms. Vitucci builds in vitro models of the lung and its vasculature to identify how air pollution affects the blood vessels that line the lung. The ultimate goal of her research is to use this knowledge to help the field identify how air pollution causes cardiovascular disease. She hopes her work will help encourage the use of organotypic in vitro models in the field of toxicology and advance the field's understanding of the role cell communication plays in mediating exposure responses.

Sheldon D. Murphy Memorial Fund

Recipient: Shengjie Xu
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Xu was thrilled and honored to receive the Sheldon D. Murphy Student and Postdoctoral Endowment Award. She feels very grateful to the Mechanism Specialty Section committee officers who gave recognition to her research work. This award improves her self-confidence in her research field, which also motivates Ms. Xu to pursue a future career in mechanistic toxicology. 

Ms. Xu's research focuses on the mechanisms of obesity-associated asthma development. In this project, she identified a unique pattern of glucose metabolism in the lungs of obese subjects. Her team also highlighted the fundamental role of glucose metabolism in mediating airway contraction and other lung functions. In the future, she will further investigate the effect of metabolic activities on airway functions, to better understand the linkages of obesity and asthma.

The Legacy Travel Award Fund

Recipient: Kiesha Wilson
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of South Carolina, School of Medicine

Dr. Wilson was very excited to receive this award, because it helps her to network and share her research with others in the toxicology/immunology field. 

Dr. Wilson's research focuses on treatment of inflammatory diseases with natural plant products. In this study, she used CBD to treat a respiratory distress syndrome in a mouse model that potentially mimics severe COVID-19. She found that CBD worked to prevent the inflammatory response exhibited in the model. In the future Dr. Wilson plans to continue to study the mechanism in which CBD works to treat inflammation as well as look into other therapeutics for to treat respiratory distress.

Toshio Narahashi Neurotoxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: Timothy Anderson
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BA, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Rochester

Mr. Anderson was very grateful and surprised to receive this award. He hopes to continue to amplify the necessity of considering inhalation when assessing the risk of organic air pollutants. 

His work investigates the potential negative effects of inhaled pesticides. In this work, they demonstrated long-lasting effects of inhaled paraquat (a common herbicide) on sense of smell in mice, as well as long-lasting changes in the brain. These findings are consistent with the well-established link between paraquat and Parkinson's disease. Mr. Anderson hopes that this work can inform endpoints in future human studies assessing the effects of aerosolized pesticides. His work helps to advance the field of toxicology by utilizing translationally relevant exposure conditions and endpoints; we are now closer to understanding the negative impact of airborne pesticides that humans may be exposed to in the real world.

Toshio Narahashi Neurotoxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: Jessica Carpenter
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BA, PhD Candidate
Institution/Affiliation: University of Georgia

It was such exciting news, and Ms. Carpenter was extremely grateful for this award!

Ms. Carpenter's research is centered on investigating the neurological effects of Gulf War Illness (GWI), a multi-symptom disease attributed to neurotoxicant overexposures (i.e., prophylactics, pesticides, and chemical weapons) during the 1990-1991 Gulf War (GW). Unfortunately, approximately 30% of GW veterans suffer from GWI and no long-term efficacious treatment options are available. For the last few years, her lab has been focused on evaluating the neurological and immunological pathologies after neurotoxicant exposure in two, established GWI animal models. One model incorporates a 10-day exposure to the chemical weapon prophylactic pyridostigmine bromide (PB) and the insecticide permethrin, while the other model utilizes daily exposure to PB and the insect repellent DEET (14 days), stress (7 days), and a single exposure to diisopropylfluorophosphate, a surrogate to the chemical weapon sarin. Additionally, they are evaluating the ability of a novel immunotherapeutic, LNFPIII, to modulate the effects post GWI-related neurotoxicants exposure. 

For SOT 2021, Ms. Carpenter presented data from a recent study utilizing the PB/DEET/CORT/DFP model that showed neurobehavioral changes, brain weight reductions, and neurobiological alterations in the hippocampus months after exposure to these GW-relevant chemicals. Further, she examined the potential of an immunotherapeutic LNFPIII on these parameters and found that LNFPIII treatment improved several behavioral outcomes, increased hippocampal neurotrophic factors, and reduced hippocampal inflammation, suggesting this treatment may be efficacious within GWI.

Toshio Narahashi Neurotoxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: Emma Foster
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Northern Kentucky University

Ms. Foster was excited to receive this poster award! The feedback from judges will help improve future presentations. Competing against graduate students also gave her an idea of what is expected at the graduate level, which will help her grow as she looks for programs. 

Ms. Foster's research focuses on developmental neurotoxicity, or how exposure to a neurotoxic chemical during gestation and lactation affects the brain development of the offspring. While the team conducts experiments to measure behavioral endpoints in the offspring, this study focused on biochemical endpoints. Specifically, they measured signaling chemicals in the brain important for brain function and looked for differences related to treatment and genotype. They would like to correlate this biochemical endpoint with results from behavioral testing. Eventually, they would like to determine which genotypes in mice are most susceptible to exposure, which can be correlated with humans, who have similar genetic variation.

Toshio Narahashi Neurotoxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: Calla Goeke
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Rochester

Dr. Goeke was incredibly grateful to receive this award. She indicated it was essential in her advancement as a toxicologist to have the recognition of an international society, regarding the research she has done this year.

Dr. Goeke researches how exposure to certain kinds of air pollution can change normal patterns of cell death in the brain. The purpose of this research is to examine any potential links between air pollution exposure during pregnancy and later life neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Toshio Narahashi Neurotoxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: Hendrik Greve
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Indiana University School of Medicine

Upon receiving this award, Mr. Greve was ecstatic. It is a great honor to receive an award at SOT and further confirms his desire to pursue academic research. Science is often difficult, but to see many hours of hard work and difficult experiments come together to form a great project that other scientists see as important is a great feeling. 

Mr. Greve's work focuses on the mechanisms through which components of air pollution impact neurodegenerative diseases. Specifically, he is investigating how one major component of air pollution, ozone, causes damage in the lungs, which then signals to the brain to impact Alzheimer's disease. As an MD/PhD student, Mr. Greve's goals are to eventually be a professor actively leading a research group that focuses on the basic mechanisms underlying the intersection of neurotoxicology and neurodegeneration, while also maintaining clinical connections with patients with neurological disease.

Toshio Narahashi Neurotoxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: Hyunjin Kim
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BA, BSc
Institution/Affiliation: Purdue University

Mr. Kim was surprised to receive this award. It is very motivating, and he is looking forward to next year's event.

His thesis project is studying the impact of chronic manganese exposure in disrupting glutamate biology in the context of Alzheimer's disease. His future goal is to work in a pharmaceutical company, under the common goal of getting closer to developing treatment for Alzheimer's disease, or engage in research in other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Parkinson's disease (PD). The research for which Mr. Kim submitted his poster is a transcriptomic study on two siblings with genetic risk for PD.

Toshio Narahashi Neurotoxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: Eiki Kimura
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: National Institute for Environmental Studies

First of all, Dr. Kimura is grateful to all in the NTSS committee and the SOT Endowment Fund for giving him such wonderful award, the Trainee Virtual Conference Endowment Award. Because this award was not notified in advance, he was so surprised and very happy when they announced the awardees. In the virtual meeting, preparing his presentation for the poster competition was a little hard, but this was a good opportunity to recognize the value of challenging himself to new things. His coauthors were delighted to hear of him receiving this award, and he was impressed with the importance of cooperation to perform better research. Although the research results Dr. Kimura showed in his poster have not yet been published, he is able to be sure of the toxicological significance of his study. Especially, he believes this award will be helpful to win grants for further studies.

Dr. Kimura has studied a role of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a protein essential for dioxin toxicity, in the nervous system. Neurobehavioral disorders induced by dioxin exposure have been reported in humans and laboratory animals. However, information regarding brain neurons expressing AhR is limited. In his poster, Dr. Kimura showed expression of AhR in specified neuron population (i.e., noradrenergic neurons) in the mouse brain and revealed a significant change in intracellular dynamics of dioxin-activated AhR at the single-neuron level by utilizing microscopic imaging. These results suggest that the noradrenergic system is a target of various chemicals showing AhR agonistic activity. His future goal is to clarify a function of AhR in not only neurotoxicity but also the noradrenergic system.

Toshio Narahashi Neurotoxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: Katie O'Shaughnessy
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: United States Environmental Protection Agency

Dr. O'Shaughnessy was thrilled! NTSS is such an inclusive and supportive group, and it is an honor to receive this designation. She hopes that this presentation will help disseminate this technology to the field, and has helped her to forge new collaborations.

Dr. O'Shaughnessy's work investigated whether she could identify noninvasive biomarkers reflective of a neurotoxic chemical exposure. Specifically, she investigated a chemical that impacts the function of the blood-brain barrier, a specialized cellular “security guard” that protects the brain from infection and other insults. The blood-brain barrier is crucial for brain health, and is also important for normal brain development. The team found that following a chemical exposure that disrupts the blood-brain barrier in rats, there was a set of microRNAs in the blood of affected animals. microRNAs function as small signaling molecules, and interestingly, the microRNAs they discovered in the blood are also known to impact brain development and brain-barrier function in other published studies. They believe that rapid screening for these microRNAs in small-volume blood samples could improve neurotoxicity testing in animals, and could one day be used to monitor the effects of pollution in children.

Toshio Narahashi Neurotoxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: David Pamies
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Department of Biomedical Science, University of Lausanne

Receiving an award at SOT not only gives Dr. Pamies immense satisfaction and recognition about his recent work, but also gives certain visibility in the field that he hopes will facilitate obtaining the tenure track position that he desires. The recognition of the work and its visibility is very important to generate collaborations that allow future developments of the model and acceptance. Also, the award will allow Dr. Pamies to assist other international conferences and continue with the increase of the networking and the visibility of what he considers a very important part of neurotoxicity.

Dr. Pamies' work is focused on the development of new tests to evaluate chemicals that enter the market, using new technologies in stem cells. The presented method is intended to increase the safety of products that could create problems in the formation of the brain in children (developmental neurotoxicity). This is because the current methods used are expensive, time-consuming, and therefore cannot be done routinely. The method consists of the formation of nervous tissue from stem cells to evaluate the myelin formed and use this as an endpoint to measure the toxic effects of the compounds of interest. With these new methods, these DNT tests could be carried out routinely and foresee that substances that affect the development of the brain reach the market. Dr. Pamies is working together with the European Commission to try to apply the method to "The Thyroid Validation Study" and also hopes that in the future it can be incorporated into the DNT OECD guidelines.

Toshio Narahashi Neurotoxicology Fellowship Award Fund

Recipient: Tauqeerunnisa begum Syeda
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Purdue University

Dr. Syeda was extremely excited to receive a NTSS poster award. This award will help offset the cost of a future SOT Meeting,  so that she can continue to share her research and network with the toxicology community.

Dr. Syeda's research focuses on investigating whether exposure to toxins formed during high-temperature meat cooking may produce AD-relevant neurotoxicity. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a significant public health crisis, there is no clinically available disease-modifying therapy. Thus, it is critical to identify modifiable risk factors that could decrease the risk of disease or slow the disease course. Several studies have suggested that high levels of meat consumption may increase AD risk, highlighting the diet's role in AD. While meat itself, often in the context of high saturated fat, has been investigated, the potential role of preparation has received limited attention. Toxins formed during the preparation of meat have thus far not been examined for AD relevance. Recent data from Dr. Syeda's research has shown that exposure to 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo [4,5-b] pyridine (PhIP), a prevalent dietary heterocyclic aromatic amine (HAA) formed during high-temperature meat cooking, induces AD-relevant neuropathology in mice. HAAs induce AD-relevant neurotoxicity by directly promoting biophysical interactions (aggregation) of AD-relevant proteins and through effects on mitochondria. Their study suggests a potential link between diets high in HAAs and AD. This research is expected to set the stage for new and distinct research that will examine the role of dietary toxins primarily produced during high-temperature meat cooking in AD etiology, leading to future epidemiological and clinical studies. Should they find that mechanism and resultant neurotoxicity is relevant to AD, they will have potentially identified a modifiable risk factor for AD. Dr. Syeda's future research is aimed at determining the neurotoxic mechanisms of action of the toxin formed during high-temperature meat cooking.

Toxikon, a Preclinical Toxicology Organization, and Dr. Dharm Singh Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Award Fund

Recipient: Chittaranjan Sahu
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: NIPER

Dr. Sahu felt honored for the recognition of his research work. The award will encourage him to achieve his goals, energize him to carry forward his on-going as well as future research work in toxicology. Further, this international platform will provide him an opportunity to discuss his research findings with scientists and experts in this field as well as provide new directions to his research work and future career objectives. 

The hypothesis of the present work is based on the oxidative stress and DNA damage associated progression of germ cell damage, in which bisphenol A (BPA) initiates the oxidative stress and DNA damage, zinc deficient due to diet facilitates the progression oxidative stress, DNA damage, and apoptosis. Dietary zinc deficiency to BPA exposed rodents resembles the subfertility condition similar to human patients. 

The experimental study design of present work included the Male SD rats (90 ± 10 g; 4 weeks), which were procured from Central Animal Facility (CAF), NIPER, S.A.S Nagar. The Institutional Animal Ethics Committee (IAEC) of their institute has approved the experimental protocol (approval number IAEC/19/52). In the present study, male SD rats (4 weeks, after weaning) were acclimatized for one week. All the animals were randomly divided (n=7) into four different groups like group 1; control, provided normal pellet diet (NPD) and drinking water, group 2; zinc deficient diet (ZDD) fed with zinc deficient feed and double distilled water (ddW), group 3; bisphenol A (BPA) orally ingested with oral gavage 100 mg/day; provided NPD and drinking water and group 4; ZDD+BPA provided ZDD, BPA 100 mg/day. All the animals were kept in metabolic cages to prevent Zn intake from waste matter and glass bottle for BPA leaching. The total duration of study was for consecutive 8 weeks after which all the animals were sacrificed for further laboratory experimentations. BPA were suspended in 1% carboxymethylcellulose.

Dr. Sahu's future goal is to progress further to explore the different molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways linked to the above research area. 

Dr. Sahu found that testicular damage associated with the decrease in antioxidant status such as Nrf-2, GPX, SOD and decrease the cell proliferation and differentiation process proteins like PCNA, Oct 4 and Sirt 1. Further, novel markers of DNA damage 8-OHdG and 8-OxodG were increased in BPA exposed zinc deficient animals. The present study included some interesting molecular mechanisms for the exacerbation of testicular and epididymal functions. It was observed that serum testosterone and Zn as well as testicular Zn levels were decreased in rats at reproductive age. Serum uric acid, ALP, creatinine and testicular MDA levels were increased significantly. The DNA damage increased as evident by comet and halo assay parameters of testes as well as sperms. The Zn deficiency and BPA exposure, testiculat functions were altered as evident by the damage in the Leydig and Sertoli cells as well as spermatogonia in seminiferous tubules. The present results provide several new insights into the molecular mechanisms and effects of Zn deficiency and BPA in the early development of testis, which ultimately exacerbated the germ cell structure as well as function by the oxidative stress, DNA damage and apoptosis associated subfertility condition. Here, both agents were selected due to their dual nature of utmost determining factor found commonly and affected negatively on both Nrf2, DNA damage and sperm parameters to prove the hypothesis that exacerbated by anti-oxidant pathways and DNA damage conditions in testis.

Toxikon, a Preclinical Toxicology Organization, and Dr. Dharm Singh Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Award Fund

Recipient: Shivani Singla
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education & Research Mohali

Dr. Singla was honored and very excited to receive this prestigious award. This award is particularly meaningful to her because it boosts her confidence and inspires her to achieve her research related goals. She is very grateful to SOT for providing her such an opportunity to communicate with experienced research scholars.

Dr. Singla's research mainly focuses on Comorbid diseases and to find the link between the diseases and to find common therapeutic targets. Mortality rates were observed higher in those patients who suffered from two or more diseases, so it is necessary to find the common link between the diseases and therapeutic options.

Undergraduate Educator Award

Recipient: Larissa Williams
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Bates College

Larissa Williams, PhD, has received the 2021 SOT Undergraduate Educator Award for her commitment to and creativity in fostering the toxicology education of undergraduate students.

Dr. Williams received her PhD in environmental toxicology from North Carolina State University in 2010 and performed her postdoctoral training at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She currently serves as an Associate Professor in the Bates College Department of Biology, where she incorporates toxicology into her biology classroom and laboratory.

The mission of Dr. Williams's research program is to foster discovery, innovation, and scholarship by undergraduates in molecular biology, developmental biology, and toxicology. Since arriving at Bates College in 2012, Dr. Williams has been the architect of seven new courses and has provided research opportunities for 36 students during the academic year and 21 students during the summer. To accommodate a wide range of students whose interests differ, her lab offers a variety of molecular-based projects, ranging from zebrafish to environmentally relevant organisms. Dr. Williams also has actively recruited students underrepresented in STEM for research experiences in her lab, and as a result of these efforts, about half of her students each year come from these backgrounds. 

Dr. Williams has wholeheartedly embraced the teacher-scholar model; her involvement with student co-authors demonstrates her deep commitment to engaged student learning beyond the classroom. During her career at Bates College, Dr. Williams has published six peer-reviewed journal publications with 18 undergraduates as co-authors. Her students' work also is presented at regional and national conferences, providing students with valuable presentation experience.

Since joining SOT as a graduate student in 2010, Dr. Williams has been a main contributor to several undergraduate-focused activities. In addition to volunteering as a mentor during the Committee on Diversity Initiatives (CDI) Undergraduate Diversity Program, Dr. Williams has served as a member and Chair of the Undergraduate Education Subcommittee. She also is very active within the Northeast Regional Chapter (NESOT). In 2017, Dr. Williams and a colleague organized an undergraduate program at the NESOT Regional Chapter meeting, the success of which led Dr. Williams to continue as an ad hoc member of the Undergraduate Education Subcommittee, tasked with increasing undergraduate activities at Regional Chapter meetings. Her efforts have been very effective, and other Regional Chapters have begun looking at the model created within NESOT to help increase undergraduate participation in their chapters. 

Currently, Dr. Williams is the Co-Chair of the SOT Faculty United for Toxicology Undergraduate Recruitment and Education (FUTURE) Committee. Through this role, she works to ensure that the partnership with Regional Chapters and CDI continues and serves as a volunteer point person for colleges and universities that were part of the Undergraduate Consortium Task Force. In addition to her leadership within FUTURE, Dr. Williams is on the SOT Nominating Committee and is a Councilor for NESOT and the Molecular Systems Biology Specialty Section.

Vera W. Hudson and Elizabeth K. Weisburger Scholarship Fund

Recipient: Lillie Marie Barnett
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, BA
Institution/Affiliation: University of Georgia

Ms. Barnett is honored to be selected for the Vera W. Hudson & Elizabeth K. Weisburger Student Award. As her dissertation draws to a close and as she prepares to enter the job market, this award will allow her to network with other scientists and to expand her bioinformatics skills through attending workshops and conferences. These include those sponsored by the NIH Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences and the Gordon Conference on Molecular Toxicology. These workshops and conferences will contribute immensely to Ms. Barnett's marketability as a researcher when she applies for postdoctoral research positions in the upcoming year. 

Ms. Barnett's research focuses on Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) and their toxicity to the kidney. Specifically, she is interested in understanding the cellular/molecular mechanisms that are responsible for BFR-induced toxicity with a special emphasis on how these mechanisms differ between rodents and humans. In her current SOT abstract, she uses RNA sequencing and gene set enrichment analysis in rat and human cell lines after exposure to 3 different BFRs in order to explore these questions. Upon obtaining her PhD, Ms. Barnett hopes to pursue a postdoc, followed by a career as a research scientist for a government agency such as the EPA, the NIH, or the CDC. 

Vera W. Hudson and Elizabeth K. Weisburger Scholarship Fund

Recipient: Krisa Camargo
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS, PhD Candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Ms. Camargo was pleasantly surprised and excited when she received notice of being awarded the Vera W. Hudson and Elizabeth K. Weisburger Scholarship award. She indicated it is an honor to receive this award as it supports her ability to share a unique tool, systematic evidence maps, with fellow students and toxicologists. 

Ms. Camargo's research aims to characterize complex environmental mixtures within Galveston Bay and Houston Ship Channel (GB/HSC) soils and sediments. By understanding which chemicals are present in these two environmental media, her goal is to continue improving exposure assessments conducted for disaster response research (DR2), public health, and environmental toxicology. Given Ms. Camargo's interest in exposure science and its relation to mixtures toxicology, her future goals are to continue characterizing environmental exposures and to understand their toxicological components for mixture research. She also plans to continue supporting future toxicologists through SOT's Undergraduate Diversity Program. This award helps support her research where a systematic evidence map (SEM) was used to determine if a baseline chemical dataset for GB/HSC sediments. By evaluating published data from historical and current sources, one visualizes knowledge gaps while also assessing for relevant trends within the literature. SEMs are useful tools for toxicology as they serve as a preliminary assessment of data possibly available for a systematic review.

Vera W. Hudson and Elizabeth K. Weisburger Scholarship Fund

Recipient: Melissa Wilkinson
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Wilkinson was so pleased to learn that she has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 Women in Toxicology Special Interest Group Vera W. Hudson and Elizabeth K. Weisburger Scholarship Fund Student Award. This award is such an honor to receive as a first generation college student and woman pursuing a degree in toxicology. It can be very difficult at times being a woman in science and achieving this recognition from her peers, accomplished women in STEM, will help her to push forward and try to achieve more in her graduate career. 

Ms. Wilkinson's current research focuses on acute lung injury and interstitial lung diseases, which effect hundreds of thousands of people and have no promising therapies or treatments. She is utilizing a novel compound, nitrated-fatty acids, to mitigate inflammation and fibrosis associated with these disease states, in hopes of improving long-term outcomes. She utilizes a mouse model of interstitial lung disease to look at the effects of this compound on the disease state and utilize flow cytometry and single cell western blotting to determine phenotypic changes in macrophage and mesenchymal cell populations associated with disease progression. The team has found that nitrated-fatty acids are able to reduce macrophage activation in acute lung injury and are currently investigating them in interstitial lung disease. Ms. Wilkinson is also looking into the mechanism by which this compound is able to elicit these anti-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic effects in the lung via metabolic profiling and signal transduction pathway analysis. 

Ultimately, Ms. Wilkinson would like to work as a science policy advisor in an executive branch agency prior to the completion of her PhD. She is currently an Eagleton Institute of Politics Graduate Fellow and is interning at the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services. She would love to be able to take her knowledge of STEM and use it to bring science to the forefront on Capitol Hill. Being a liaison between science and policy making is so important, now more than ever. She would love help bridge that gap and make the importance of science and research known in our government.

Young Soo Choi Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Rebecca Kim
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: NYU Langone Medical Center

Ms. Kim's reaction upon receiving this award was excitement at both the opportunity to represent the KTAA as a graduate student award recipient, and the opportunities the award would help her pursue. She felt it inspiring to see the representation of a Korean American scientist who has raised the bar in the pursuit of higher education and research. It is her hope that the research and outreach that she is able to do with this scholarship will help her to one day be in a position where she can mentor and pay forward opportunities onto others, especially to young scientists in the Korean community. 

The receipt of the Choi Scholarship will assist in her graduate training by helping her to develop her skills as a scientist and science communicator. She pursued toxicology as a career because of its proximity to and importance in our daily lives. Toxicology allows her to apply her love of science to real-life exposure scenarios that have the potential to improve the lives of others.

In addition to this, the Choi Scholarship will help her to expand her professional network, practice her presentation skills, and engage with more scientists by attending multiple conferences. She values the time and dialogue at conferences like SOT, where scientists are able to interact across sub-fields and share ideas. SOT opened up doors for her and introduced her to branches of toxicology that she did not know existed, and she hopes to explore this even further.

Her current project focuses on gut microbiome dysbiosis, e.g., such as resulting from the consumption of contaminated sea food. Gut dysbiosis is suspected to be linked to multiple conditions including diabetes and CVD. The communities that suffer most from these exposures are often underprivileged and minority communities. Ms. Kim hopes that greater outreach and transparency will help alleviate the unequal burden and give community members the ability to speak up for change.

One of her goals as a young scientist and graduate student is to help 'translate' and communicate science for broader audiences. She hopes to encourage greater dialogue and scientific literacy within communities through toxicology research. 

Yves Alarie Scholarship Fund

Recipient: Shagun Krishna
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: National Toxicology Program, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Dr. Krishna was extremely honored and excited to be chosen for this award. It feels wonderful to receive recognition for her work from the broader scientific community. This award is particularly meaningful because it invokes a great deal of confidence and momentum in realizing her goals in research career. She would like to thank Dr. Alarie for being so generous and sponsoring the diversity award. This award will really help young researchers to expand their computational toxicology skill set. She would take this opportunity to thank her mentor, Dr. Nicole Kleinstreuer, acting director, NICEATM, for her wonderful mentorship, guidance, constant support, and encouragement.

Dr. Krishna works in the field of computational toxicology in the cardiovascular space. The heart and vascular system are vulnerable to several environmental agents, such as pesticides, flame retardants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), plasticizers, ambient air pollution, and metals. However, in general, the cardiotoxic potential of these environmental chemicals is relatively understudied. She is involved in designing strategic paradigm to screen for potential environmental chemical cardiotoxicity that may also help in preclinical testing to identify pharmaceutical CV safety liabilities. To screen compounds for potential CV effects, she is leveraging in silico tools and in vitro high-throughput screening (HTS) data. She led a project to interpret high-throughput screening (HTS) data from the Tox21 and ToxCast research program, map the HTS assay targets to biological pathways that represent key failure modes in cardiovascular disease, and use the observed patterns of bioactivity to screen and rank over 1000 chemicals for their potential cardiotoxicity. Dr. Krishna is currently working to generate in silico predictive models that can provide predictions of CV toxic events across large numbers of chemicals. An evaluation of the effect of environmental chemicals on hERG channel function can help inform the potential public health risks of these compounds. With the help of quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS) data, utilizing a set of molecular descriptors covering physicochemical and chemical structural properties, various clustering was applied to characterize chemicals inhibiting hERG. Machine learning approaches were applied to build statistical quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSAR) models to predict the probability of a chemical to inhibit hERG protein. This tiered clustering and predictive modeling approach appears useful for the detection of environmental chemicals that merit more extensive evaluation for cardiotoxicity and provides useful structural information that might be used for predicting the ability of new chemical entities to induce hERG inhibition. In the future, she hopes to continue working at the intersection of big data, computational models, and toxicity testing, contributing to the development of more efficient and mechanism-based, animal-free chemical risk assessments.