Historical Archive of Endowment Fund Award Recipients

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: Elise Hickman
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dr. Hickman was really excited to receive this award in recognition of her work and that of her collaborators! She expressed they believe this is an impactful project and it is encouraging to see that others think so too. This award will help Dr. Hickman pursue her research by allowing her to network with newer-to-her specialty sections in the field of her postdoctoral training, and by providing funding to help with travel costs to SOT. 

Dr. Hickman's research generally is focused on the effects of inhaled toxicants on the respiratory system. Her doctoral research investigated how e-cigarettes affect respiratory immune cells using human in vitro and in vivo approaches. In her postdoctoral research, Dr. Hickman's focuses include understanding wildfire smoke mixtures toxicity using in vitro and computational approaches and the role of extracellular vesicles in respiratory responses to toxicants using human clinical samples. She is also interested in exploring and developing integrated computational analysis methods for toxicologic data. In this specific project, she performed benchmark dose-response modeling to assess interindividual variability in response to acrolein exposure using data derived from an in vitro co-culture model of the respiratory system. This study is among the first to combine in vitro primary co-culture models with advanced computational modeling to expand human response variability assessments in new approach methods-based risk assessment. Dr. Hickman's future goal is to lead an academic research lab. 

Andersen/Clewell Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Long Yuan
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Florida

Dr. Yuan was very honored upon receiving the award; it will give him more motivation in future work and help to broaden his horizons.

Currently one of Dr. Yuan's projects is the "Development and Application of a Web-Based Interactive Pharmacokinetic (iPBPK) Model for Meloxicam in Broiler Chickens and Laying Hens," which provides them some evidence in predicting withdrawal intervals for meloxicam in food animals. 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 biological modeling in PBPK based toxicology and pharmacology.

 

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.

 

Andersen/Clewell Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Qiran Chen
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD Candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Indiana University Bloomington

Ms. Chen was extremely honored to have been recognized. This award is particularly meaningful to her because it boosts her confidence and inspires her to achieve her career goals. It was also her pleasure to have such an opportunity to communicate with intelligent scholars in RASS. 

Ms. Chen's work focuses on the improvement of risk assessment through innovative statistical and analytical methodologies. The long-term goal of this research is develop a methodological framework that integrates mechanistic plausibility, experimental data, and uncertainty and variability into dose-response analysis in support of probabilistic carcinogen risk assessment. Her current study is to establish a new approach for dose-response assessment for carcinogens with the quantitative information of its mode of action.

Andersen/Clewell Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Wei-Chun Chou
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Institute of Computational Comparative Medicine at Kansas State University

Dr. Chou felt very honored and appreciated receiving this prestigious award, which raised his confidence and inspiration to chase his dream of seeking knowledge. This award has not only given a positive impact on him but also highly recognized his research. Dr. Chou feels his future academic journey will begin with this single step. In this study, Dr. Chou developed and validated a robust PBPK model in four species (mice, rats, monkeys, and humans). He used an advanced Bayesian analysis with Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) simulation to optimize parameter estimates and to characterize the parameter uncertainty across all species. This work will help fill the gap in the derivation of human health-based guidance value for PFOS extrapolation from animal studies. Another unique aspect of his work is that he will open all model code to ensure his work is of high scientific quality, rigorous, and reproducible. In the future, he will apply this method and model to other other perfluoroalkyl substances if data available.

Andersen/Clewell Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Yi-Hsien Cheng
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Institute of Computational Comparative Medicine (ICCM), Kansas State University

Dr. Cheng was really excited and grateful when she was informed she was a recipient of this award. She was honored by the chance to get to know and be recognized by scientists sharing similar research interests and by scientists from various research fields as well. Her career goal is to become an independent investigator in academia, research institute, or industry. Recognition from this award will greatly help her pursue excellence in future research and to achieve her career goals.

Dr. Cheng's research is related to construct physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) models to predict external-to-internal dosimetry of nanomaterials in target tissue/organ and to conduct probabilistic risk assessments with anticipation to gain further insights into the in vivo pharmacokinetics, toxicity, and risk of nanomaterials. Details of the awarded study: She and her team conducted an integrated and probabilistic risk assessment of AuNPs based on published in vitro and in vivo toxicity studies coupled to a physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) model. Specifically, dose-response relationships were characterized based on cell viability assays in various human cell types. A previously developed and validated human PBPK model for AuNPs was applied to quantify internal concentrations in liver, kidney, skin and venous plasma. By applying a Bayesian-based probabilistic risk assessment approach incorporating Monte Carlo simulation, probable human cell death fractions were characterized. Additionally, she and her team implemented in vitro to in vivo and animal-to-human extrapolation approaches to independently estimate external exposure levels of AuNPs that caused minimal toxicity. The analyses conducted provide insights into safety evaluation, risk prediction, and point of departure estimation of AuNP exposure for humans and illustrate an approach that could be applied to other NPs when sufficient data are available.

Angelo Furgiuele Young Investigator Technology Award Fund

Recipient: Joshua Robinson
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Dr. Robinson and his group is extremely excited and thankful to receive this award! These funds will enable his team to purchase equipment needed to establish the rodent whole embryo culture (WEC) model system in their laboratory. This ex vivo model enables the close examination of environmental toxicants on neurulation and early organogenesis. They expect that the development of the WEC in his group will greatly push their research agenda forward to understand the adverse developmental consequences linked to environmental exposures during pregnancy. Furthermore, this research will encourage collaborations between his lab and other investigators focused in the areas of embryology, toxicology, pharmacology, and molecular/cellular biology.

His group is interested in the links between environmental exposures which occur during pregnancy and developmental disease.  They use a combination of in-vitro model systems and genomic-based approaches to study potential interactions. They are deeply interested in specific classes of chemicals, e.g., flame retardants, phthalates, pesticides, which are known to be present in the developing embryo/fetus, which may produce developmental toxicity in utero. This award will help fund the development of a model, i.e., rodent whole embryo culture (WEC) model, in their laboratory, which enables close examination of environmental interactions during sensitive periods of early embryonic development.

 

Angelo Furgiuele Young Investigator Technology Award Fund

Recipient: Katherine (Katie) O'Shaughnessy
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: B.A. Biology, Ph.D. Genetics and Genomics
Institution/Affiliation: ORISE Postdoctoral Fellow, US Environmental Protection Agency

Dr. O'Shaughnessy was honored and excited to receive the Angelo Furgiuele Young Investigator Award! As a young postdoctoral scientist, it is daunting to think about finding a permanent position, as well as setting up a successful laboratory. Especially because of her use of molecular and cellular biology tools, her work can be costly. Since receiving this award, she is more encouraged to continue pursuing her professional goals. She will be using this award to purchase Nikon microscopy imaging software (Nis-Elements), which is fully equipped for both light and fluorescence analysis, cell counting, volume rendering and much more! This purchase not only provides flexibility to perform many different experiments through one package, but also includes a lifetime of training from Nikon, and the ability to "drive" a microscope in the future. She cannot wait to apply this cutting edge software across many different types of research projects.

Dr. O'Shaughnessy studies how changes in thyroid hormones (THs) during development alters brain structure and function. This relationship is of great interest as the brain needs THs to develop normally; however, there are chemicals in the environment that can change the way THs are made and/or function. Dr. O'Shaughnessy works to understand this interplay, in order to determine the risk of chemical exposures during pregnancy and postnatal development. Specifically, she has found that even mild levels of TH detriment during development can cause alterations in progenitor cells of the brain. Interestingly, these significant cellular changes are difficult to quantify without sensitive metrics like quantitative gene expression analyses and confocal microscopy. In the future, she hopes to continue pursuing how endocrine disruption changes the brain as a principle investigator.

Angelo Furgiuele Young Investigator Technology Award Fund

Recipient: Janet Sangodele
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BSc, MSc
Institution/Affiliation: Federal University of Technology Akure Nigeria

Reproductive toxicity is a hazard that is often associated with some chemical substances that interfere in some way with normal reproduction. Ms. Sangodele's research focuses on toxic effects of some selected environmental and occupational toxicants on key aspects of male reproduction, oxidative stress and fertility. The overall goal of her research is to evaluate the toxic effects and elucidate the mechanisms of toxicity of oral and dermal exposure of toxicants and better understand the toxicity in animal models. However, the knowledge of mechanisms underlying the effects of toxicants by oral and dermal exposure is an important way of protecting people exposed to toxicants, thereby reducing the health implications of toxicants exposure and providing means to eradicate the toxic effects of toxicants that can affect reproduction and influence fertility.

Boehringer Ingelheim Biotherapeutic Safety Excellence Fund

Recipient: Naresh  Sah
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PharmD
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Dr. Sah is truly honored and humbled to have received this incredible award. He would like to thank the selection committee for finding his application competitive. He is immensely grateful for this Scholarship! This fund will offset the travel expense to AACR ANNUAL MEETING 2023, and attending this conference will add one more step forward in his career path. This will be Dr. Sah's first time attending this conference, which will help him better understand the ovarian tumor microenvironment, tumor progression, inflammation, and strategies to employ immunotherapy in new models to test his hypothesis. This will upgrade Dr. Sah's research to a new level by identifying novel targeted and precision therapy for ovarian cancer. Further, this conference will help Dr. Sah grow his research network (meet the brightest scientists in the world) and potentially connect with the important stakeholders of the job market. Through this conference, he is excited to learn new skills/approaches and troubleshoot his current research problems by incorporating their important feedback on his approach and findings. This will also boost his self-confidence in public speaking by pushing him to step out of his comfort zone. The education and training ideas Dr. Sah anticipates receiving will transform him into a more mature researcher and help him to grow professionally and personally. 

Dr. Sah is currently working on initiating a Phase I clinical trial with a novel 2nd generation nanoscale drug (CF10), a novel compound. The development of CF10 has the potential to ease the current global burden rate of colorectal cancer which is expected to increase by 60% to more than 2.2 million new cases and 1.1 million deaths by 2030. CF10 might increase the 5-year survival rate for patients with stage IV CRC which is less than 10% in the current scenario. As seen in his in-vivo study, the ability of CF10 to treat metastatic colorectal cancer can improve the prognosis in patients with metastasis which has remained extremely poor so far. Dr. Sah's research also emphasizes crosstalk between altered oncogenic signals with tumor suppressors in regulating cell cycle and DNA repair and their contribution to therapeutic resistance. He is very excited to see the translational relevance of his experiments for treating resistant colorectal cancers (CRCs). 

These experiences/networking will help Dr. Sah to pursue better postdoctoral training in a good lab with a relevant but distinct research focus to expand his research expertise and skill set and become more competitive and independent. The discovery of a novel drug for the treatment of metastatic and resistant CRCs will add more meaning to his Pharm.D. background. Finding an innovative solution from a collaborative approach would help him to develop higher-level critical thinking skills. Dr. Sah's long-term professional goal is to set up an exemplary research lab and collaborate with academic institutions, industries, and regulatory agencies to emphasize the research in translating fundamental oncology discovery into therapeutic modalities. Achieving this goal will not only quench his desire to fight threats to many people, including his own family members, but also set an example that belonging to an underdeveloped country like Nepal does not limit anyone from making their big dream come true. Like every drop in the ocean counts, Dr. Sah sees himself moving, though very little, but a step closer to his academic career goal through this research experience. 

Boehringer Ingelheim Biotherapeutic Safety Excellence Fund

Recipient: Frances  Shaffo
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Dr. Shaffo was very honored to be the second awardee of the BI Biotherapeutic Safety Excellence award. She feels this is a wonderful award that will help trainees take part in additional opportunities outside of SOT, which for her will hopefully involve traveling to the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapies annual meeting. She feels this will greatly complement her involvement in SOT and further her growth as a toxicologist in the exciting field of gene therapy. 

Dr. Shaffo works on pre-clinical development of novel adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapies for rare neurological diseases. The specific research for which this award was bestowed was on the development and safety profile of a gene therapy for SLC6A1 related disorder, which causes epilepsy and intellectual disability.   

Boehringer Ingelheim Biotherapeutic Safety Excellence Fund

Recipient: Ekram Ahmed Chowdhury
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: MSc
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

The award has been very helpful for Mr. Chowdhury in pursuing training related to antibody pharmacokinetics/toxicokinetics, which he is planning to utilize in his research work for modeling and simulation in the near future.

His research interests include targeted delivery of oligonucleotides to the brain using non-viral vector-polymer conjugates, LC-MS/MS based method development and validation of small molecules and peptides, novel blood-brain barrier permeability markers, preclinical pharmacokinetics of small molecules, and radiolabeled proteins/antibodies. Mr. Chowdhury is developing an antibody mediated targeted delivery system for oligonucleotides to the brain in a preclinical ischemic stroke model (MCAO) in mice. For this study, he has developed a library of non-viral vector-polymer conjugates having low toxicity that are linked to transferrin receptor antibody (8D3) or TCR mimic antibodies (RL6A/RL21A). Currently the blood-brain barrier (BBB) represents a major hurdle in getting large molecules such as oligonucleotides to the target site for treating ischemic stroke. Even though there are several preclinical studies showing positive outcomes with microRNAs, all of these studies used intracerebroventricular injections for delivering the oligonucleotides to the target site. Mr. Chowdhury's strategy utilizes receptor mediated transcytosis in getting the oligonucleotides across the BBB. He believes his novel targeted delivery system would be a one-size-fits-all model for oligonucleotides which may revolutionize treatment options in the near future for not only ischemic stroke but also other neurological disorders in general.

Bruce A. Fowler Global Chemicals Toxicity Fund

Recipient: Global Senior Scholar Exchange Program (GSSEP) 
Award Year: 2023

The Global Senior Scholar Exchange Program (GSSEP) funds mid-career senior scholars from a Global Economy to attend the SOT Annual Meeting and spend about four weeks with one or more SOT Member Hosts from established toxicology programs in academic, government, or industry organization(s) worldwide. The primary goal is to increase toxicology capacity by providing professional opportunities for scientists through relationships supported by SOT. In 2023, this program was supported in part by the Bruce A. Fowler Global Chemicals Toxicity Fund.

Bruce A. Fowler Global Chemicals Toxicity Fund

Recipient: Global Senior Scholar Exchange Program  
Award Year: 2022

The Global Senior Scholar Exchange Program (GSSEP) funds mid-career senior scholar Global Economy Members to attend the SOT Annual Meeting and spend about four weeks with one or more SOT Member Hosts from established toxicology programs in academic, government, or industry organization(s) worldwide. The primary goal is to increase toxicology capacity in developing countries by providing professional opportunities for scientists through relationships supported by SOT. In 2022, this program was supported in part by the Bruce A. Fowler Global Chemicals Toxicity Fund.

Bruce A. Fowler Global Chemicals Toxicity Fund

Recipient: Global Senior Scholar Exchange Program 
Award Year: 2021

The Global Senior Scholar Exchange Program (GSSEP) funds mid-career senior scholar Global Economy Members to attend the SOT Annual Meeting and spend about four weeks with one or more SOT Member Hosts from established toxicology programs in academic, government, or industry organization(s) worldwide. The primary goal is to increase toxicology capacity in developing countries by providing professional opportunities for scientists through relationships supported by SOT. In 2021, this program was supported in part by the Bruce A. Fowler Global Chemicals Toxicity Fund.

Bruce A. Fowler Metals Endowment Fund

Recipient: Jamie Young Wise
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

Dr. Young Wise is truly humbled and energized! The Metals Specialty Section is comprised of the best and brightest in metals toxicology, those she has idolized and looked up to since she was a graduate student, and it is truly an honor to be recognized by this group. This award provides a platform by which Dr. Young Wise's research vision will be recognized by others in the field, leading to networking and collaborative opportunities that will help propel her career and the field of metals toxicology forward. 

Dr. Young Wise's laboratory seeks to develop insight into how environmental toxicants affect health and cause disease, focusing on environmental liver disease (ELD). Chronic liver disease kills over 2 million people in the United States each year. However, despite advances at the bench and in the clinic, the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the most common chronic liver disease, has more than doubled in last two decades and remains on the rise. A “two hit” hypothesis has been used to explain the multifaceted nature of NAFLD with one factor causing a ‘first hit’ sensitizing the liver to a ‘second hit’, resulting in disease progression. The “two hit” hypothesis has focused on factors that alter lipid metabolism, constricting the paradigm to a single hit – fat accumulation. Thus, the second hit driving disease remains unknown. Dr. Young Wise's laboratory takes a novel approach to investigating liver disease by studying chromosome instability, a form of genomic instability that occurs when a cell has an abnormal number of chromosomes or altered chromosome structure, as the second hit driving NAFLD severity and progression. Studies include investigating how sex and age modulate these effects while promoting advances in risk assessment and management of two environmental chemicals of major health concern that are commonly found together: hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)], an established human carcinogen and inducer of chromosome instability, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), established metabolic toxicants associated with hepatic lipid dysregulation and accumulation. Research in her laboratory spans molecular, cellular, animal and population-based studies with the goal of providing a platform for the creation of novel target therapies and diagnostic tools related to sex (as a biological variable) and age differences in disease etiology.

 

Bruce A. Fowler Metals Endowment Fund

Recipient: Johnny Wise
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

Dr. Wise received the news late at night after reading a text from his mentor, Lu Cai. His reaction was a feeling of affirmation - that all the hard work he's been putting in these last couple years is paying off. In turn, this award encourages him to push on and continue to push into the empty spaces of our scientific map to find new mechanisms, new links between toxicant exposures and health outcomes, and identify new targets to improve our somatic and environmental health.

Dr. Wise's research considers the interactions of aging and toxicology from two perspectives, which he refers to as a “toxic aging coin.” One one side of the coin (heads), he considers how age determines the toxic outcome of a chemical. Broadly speaking, they know young, middle-aged, and geriatric individuals have biologically distinct brains - developing, mature, and degenerating, respectively - but they do not understand how these distinct biological systems interact with toxicants differently. On the flip side (tails), Dr. Wise considers how chemicals induce or accelerate aging, or how they act as gerontogens. Gerontogenic effects of chemicals may contribute to organ aging, resulting in earlier onset of co-morbidities that impact health and quality of life. His research investigating this toxic aging coin with hexavalent chromium (Cr[VI]) contributed to his merit for this award. He is investigating Cr(VI) neurotoxicity using rats and cell cultures, and am elucidating a gerontogenic mechanism whereby DNA damage accumulation contributes to genomic instability, which in turn contributes to cellular senescence and organ aging.

 

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.

Bruce A. Fowler Metals Endowment Fund

Recipient: Dilshan  Harichandra
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Covance Laboratories US

Dr. Harichandra was honored and very excited to receive this prestigious award. Importantly, this award shows the positive impact that he made in metal toxicology research and gave visibility to his goal of understanding the role biological mechanisms underlying the propagation of the disease with respect to environmental neurotoxic stress.

Dr. Harischandra's research focused on the role of environmental neurotoxicant manganese and in the pathogenesis of Parkinsonism. This award relates to his contributions in decoding contradictory characteristics of the α-synuclein protein, where it presents neuroprotective effects under acute manganese exposures and neurodegenerative responses at chronic exposure conditions. Dr. Harischandra's research shown chronic manganese exposure promotes the aggregation and prion-like cell-to-cell exosomal transmission of α-synuclein resulting in neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative responses in experimental models of Parkinsonism. His future research goals include evaluating serum exosome in a large cohort of human samples from subjects that expose to manages through occupational exposure and establish an exosome-based biomarker for Parkinsonism and related disorders.

Bruce A. Fowler Metals Endowment Fund

Recipient: Somshuvra Mukhopadhyay
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees:
Institution/Affiliation: University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Mukhopadhyay felt honored to be nominated by his senior colleagues for this prestigious award, and was delighted to learn that he received it. The award will increase visibility of his work in the toxicology and metal biology communities and help in establishing new collaborations and interactions. 

The goal of Dr. Mukhopadhyay's laboratory is to understand how cells and organisms regulate the metal manganese, and how elevated exposure to manganese induces toxicity. This is an important area of work because, in humans, manganese poisoning leads to an incurable form of parkinsonism. This award relates to contributions he made in deciphering the role of the gene SLC30A10 in manganese parkinsonism. Humans with mutations in SLC30A10 were recently reported to develop hereditary parkinsonism, but the cause was unclear. His work revealed that the function of SLC30A10 is to remove manganese from cells and the body, and thereby, protect against manganese poisoning. When SLC30A10 is mutated, manganese builds up in the body and causes parkinsonism.

Dr. Mukhopadhyay's future goals are to develop treatments for this disease.

Bruce A. Fowler Undergraduate Educator Award

Recipient: Christine Perdan Curran
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Northern Kentucky University

Dr. Curran has been awarded the 2020 SOT Bruce A. Fowler Undergraduate Educator Award for her excellence, creativity, and success in undergraduate instruction in toxicology and the sciences as a whole.

Dr. Curran received her BSJ from Ohio University. Then, as evidence of her devotedness to the field, she began instructing undergraduates even before she received her PhD in environmental health from the University of Cincinnati in 2007. Dr. Curran began her teaching career in 1992 as an Adjunct Instructor and later as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of biology at the University of Cincinnati. In 2008, she joined Northern Kentucky University as an Assistant Professor of biological sciences, where she continues to serve as a Professor of biological sciences and Director of the neuroscience program.

Dr. Curran has played a key role in the environmental science program at Northern Kentucky University, which not only has doubled in size but also has added a bachelor of arts program in addition to the original bachelor of science program since she began her career at the university. Specifically, she has developed a widely popular course in environmental toxicology that combines problem-based, team-based, and service learning to expose students to toxicology concepts and encourage them to apply such concepts to issues in the community. Further, Dr. Curran has integrated her toxicology training into her anatomy and physiology courses, which more than 200 students take each semester.

The Curran laboratory, which focuses on gene-environment interactions during brain development, is primarily composed of undergraduate students. At 90%, the average retention and graduation rate for Dr. Curran’s students is double that of STEM students throughout the nation. Over the past decade, more than 75 undergraduates have trained under Dr. Curran, and during that time frame, her students have delivered 110 presentations—many of which received awards—during regional and national meetings. She also works toward facilitating success in the STEM fields for women, underrepresented minorities, and underserved populations through her involvement in both the Next-Generation Researchers Initiative working group of the National Institutes of Health and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

Dr. Curran’s exemplary scientific service includes her current role as President of the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention (formerly the Teratology Society) and participation on several Editorial Boards, including presently, as a member of the Reproductive Toxicology Editorial Board. She also is a FASEB Board Member.

Dr. Curran has been a champion of undergraduate education within SOT as well, including active involvement in the Undergraduate Educator Network. An SOT member since 2004, she not only has co-chaired the K–12 Education Subcommittee and the Undergraduate Education Subcommittee, but also has been making major contributions to the Ohio Valley Regional Chapter since she was a graduate student. In addition to serving as the chapter’s first K–12 liaison, Dr. Curran also initiated the undergraduate poster awards and was the 2015–2016 Ohio Valley Regional Chapter President. Further, Dr. Curran is the inaugural Chair of the Faculty United for Undergraduate Recruitment and Education (FUTURE) Committee, formed in 2019 with the purpose of recruiting, retaining, training, and educating undergraduates with an interest in toxicology and preparing future generations for success in the field.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Robert Freeborn
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Mr. Freeborn was absolutely dumb-founded when he was announced as the winner. He was pleased just to be a finalist, and didn't think he had a shot at taking first prize. He thinks he probably looked like a fool when they called his name and his jaw dropped. This award will help him afford housing in San Francisco this summer while he pursues an internship to learn new techniques to bring back to his lab which can be applied to his thesis project. Specifically, he will have the opportunity to learn how to perform micro-CT analysis on lungs, which is something they have not yet done in his lab. Mr. Freeborn's research project studies the effects of the food additive, tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ), on T cells. Specifically, he studies the T cell response to influenza infection and how tBHQ modulates this response in mice. His data suggests that tBHQ impairs the T cell-mediated response to influenza infection by delaying T cell activation, suppressing effector function, and reducing the number of T cells capable of recognizing virus-infected cells. In non-technical terms, this can be thought of as the cells being late to show up to work and additionally doing a sub-par job once arriving to work. This leads to delayed viral clearance. Additionally, this leads to a prolonged infection upon secondary infection with the virus. He hypothesizes that tBHQ could reduce vaccine efficacy because of this. He also identified a potentially novel mechanism by which tBHQ modulates T cell function, which is through upregulation of the immunosuppressive proteins CTLA-4 and IL-10.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Kelly Hanson
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Rochester Medical Center

Upon receiving notification that she was a finalist for the Mechanisms Specialty Section Carl C. Smith Graduate Student Award, Ms. Hanson was very excited and felt determined to push herself to complete the manuscript by the deadline. She was appreciative of the opportunity not only to submit the manuscript for consideration for the prestigious Carl C. Smith award, but also to have the motivation to finish experiments, write, and revise within the span of a month. This helped accelerate her submission to Toxicological Sciences and have the reviewers’ comments by the time she held her final committee meeting, which provided justification to her committee for adhering to her proposed timeline and scheduling her defense date for the coming summer. At the Mechanisms SS reception at SOT 2019 in Baltimore, Ms. Hanson was pleasantly surprised and very grateful to receive the news that her manuscript won 2nd Place for the Carl C. Smith award. She believes that this honor will help to distinguish and substantiate her research and scientific communication skills to potential future employers, and will help shape her career trajectory in an undeniably positive way. She was very thankful for this opportunity and she looks forward to continuing her involvement with the Mechanisms Specialty Section and the Society of Toxicology as a whole.

As a fifth-year student in the Toxicology Training Program in the Department of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Ms. Hanson works in the lab of Dr. Jacob N. Finkelstein. This lab primarily focuses on the late effects of ionizing radiation exposure to lung tissue, both in the context of radiotherapy for thoracic tumors as well as countermeasures for biological terrorism. Her own thesis work focuses on the role of fibroblasts in radiation-induced pulmonary fibrosis (PF). As a consequence of the lung’s radiation response, fibroblasts acquire an apoptosis resistant phenotype, which is a key part of PF pathology. During normal wound healing, fibroblasts should proliferate and produce extracellular matrix and are later cleared with an apoptotic signal; however, in the onset of PF, apoptosis resistant fibroblasts continue to proliferate unchecked and thus lead to excessive and progressive scar tissue accumulation, which is ultimately fatal. Her research aims to clarify the cellular mechanisms that lead to the apoptosis resistant phenotype of fibroblasts in PF. Briefly, the findings from her thesis work have shown first that fibroblast apoptosis resistance occurs much earlier in radiation-induced PF pathogenesis than previously thought, and secondly, that the onset of this detrimental phenotype is at least partially mediated by Toll-like receptor 4 signaling. Ms. Hanson's future goals include transitioning into an industry or consulting setting and concentrating on risk assessment, hazard characterization, and scientific communication.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Jessica Murray
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Pennsylvania

Ms. Murray was very grateful to receive the Carl C Smith Award. The application process that included writing a full manuscript was a valuable experience for her and she was honored that her work was considered impactful in the field of mechanistic toxicology. This award will help her pursue a career in research and to develop as a scientist by funding travel to scientific meetings where she will continue to learn cutting-edge topics in the field.

Ms. Murray's thesis research focuses on the metabolic activation of nitro polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (nitroarenes) which are highly mutagenic compounds produced in diesel engine exhaust. These compounds require metabolic activation via nitroreduction to exert their mutagenic and tumorigenic effects, but mammalian nitroreductases beyond NQO1 have not been well characterized. Surprisingly she found that human aldo keto reductases (AKRs), which are typically carbonyl reductases, are able to display nitroreductase activity towards a representative nitroarene 3-nitrobenzanthrone (3-NBA). The catalytic efficiencies are equal to that of NQO1, which up till now was thought to be the primary enzyme that toxified 3-NBA. She also found that these enzymes contributed equally in the nitroreduction of 3-NBA in vitro and together, accounted for at least 50% nitroreductase activity in lung epithelial cells. Both NQO1 and AKR1C genes are tightly regulated by Nrf2 signaling which regulates the antioxidant gene battery. There is considerable interest in developing Nrf2 inducers as chemopreventives since Nrf2 upregulates Phase II enzymes, glutathione synthesis, and drug transporters. Given that AKRs and NQO1 toxify 3-NBA and are among the most upregulated genes by Nrf2, she aimed to investigate whether Nrf2 activation as a chemopreventive strategy may exacerbate 3-NBA toxification. She found that heterozygous and homozygous Nrf2 knockout via CRISPR-Cas9 decreased 3-NBA toxification by 50% and 80%, and Nrf2 activation with pharmacological inducers increased 3-NBA toxification by 40-60%. Enhanced 3-NBA metabolic activation due to Nrf2 activity may lead to an increase in DNA adduct burden which would promote mutagenesis. Given these data, she feels it may be appropriate to explore whether Nrf2 activation could be deleterious in certain exposure contexts.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Katelyn Lavrich
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: UNC Chapel Hill

Dr. Lavrich was honored to be considered a finalist for the Carl C. Smith Graduate Student Award. She is grateful to join the prestigious past award winners and hopes to follow in their footsteps as leaders in toxicology. This award will offset travel costs to the annual meeting, where she was shared her research and hoped to discover career opportunities through networking.

Her research investigates how air pollution initiates downstream health effects in humans. She studies the first oxidative stress events that quinones, ubiquitous components of particulate matter (PM), have in human lung cells that could activate inflammation. In this work, she showed that in a human airway epithelial cell line,1,2-naphthoquinone inhibits both mitochondrial function and glycolysis, two key bioenergetic processes for cellular energy production and novel mechanisms of PM-associated quinone toxicity. She optimized bioenergetic analyses for primary human lung macrophages and found that 1,2-naphthoquinone inhibits mitochondrial function in a similar manner to the epithelial cell line, confirming this mechanism is plausible in multiple cell types of human lungs. She concluded that 1,2-naphthoquinone disrupts bioenergetic function and redox homeostasis in human lung cells. As she recently defended her dissertation, she is excited to figure out the next step in her career in toxicology. She looks forward to further bridging mechanistic toxicology to clinical and translational settings. Ultimately, it is her hope to use her training in mechanistic toxicology to translate scientific findings into meaningful policy decisions.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Dharmin  Rokad
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University

Mr. Rokad feels it would be unbelievable and at the same time very encouraging experience to receive this award at this time of his career in graduate research studies. His plan is to pursue a career in Academia where he would like to continue investigating the role of metal exposure in increasing risk of chronic neurological diseases at molecular levels, including various crucial mechanisms. Receiving the Carl C. Smith Graduate Student Award sponsored by the Mechanism Specialty Section in recognition of his ongoing work would be an important step in realizing his career goal.

His PhD research focuses on divalent manganese (Mn) interactions with α-Synuclein protein and neurodegeneration. His current project focuses on investigating the molecular mechanisms involved in manganese-induced misfolded α-Synuclein release through exosomes and its relevance to synucleopathies. While it is known that Mn is an essential component of many enzymes, it helps in proper bone formation but occupational exposure to elevated doses of Mn can lead to Manganism, a condition similar to Parkinson’s disease. Despite evidences of Mn induced neurodegeneration, the key cellular-molecular signaling mechanisms driving manganese-induced exosomes release remain unknown. He is currently evaluating the role of manganese in modulating endosomal protein trafficking mechanisms to promote α-synuclein exosomal release. Identifying the key molecular regulators of the endosomal protein trafficking mechanisms will help them target those key proteins to develop medical agents and help them discover biomarkers to develop early stage diagnostic techniques, which will be crucial in the field of neurodegenerative diseases.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: John Szilagyi
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS Chemistry
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Dr. Szilagyi feels it is an honor to even be considered for this prestigious award. He is especially grateful for the opportunity  as it will allow him to showcase his work to the members of the Mechanisms Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology.

His research is focused on understanding the factors that influence drug trafficking across the placenta. Specifically, his research this year seeks to elucidate the role that endocannabinoids may play in placentation and the expression of drug transporters in the placenta.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Emma Bowers
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Ms. Bowers is thrilled to have received the Carl C. Smith award. Many of the most successful scientists in SOT have received this award, and she is honored to be in their ranks. This award will help her to gain recognition as a leader in the toxicology field. Additionally this award will help offset travel costs associated with attending the annual meeting.She is conducting research at the US EPA Human Studies facility under the direction of Dr. David Diaz-Sanchez and Dr. Shaun McCullough. In her dissertation research she uses a novel application of human primary cell culture to identify molecular mechanisms that mediate differential susceptibility to ozone exposure. She is examining two long-observed but poorly understood ozone inflammatory responses that may hold the key to understanding differences in susceptibility: response heterogeneity and adaptation. As air pollutant exposure causes inflammation which contributes to the leading cause of mortality- cardiopulmonary diseases- her research has the potential to make a significant public health impact. After her doctoral studies her plan is to obtain a post-doctoral position and eventually become a principal investigator. As a PI, she will continue investigating mechanisms of toxicity with a specific emphasis on toxicoepigenomics research.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Kelly Fader
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: BSc
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Ms. Fader said it was an honor to learn that she had been selected as a finalist for the Carl C Smith Student Mechanisms Award. She immediately shared the news with her principal investigator, Dr. Timothy Zacharewski, as well as the postdoctoral researchers in the lab, who shared in the excitement. It is a great feeling to receive recognition for the research that she has been working on over the past three years from fellow scientists in the field of toxicology. She looks forward to attending the Mechanisms Specialty Section Reception in Baltimore at the 2017 Annual Society of Toxicology Meeting for the announcement of the winner. Metabolic syndrome, a disease which consists of obesity, elevated blood lipids, high blood pressure and high blood sugar, is approaching epidemic levels in the United States. In the liver, MetS is first observed as fat accumulation which can develop into non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver cancer. Recently, several environmental contaminants including dioxin have been implicated in MetS development. In mice, dioxin causes accumulation of fat in the liver (fatty liver), primarily originating from the diet, which progresses to inflammation and fibrosis over time. Her research investigates dioxin-induced changes along the intestinal tract that promote the development of NAFLD and other complex metabolic disorders. Specifically, the manuscript she submitted for consideration of the Carl C Smith Award investigated the role of dioxin-elicited iron overloading in the progression of NAFLD. Upon completing her PhD at Michigan State University, she plans to obtain further postdoctoral training before pursuing an independent research career at either an academic institution or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She would like to remain in the field of biomedical toxicology, investigating the effects of environmental contaminants, food ingredients, and drugs on human health and disease. In particular, she is interested in investigating the role of gene-environment interactions in the development and progression of complex multifactorial diseases such as metabolic syndrome and cancer.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Bryan Harder
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Mr. Harder felt it was a terrific honor to be selected to receive the Mechanism Specialty Section's Carl C. Smith Graduate Student Award. His initial reaction to becoming a finalist was tremendous relief, because two members from my laboratory have previously won this prestigious award. Because of this, there is a large amount of pressure to conduct award-worthy science and he is extremely pleased to learn that his hard work has paid off. It is his hope to showcase this accomplishment on his CV and resume as he prepares to apply and interview for jobs in the coming months. He is confident that this award will attract excellent scientists, which will allow him to continue working on challenging research projects in the field of cancer pharmacology and cancer toxicology. Under the supervision of Dr. Donna Zhang, his lab largely focuses on understanding cancer progression and finding ways to suppress this phenomenon. They have recently described how activation of a transcription factor called NRF2 is frequently observed in various cancers, and that inhibition of this factor can help chemotherapy work better. Typically, the events that lead to NRF2 overexpression are due to genetic mutations, but his research has pinpointed a novel mechanism of unwanted NRF2 activation via activation of the progesterone receptor. He has shown that women who take progestins for the treatment of Type 1 Endometrial cancer could be susceptible to activation of NRF2, potentially leading to acquired chemoresistance in their tumors. He has identified a novel progesterone receptor target gene, TSC22D4, that aberrantly activates the NRF2 pathway, providing a new link between hormone receptor signaling and NRF2 research and how they relate to cancer progression. He feels that his work is a good representation of the quality of science that typically comes out of the lab and hopes that future students can utilize this finding to continue to pursue this interesting story. It is his intent to publish this research soon after the SOT meeting and use it to showcase his intellectual abilities while applying to cancer research positions.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Dahea You
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: PharmD, PhD Candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. You was very pleased and honored to receive the news that she was selected as the finalist for this prestigious award. It really reminded her of the importance of the research that she is pursuing and provided further motivation to drive her project. She was really interested in research during her pharmacy program and thus decided to obtain deeper knowledge and skills in pursuing research to achieve her career goals as a clinical researcher. Toxicology was a very attractive field where she feels she could maximally incorporate her clinical knowledge with basic science. She was greatly interested in neurotoxicology and decided to pursue her current research. There are yet lots of aspects that need more extensive investigations in the field of neurotoxicology and with her clinical and scientific knowledge, it is her hope to play an unique role in expanding this subject area.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Bharat Bhushan
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center

Acetaminophen (APAP) overdose is the foremost cause of acute liver failure (ALF) in the US. Despite decades of research, current treatment options after APAP-overdose are extremely limited. Liver injury after APAP-overdose is subsequently followed by compensatory liver regeneration, which promotes recovery. Preventing liver injury and stimulating liver regeneration are potential strategies to develop novel therapies for APAP-induced ALF. However, mechanisms of APAP-induced liver toxicity or subsequent liver regeneration are not completely understood. In the work that will be presented at the 2016 SOT annual meeting, they investigated role of EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) signaling in APAP-induced ALF. Role of EGFR signaling in APAP-induced liver toxicity and subsequent liver regeneration is completely unknown. In this extremely novel work, Dr. Bhushan and colleagues demonstrated that EGFR signaling plays a dual role in APAP overdose and is involved in both initiation of APAP-induced injury and in stimulating subsequent liver regeneration. They demonstrated, for the first time, that EGFR is rapidly activated after APAP overdose in both mice and primary human hepatocytes and translocated to mitochondria where it was involved in mitochondrial damage leading to liver injury. APAP-induced liver injury was almost completely abolished by early treatment with EGFR inhibitor. In fact, they demonstrated that an early EGFR inhibition as a therapeutic strategy may outperform treatment with NAC (N-acetyl cysteine), which is the current standard of care for not only APAP overdose but all suspected cases of ALF. Interestingly, they found that delayed activation of EGFR was crucial for compensatory liver regeneration response, such that delayed inhibition of EGFR in mice caused remarkable impairment of liver regeneration, resulting in substantial decrease of both recovery and survival. Thus, their work revealed an extremely novel and intriguing mechanisms about how a cell membrane receptor, EGFR, can translocate to mitochondria and cause both cell death or cell proliferation signaling in hepatocytes, in a time dependent manner, during APAP-induced ALF.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Nikita Joshi
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: MS, MSc
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a type of fibrotic liver disease that can lead to liver failure and potentially cancer. It accounts for approximately 8% of all liver transplants in the United States and there is currently no established curative therapy for PSC. Ms. Joshi's exciting research characterizes a novel mechanism whereby the coagulation protein fibrinogen interacts with integrin aMß2 to reduce biliary fibrosis and suggests a novel putative therapeutic target for this difficult to treat fibrotic disease.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Rance Nault
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BSc, MSc
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Mr. Nault's research examines the role of environmental contaminants of the development of fatty liver disease. In order to explore these questions he uses a combination of ‘omic’ techniques to examine changes in gene expression regulation, gene expression, and metabolites, and integrate these using a variety of computational tools. Consequently, by using these data together we can look at changes within the context of the whole system. In the future he will delve deeper into key features that were highlighted by these high-throughput evaluations, more specifically on the role of PKM2 in fatty liver caused by 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) which is the research for which this award was given. They found that following TCDD exposure, a change in the PKM isoform is observed which reprograms metabolism similar to that of a cancer cell. Further evidence in metabolite and protein levels demonstrated that the livers of TCDD treated mice exhibit many features of cancer cells despite the absence of cancer. They conclude that this isoform switching likely plays a role in antioxidant defenses. Future work will examine this hypothesis in further depth using genetic models.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Dwayne Carter
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: UTMB

Dwayne Carter is a Graduate Student at the University of Texas Medical Branch and received the Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Award for his work entitled, "Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Activation By Cinnabarinic Acid Is Required for Stanniocalcin-2 mediated Protection Against Alcohol Induced Hepatic Injury." His research showed how the physiological activity of AhR in the liver protects against acute alcohol induced liver injury. This award will allow him to attend more scientific meetings, which will allow more networking and collaboration with other investigators. He would like to investigate and understand the mechanisms that will form a proverbial bridge between liver toxicity and aging, and believes that a healthier liver may allow us to have a better quality of life in our elderly years.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Suvarthi Das
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of South Carolina

Suvarthi Das is a graduate student at the University of South Carolina and received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for her work entitled, "Redox signaling induced TLR4 activation is crucial for disinfection byproduct (DBP)-mediated NASH." Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is a progressive stage of NAFLD, and a hepatic manifestation of metabolic syndrome has been rising in tandem with the increase in obesity epidemic. Her work explores the probable molecular mechanisms in driving the causation of NASH in obese mice, when there is a second hit from environmental toxin present in drinking water (disinfection byproduct. We observed that activation of the enzyme NOX and then recruitment of TLR4 (toll-like receptor 4) in the lipid rafts of the hepatic cell-membranes play a crucial role in the ensuing injury and inflammation that leads to NASH symptoms. This can translate into discovery of new persistent biomarkers and drug targets in NASH. To date treatment of NASH is very difficult as there are no persistent or reliable biomarkers. It is a silent disease and patients normally do not get diagnosed unless they go to the clinic with some symptoms like pain in the upper right quadrant, nausea etc. Thus elucidation of the intermediary pathways and molecules will open new avenues for drug targeting for this very alarming silent killer, which is evidently triggered by environmental toxins.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Eric Ditzel
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Eric Ditzel is a Graduate Student at the University of Arizona and received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for his work entitled, "Arsenite during Fetal Development Alters Energy Metabolism and Increases Susceptibility to Fatty Liver Disease." His work focuses on how exposure to arsenic during development alters fundamental processes in energy metabolism in such a way that there is increased incidence of fatty liver disease present later in life. The risks of developmental exposure to arsenic are not fully understood, and this work helps illuminate how exposures may contribute to adult onset of disease.The proposed mechanism for this increase in disease is novel and may help others investigate related disease states as well. He considers this award as a motivator to push him to continue to explore the mechanistic basis for arsenic induced disease by honing in on which effects are relevant for certain exposures and diseases is necessary to explore ways to mitigate disease. Millions of people are exposed to arsenic through drinking water, inhalation, diet, and occupational exposure, and there are many well characterized risks associated with those exposures. However, the risks of low-dose exposure and exposure during development are less well understood. By focusing on the mechanism behind the observed pathologies, we are better able to address the problem and health outcomes in susceptible populations in the future.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Nikita  Joshi
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: MSc, MS
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Nikita Joshi is a graduate student at Michigan State University and received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for her work entitled, "Fibrin(ogen) engagement of aMß2-integrin limits chronic liver fibrosis induced by a bile duct toxicant in mice." Her work seeks to identify mechanisms whereby fibrinogen, an integral component of the hemostatic system, contributes to chronic liver injury and fibrosis. Her laboratory previously demonstrated that mice deficient in the blood clotting protein fibrinogen, developed markedly worse liver injury in a model of chronic liver fibrosis. This finding challenged the assumption that the presence of fibrin clots in the liver is bad. Since joining the lab, she has sought to define the mechanisms that underlie the protective effects of fibrinogen. The work submitted for consideration for the Mechanisms this Award describes an element of her research project highlighting the novel protective role of fibrinogen in chronic liver fibrosis via its engagement of the leukocyte integrin aMß2. Treatment options for liver fibrosis are limited with a liver transplant being the last resort. Since the molecular and cellular pathogenesis of this are not completely understood, it is vital that we interrogate the mechanisms that contribute to the pathogenesis chronic liver disease so that better treatment options can be developed. Continued investigation of the mechanisms whereby coagulation impacts liver fibrosis is warranted, particularly as elements of hemostasis gain traction as biomarkers and as potential therapeutic targets in liver disease and health.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Jamie Moscovitz
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BA Biology, BA Secondary Education
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Jamie Moscovitz is a graduate student at Rutgers University and recieved the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for her work entitled, "Pregnancy Outcomes Following Short Term Treatment Of Mice With The Farnesoid X Receptor Agonist GW4064." Her research uses pharmacological and genetic models to characterize the importance of regulation by the nuclear receptor, Farnesoid X Receptor (Fxr), on metabolic and transport pathways in the liver and intestine during pregnancy. Fxr is critical for the regulation of bile acid synthesis, metabolism, hepatotoxicity and excretion. Her thesis work thus far has demonstrated that a number of direct intestinal and hepatic targets of Fxr are dysregulated during pregnancy. By studying the mechanisms of adaptive changes in the bile acid pathway in pregnancy, we may identify why some women have heightened susceptibility to cholestatic liver disease during pregnancy, as well as investigate a potential therapeutic target for treating these women. This research will aid in creating a safer and healthier world for both mothers and fetuses during a very sensitive and critical time of development.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Deanna Salter
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Rhode Island

Deanna Salter is a Graduate Student at the University of Rhode Island and received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for her work entitled, "Low Dose Exposure to the Environmental Chemical, Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFOS) Thwarts Beneficial Effects of Caloric Restriction and Metformin." In her work, she is trying to elucidate a deeper mechanism to determine how PFOS stimulates with glucose production. Currently she is evaluating whether the increased glucose and lipid accumulation is related to changes in the phosphorylation status of AMPK and associated mediators of this pathway. She believes her project is highly relevant to toxicology due to the nature of PFOS exposure. Although PFOS exposure is decreasing, there is still EPA concern and it is considered to be an “emerging” chemical of concern (Zhao 2012).

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Prajakta Shimpi
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: M.Pharm
Institution/Affiliation: University of Rhode Island

Prajakta Shimpi is a Graduate Student at the University of Rhode Island and received the Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Award for her work entitled, "Early Epigenetic Modulation of Nrf2 and Lipogenic Genes by PNPP Exposure of Bisphenol A is Associated with Hepatic Steatosis in Female Mice." Her work focus is on detecting the detailed molecular studies on how exactly Bisphenol A affects liver pathways. She would like to continue her work on environmental toxicants, and elucidate mechanistic links of how these toxicants affect liver. Her studies with bisphenol A, can also serve as model toxicological investigations for other chemicals.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Lisa Weatherly
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BA
Institution/Affiliation: University of Maine

Lisa Weatherly is a Graduate Student at University of Maine and received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for her work entitled, "Antimicrobial Agent Triclosan is a Mitochondrial Uncoupler in Rat and Human Mast Cells." They assessed if triclosan disrupted mast cell function by examining its effects on the cells’ energy source, ATP. She found that exposure of triclosan to mast cells is causing a dysfunction in production of ATP, at much lower concentrations than those generally found in personal care products. theirdata show that TCS is a mitochondrial uncoupler, and TCS may affect numerous cell types and functions via this mechanism. Due to triclosan’s high concentration and use in many personal care products, triclosan’s mitochondrial uncoupling function must be taken into consideration in future risk assessments, due to the dangerous nature previously seen in other similar chemicals. There is an urgent need for information on the mammalian toxicology of triclosan, and our study will help provide an understanding of how triclosan influences human and animal health.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Wei Zhang
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: Ph.D. Candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Univerisity of Kentucky

Wei Zhang is a graduate student at the University of Kentucky and received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for her work entitled, "Loss of Mrp1 Potentiates Doxorubicin-Induced Cardiotoxicity in Mice." Doxorubicin (DOX) induced cardiac toxicity is most severe dose-limited side effects of this effective chemotherapy drug. The study addresses the important problem of determining how the function of MRP1 could affect this DOX-induced cardiotoxicity. The cardiac function and underline mechanisms were investigated. The study will provide novel insights into the role of Mrp1 in oxidative stress regulation, and thereby give critical information regarding the potential adverse sequelae of introduction of MRP1 inhibitors as adjuncts to clinical chemotherapy of multidrug resistant tumors. Also, it may help to find a potential way to relieve or even prevent this chemotherapy drug-induced cardiotoxicity.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Dilshan Harischandra
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University

Dilshan Harischandra is a graduate student at Iowa State University and received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for his work entitled, “The Environmental Neurotoxicant Manganese Promotes Prion-like Cell-to-Cell Transmission of α-Synuclein via Exosomes in Cell Culture and Animal Models of Parkinson’s Disease.” In this project we are studying the effect of environmental neurotoxicants in developing and progression of Parkinson ’s disease (PD). We looked into the interaction of manganese and prominent protein (alpha-synuclein) implicated in PD and studied how manganese exposure will cause protein to aggregate and accumulate in the brain. Most importantly, we found a possible mechanism via which these mis-folded proteins leave the “sick” cells and enter healthy cells, making them sick too. This mechanism uses very small vesicles to transport these proteins in a cargo-like manner. A good understanding of these mechanisms is important because most neurodegenerative diseases are progressive in nature and pathology seems to move from one part of the brain to another as the disease advance. Recently, we have uncovered that α-synuclein, a key metal-binding protein implicated in Parkinson disease interacts with and binds to manganese, causing the α-synuclein protein to aggregate and transmit through exosomal vesicles. These findings will help understand the cell to cell transmission of aberrant proteins in progressive disease and possibly develop pharmacological strategies to block protein transfer and develop therapies against neurodegenerative diseases.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Swetha Rudraiah
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: MVSc
Institution/Affiliation: University of Connecticut

Swetha Rudraiah is a Graduate Student at the University of Connecticut and received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for her work entitled, “Tolerance to Acetaminophen (APAP) Hepatotoxicity in a Mouse Model of Autoprotection is Associated with Induction of Flavin-containing Monooxygenase-3 (Fmo3).” Acetaminophen (APAP) is the main constituent of Tylenol and is the most commonly used over the counter drug and is responsible for more than 50% of all acute liver failure cases in the U.S. APAP toxicity is very complex and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is the only FDA approved treatment available for APAP poisoning. In the clinic, NAC is effective only when given within 8 hours after APAP ingestion. Unfortunately, signs of toxicity do not show until after 12-24 hrs following acute intoxication. This growing concern has prompted extensive mechanistic research aimed at devising measures to reduce the risk of liver damage due to APAP and to understand the cellular events responsible for the initiation and progression of APAP toxicity. Although the phenomenon of APAP autoprotection is also seen in patients who repeatedly take higher doses of APAP, the underlying mechanism(s) is not known. Her research specifically investigates the mechanism by which the resistance to acetaminophen ensues.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Christopher Schaupp
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: BA
Institution/Affiliation: University of Washington

Christopher Schaupp is a graduate student at the University of Washington who received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for his work entitled, “Potential Role of Carbonyl Reductase 3 in Doxorubicin-Induced Cardiotoxicity.” His work is focused on investigating doxorubicin-induced cardiomyopathy and candidate genes believed to be responsible for mediating doxorubicin-related sequelae in childhood leukemia patients, a significant public health concern. He hopes to advance the science of toxicology by participating in research that has direct translational benefits to human health. He anticipates that his research will lead to improvements in chemotherapy regimens that both increase efficacy and lessen the risks of serious off-target toxicity.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Priyanka Trivedi
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: MS (Pharm)
Institution/Affiliation: National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research

Priyanka Trivedi is a graduate student at the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, India, and won the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for her work entitled, “Effect of Melatonin on Colitis-associated Colon Carcinogenesis in Mice: Role of Autophagy and Nrf2 Signaling Pathways.” Colon carcinogenesis is long known to be associated with ulcerative colitis, a chronic gastrointestinal disorder. Various pre-clinical and clinical studies have shown that melatonin, a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent, has beneficial effects in cancer. However, elucidation of the detailed molecular mechanisms involved in melatonin-mediated protection against the colon carcinogenesis deserves further investigation. In the present study, the effect of melatonin on autophagy (a process that involves lysosome-mediated degradation of non-essential cellular constituents) and nuclear erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2, a redox-sensitive transcription factor) signaling pathways in a mouse model of colitis-associated colon carcinogenesis was examined. She would like to remain in the field of genotoxicity, carcinogenesis. She would like to discover the basic mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of carcinogenesis and the ways to prevent the progression of carcinogenesis to benefit mankind.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Daniel Ferreira
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Connecticut

Daniel Ferreira is a graduate student of the University of Connecticut and received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for his work entitled, “Vanin-1 Knockout Mice Exhibit Alterations in Compensatory Immune Infiltration and Hepatocyte Proliferation Following Acetaminophen Toxicity.” His research shows that Vanin-1 knockout mice are more susceptible to acetaminophen hepatotoxicity, despite there being no differences in acetaminophen bioactivation or detoxification by glucuronidation, sulfation, or glutathione status or utilization. He hopes to better protect human health by securing a career in academia or the government. He hopes to use his experience in molecular biology-based scientific techniques and experience to elucidate novel mechanisms of action in order to uncover intracellular signaling pathways responsible for mediating cellular responses to xenoestrogens or other environmental contaminants. The goal would be to identify potential therapeutic targets of endocrine diseases caused by exposure.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: David Klein
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

David Klein is a graduate student of the University of Arizona and he received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for his work entitled, “Mechanism of Transepithelial Transport Leading to Germ Cell Exposure to Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTI).” His work involved looking at the ability of drugs used to treat HIV infection to bypass the blood-testis barrier (BTB) and exert toxic effects on developing sperm. He is also examining the transport mechanism these drugs use to penetrate the BTB. This award will help him find a postdoctoral position that will advance his career and interests.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Tongde Wu
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Tongde Wu is a PhD candidate of the University of Arizona and received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award for her work entitled, “XBP1, SYVN1 AND NRF2: At the Crossroad of ER Stress and Oxidative Stress.” Her current research involves learning how the Nrf2-Keap1 pathway crosstalks with unfolded protein response in coordination with anti-oxidative stress and anti-ER stress signaling. Environmental toxicants act on the human system in very complex ways, affecting multiple stress pathways at the same time. The Nrf2 antioxidant pathway normally protects cells from oxidative stress. However, how environmental exposures that are capable to cause oxidative stress and the Nrf2 pathway interact with complex diseases such as liver cirrhosis remains unknown. Investigation of the mechanisms of coordinate regulation will not only shed light on principles of stress response, but may also lead to new approaches in the treatment of stress-related diseases. The environmental pollution problem in eastern Asia is concerning. Ms. Wu wants to continue her research because she believes that environmental issues in one location will eventually cross borders and she would like to be part of the solution.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Owen R. Kinsky
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: BA
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Owen R. Kinsky, of the University of Arizona, for his abstract entitled, “Dicarbonyl Adduction of Plasminogen: Possible Role in Diabetic Cardiovascular Complications.” Type 2 diabetes is an emerging epidemic in the US. One of the main causes of death from this disease involves cardiovascular complications such as heart attack and stroke, which occur at a higher rate in those with the disease. His work is designed to determine the mechanism by which an increased blood glucose level puts people at a higher risk for these complications. He is currently studying the role that oxidized glucose breakdown products play in the modification of blood-clotting proteins, and how this modification negatively affects the body’s ability to break up blood clots that have formed. With the incidence of this disease increasing at an alarming rate, research of the disease and its complications are more pertinent than ever. He hopes that his current and future work helps to elucidate the mechanism by which this toxicity affects the type 2 diabetes population.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Alexandria Lau
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona, College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Alexandria Lau, of the University of Arizona, for her work entitled, “Arsenic Induces Chronic Nrf2 Activation.” Her work involved elucidating the specific mechanism of how arsenic activates Nrf2, a transcription factor that regulates the antioxidant response, and how the mechanism is different than that of natural compounds, such as sulforaphane found in broccoli and other cruciferase vegetable. She hopes to continue this work, which she is hopeful can lead to the identification of novel molecular markers and the development of rational therapies for the prevention or intervention of arsenic toxicity. These observations might also provide insight to further understand how arsenic activates Nrf2 and/or causes toxicity and carcinogenicity.

Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Student Award Fund

Recipient: Afshin Mohammadi Bardbori
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

Afshin Mohammadi Bardbori, of Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, for his abstract entitled, ?The Polyphenols Quercetin, Resveratrol and Curcumin Disturb Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AHR) Signaling by Obstructing the Tightly Regulated Turnover of the Endogenous Ligand FICZ.? A major focus of his research was to characterize molecular mechanisms by which the aryl hydrocarbon receptor can be activated by several nonligands like polyphenols quercetin, resveratrol, and curcumin. He hopes to use this award to strengthen his CV with the goal of finding a postdoctoral position in the US.

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Sebastian Gutsfeld
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research GmbH, UFZ

Mr. Gutsfeld was extremely delighted and honored to learn that he had received the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award. Due to the difference in time zones, he received notification of the award late at night, so it was the first thing he read in the morning and he was smiling all day long. Mr. Gutsfeld felt highly appreciative that the years of work, including many technical hurdles, that went into this project were recognized by experts in the field of mechanistic toxicology. This award motivates him to continue his line of research and strengthens the impression that his research is on the right track to contribute meaningful knowledge to the field.

Mr. Gutsfeld's work is focused on chemicals in the environment and how exposure to these chemicals affects neurodevelopment in zebrafish. He is especially interested in Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), as they are widely used industrial chemicals and some are resistant to degradation and detected in humans and environmental samples worldwide. The developing zebrafish provides an excellent tool to bridge the large gap between in vitro new approach methods (NAMs) for the detection of developmental neurotoxicity and in vivo studies in rodents. Early life stage zebrafish develop rapidly and share high genetic homology with humans. It is therefore assumed that a wide range of molecular mechanisms by which environmental chemical exposure causes toxic responses in humans can also be studied in early life stage zebrafish. Mr. Gutsfeld's work investigates potential molecular mechanisms by which a certain class of PFAS disrupt neurodevelopment in early life stage zebrafish. Previous work has shown that exposure to these chemicals cause hyperactivity in an automated behavior test that he uses as a functional readout of neurodevelopment. The underlying molecular mechanisms by which these structurally similar PFAS cause hyperactivity are unknown. Mr. Gutsfeld hypothesized that CRISPR/Cas9-based gene editing could be used to identify causal links between PFAS exposure and hyperactivity. His work identified multiple, distinct hyperactivity effects in zebrafish exposed to structurally similar PFAS and showed that one of them, called visual startle response hyperactivity, is mediated by a gene called ppard. This gene is conserved in humans. Therefore, this work builds confidence in using automated zebrafish behavior tests to identify widely occurring environmental chemicals that harbor the potential to cause neurotoxicity in humans. 

 

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Sarah Kim
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Washington

Ms. Kim was very elated and grateful to receive the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award as she is very aware of the prestige and history surrounding this award. It is truly an honor to find her work competitive and recognized by the Mechanisms Specialty Section. This award will provide Ms. Kim with greater confidence and strength to continue pursuing her career in research. 

Ms. Kim's research focuses on maternal exposure to environmental chemical exposure, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and delayed onset of diabetes or liver diseases through understanding the complex interactions among gut microbiome and liver in humanized pregnane X receptor transgenic (hPXR-TG) mice. PBDEs are previously used flame retardants that still bio-accumulate in human compartments, including the maternal blood and breast milk. Previous work showed that developmental PBDE exposure is associated with increased diabetes prevalence in human and animal models. PBDEs are known to activate the host pregnane X receptor (PXR). PXR and gut microbiome are essential regulators of drug metabolism and metabolic disorders. The microbial tryptophan metabolite, indole 3-propionic acid (IPA), can activate PXR (among other receptors like aryl hydrocarbon receptor [AhR]) and is correlated with reduced risk of type-2 diabetes and lower-grade inflammation. One of the key findings of this study is that maternal PBDE exposure produced a pro-inflammatory signature within the gut-liver axis associated with dysregulated tryptophan microbial metabolism and elevated AhR signaling in a male-predominant manner, which was partially corrected by IPA supplementation. Ms. Kim's work mechanistically demonstrates the importance of the gut-liver axis in regulating the early-life PBDE exposure-induced obesity and diabetes later in life. 

 

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Danielle Kozlosky
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Kozlosky was on her hour-long, traffic-filled drive home after a very long day in the lab when this email entered her inbox. She was ecstatic upon seeing the news awarding her as recipient of this prestigious award. This award's monetary value will aid in purchasing last-standing reagents to finish up the remaining experiments to complete this study's story.

Ms. Kozlosky's research investigates mechanisms of placental toxicity leading to poor fetal growth and nutrition. Notably, this research analyzes the protection from the expression of a particular xenobiotic efflux transporter against heavy metal placental accumulation and toxicity. This award will aid in completing this specific study which will conclude one aim of her dissertation work. Together, this research brings Ms. Kozlosky one step closer to becoming an independent research scientist in the developmental and reproductive toxicology field. 

 

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: David Umbaugh
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center

Mr. Umbaugh is honored and humbled to be chosen as a recipient of the Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund. This is a very competitive award with an extensive review process and so he is honored to have his work recognized by leaders in the field of mechanistic toxicology. The funds awarded by the Mechanisms Specialty Section will help fund Mr. Umbaugh's travel to scientific conferences and external training opportunities.

Mr. Umbaugh's ongoing doctoral research is aimed at understanding the signaling network between cells in liver injury and acute liver failure (ALF) using insights from scRNAseq data to guide wet lab experiments and identify novel therapeutic strategies that enhance the innate capacity for repair. Acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of ALF in the United States, and while an extensive body of work has delineated the molecular mechanisms of hepatocyte necrosis, why some patients progress to ALF while other patients survive (even with similar amounts of liver injury) remains unknown. In the current work, Mr. Umbaugh found that the initiation of hepatocyte senescence and the persistent secretion of Cxcl14 occurs in dose-sensitive manner in the acetaminophen overdose mouse model. Moreover, he found that hepatocyte senescence is initiated through a Klf6-p21 mechanism which mediates the production of Cxcl14. However, the most exciting finding is that in acetaminophen overdose patients, Cxcl14 can accurately predict patient survival, as it gradually declines in surviving acetaminophen overdose patients but remains elevated in non-surviving acetaminophen overdose patients. This data suggests that the sustained induction of hepatocyte senescence, and the persistent secretion of Cxcl14, are critical mechanistic events that may explain why some patients progress to ALF while other patients recover after an acetaminophen overdose. Mr. Umbaugh's overall career goal is to be an academic toxicologist who combines wet lab and computational techniques (e.g. multi-omics, 'big data') to derive novel biological insights that translate to the clinic.

 

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Jaclynn Andres
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Andres was incredibly thankful and appreciative for the award. Not only did this award provide amazing communication and financial support, but also brought mechanistic toxicology into the scope of her research. This award has provided the opportunity to network with elite toxicologists of the field and has been essential to her career growth.

Ms. Andres' research focuses on understanding and developing medical countermeasures for Mustard Gas exposure. Currently, they are evaluating the mechanistic role of the farnesoid X nuclear receptor in lipid homeostasis and macrophage-mediated pulmonary injury. In the future, she hopes to explore emergency response toxicology and give back to the community. 

 

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Nga Nguyen
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center

Ms. Nguyen was honored and very happy to receive this prestigious award from the Mechanisms Specialty Section.  

Ms. Nguyen's current focus is to investigate the mechanisms of macrophage clearance which is critical for restoration of liver homeostasis and limit overactivation of inflammatory cell response. They found that the chemokine receptor CXCR4 on macrophages mediates apoptotic cell death. Interestingly, they also show that recovered hepatocytes mediate macrophage apoptosis by secretion of TGF-β which induces CXCR4 expression on macrophages. Ms. Nguyen has been fortunate to have studied the mechanism of drug-induced liver injury in a well-known liver-focused department at the University of Kansas Medical Center with exceptional faculty and resources. She would like to utilize her training and skills to pursue a career in research and development with a focus on inflammatory liver disease. She hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the pathophysiology of drug-induced liver injury that will be critical to advance the next generation of therapeutics. 

 

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Emily Stevenson
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Stevenson was incredibly humbled and honored to be chosen as a recipient of the Carl C. Smith Graduate Student Award. This award has a rigorous vetting process, and she was honored to have her work recognized by this group of toxicologists. The funds awarded to her by the Mechanisms Specialty Section will help her to further promote her research by supplementing travel to conferences and providing support for continuing education endeavors. These activities are vital to her progression in her graduate research and will help make her a more well-rounded scientist.

Ms. Stevenson's research focuses on understanding how changes in lipid accumulation affects a vital type of immune cell - the macrophage. Macrophages represent the first line of pathogen defense in the lung, and disruption to their normal function contributes to a variety of pathologies. The research for which she won this award demonstrates how in a mouse model of acute lung injury, lung macrophages have altered lipid levels, become activated and change their function, and affect disease outcome. In this model, she investigated the use of compound which prevents lipid droplet formation in cells, leading to improved markers of acute lung injury. This work is helping researchers to understand how injury-induced changes to the lung can affect immune cell function and disease processes. After completion of her doctoral dissertation, Ms. Stevenson hopes to work as a toxicologist in the personal care & consumer products space.

 

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.

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Colin Anderson
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Colorado

Mr. Anderson is extremely grateful for this award, and he knows that it will help him gain reputation and standing within his field. He is excited to continue his path towards becoming an independent investigator.

Mr. Anderson is investigating the fungicide maneb and its mechanistic association with Parkinson's disease. Maneb has been shown to directly inhibit dehydrogenase enzymes, yet the molecular mechanism has yet to be uncovered. His work outlines how thiol interactions between maneb and protein cysteines may underlie this inhibition, and how this contributes to the Parkinson's disease phenotype.

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Reena Berman
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: National Jewish Health

Ms. Berman is very proud and honored to have been a finalist for the Carl C. Smith Award. This is her final year of her graduate studies and earning this prestigious award is a great achievement to close out her graduate career. The work that went into this award application was a collaborative effort between multiple groups and facilities across the United States. It is a great validation of the efforts of Ms. Berman and her colleagues to be recognized at SOT and by the Mechanisms Specialty Section.

For her PhD in Toxicology, Ms. Berman is studying the role of toxic desert dust from Afghanistan in causing respiratory illness in deployed soldiers. Increasing numbers of soldiers are returning from deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq with asthma-like symptoms. She plans to complete her thesis in the next few months and pursue a career in industry after her defense. In the manuscript that was submitted for this award, she used cutting edge single-cell RNA sequencing to examine deployment related lung disease after returning from Afghanistan. Ms. Berman modeled the post-deployment setting by exposing mice to prolonged aerosolized Afghanistan desert dust, then treating them with a common household allergen. By looking at each cell on an individual level, she was able to identify a unique population of cells that was active only after exposure to both dust and allergen. Ms. Berman believes that deployment related lung disease may persist after a soldier returns from duty because of the activities of these uniquely induced cells.

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Melissa Clemens
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: MPH, MLS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Ms. Clemens was so grateful to receive this award. The Carl C. Smith Award is highly prestigious, and it makes it possible for her to attend SOT where she can share her research and network with other scientists.

The goal of Ms. Clemens' research is to determine the role of lipids in the mechanisms of drug-induced liver injury and repair. She recently discovered that endogenous phosphatidic acid (PA) enhances liver regeneration. Since PA is available over-the-counter as a dietary supplement, she next wondered if exogenous PA can be used as a treatment for liver injury. Most recently, she determined that PA treatment reduces liver injury caused by acetaminophen overdose through a mechanism that seems to involve upregulation of the cytokine interleukin-6. After graduation, Ms. Clemens hopes to continue her liver research but expand to include other liver diseases such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Emily Marques
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Rhode Island

Ms. Marques is honored to receive this award and the recognition will help her to secure a postdoctoral position that will advance her career and interests in liver toxicology.

She is currently researching liver toxicity of perfluoroaklyl substances (PFAS) in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) models as part of the University of Rhode Island's Superfund center, Sources, Transport, Exposure & Effects of PFASs (STEEP). In the work Ms. Marques has submitted for this award, she has measured and screened the ability of 19 different PFAS to induce lipid accumulation in human hepatocytes.

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Archit Rastogi
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BTech
Institution/Affiliation: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Mr. Rastogi was thrilled to receive the award. While it is always gratifying to win an award - the Carl C. Smith Award - owing to its storied history and prestige, is especially rewarding. This award will facilitate his traveling to the SOT Annual Meeting, which will be invaluable at this juncture in his career.

Mr. Rastogi investigated how early life exposure to per fluorinated compounds disrupt the developing pancreas, and how this can lead to later life diseases. The first part of his work showed that redox disruptions induced by exposures at specific developmental stages underlies this toxicity. The next part of his work, for which he won this award, identifies a specific transcription factor in the pancreas that PFOS affects, disrupting endogenous redox signaling. This is significant because it provides physicians with a roadmap, identifying molecular targets that they could screen for in vulnerable and exposed populations.

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Christine Rygiel
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: MPH, CIC
Institution/Affiliation: University of Michigan

Ms. Rygiel is excited about receiving this award because it will help off-set some of the costs associated with attending and traveling to the SOT annual conference. Being able to present her research at SOT will help her gather feedback regarding her recent research work. Feedback will help her strengthen the ideas around any uncertainties in this new protocol in order for others to adapt these new interpretations regarding distinguishing the differences between methylation and hydroxymethylation, and the potentially different roles each mark presented. Ms. Rygiel greatly appreciates the funding!

Ms. Rygiel's research focuses on understanding the effects that perinatal lead (Pb) exposure has on DNA methylation and hydroxymethylation. DNA methylation and hydroxymethylation have been proposed as mechanisms that drive the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) hypothesis, which states that early-life toxicant exposures, including Pb, during developmental periods (i.e. gestation, infancy, puberty, etc.) may be linked to the development of disease later in life. Increased levels of 5mC are associated with decreased transcription factor binding at promoter/enhancer sites and suppression of transcription. While 5mC is widely studied, the role of 5hmC, an intermediate in oxidative demethylation that is associated with increased gene expression, as an important epigenetic mark of active DNA demethylation remains a great debate. Most current methods, including standard bisulfite treatments, do not differentiate between 5mC and 5hmC. Therefore, detecting changes in levels of 5mC and 5hmC, separately, may provide additional insights into mechanisms of Pb-induced epigenetic alterations relating to the DOHaD hypothesis. Ms. Rygiel tested the hypothesis that prenatal Pb exposure at each trimester within candidate regions of genes previously associated with prenatal Pb exposure would result in independent alterations in 5mC and 5hmC levels. Environmental-mediated 5mC/5hmC changes could have important implications for transcriptional control and expression, and may underlie later-life disease developmental. Her results show that 5hmC is not only detectable in whole blood leukocytes, but that there are trimester-specific alterations in 5mC and 5hmC that are independent of each other, thus providing mechanistic support for 5hmC role in Pb-induced epigenetic modifications. Future work involves determining the viability of surrogate tissues (blood leukocytes) explaining effects in target tissues (brain cortex), which will utilize a mouse model. We expect to see that 5hmC patterns in blood will be correlated to cortex, potentially providing evidence that the blood epigenome provides a viable signature for Pb exposure related epigenetic changes relevant to epigenetic epidemiology.

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Cody Schmidlin
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS, BA
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Mr. Schmidlin was thrilled that his research was recognized as being worthy of this award. He is grateful to the Mechanisms Specialty Section and the Society of Toxicology for this opportunity.

Chronic arsenic exposure continues to be a worldwide health concern because of its prevalence and contribution to disease, specifically cancer. Many individuals, specifically in the southwestern United States, are exposed to chronic low dose arsenic levels in ground and well water as a result of mining and mineralization. Mr. Schmidlin's research indicates that chronic exposure to arsenic leads normal lung cells to become cancerous, and that these cells have properties consistent with cancer cell spread. When cancer spreads in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients, the 5-year survival rate drops to 6%, as compared to 60% in localized tumors; however, the exact mechanism for what causes NSCLC cells to spread is unknown. One proposed contributor is nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (NRF2), a protein with known oncogenic properties that is induced by arsenic toxicity. While NRF2 itself has not been shown to cause cancer cell spread, Mr. Schmidlin demonstrated that it can regulate SRY-box 9 (SOX9): a cellular protein linked with cancer cell spread. Then, he demonstrated that chronic arsenic exposure increased expression of both NRF2 and SOX9, and that this made lung cells more cancerous in terms of growth and spread. To confirm that one of the mechanisms behind NSCLC spread was NRF2 and SOX9, he demonstrated that with loss of NRF2 or SOX9, cancer cells grew slower, and invaded and migrated less. By providing a mechanism by which lung cancer can spread, Mr. Schmidlin has a better understanding of how he can target certain proteins to improve patient outcome. Overall, this evidence suggests that NRF2 control of SOX9 expression can contribute to the spread of both environmentally and genetically driven lung tumors. In the future, he hopes to find methods/drugs to target the NRF2 signaling pathway in order to prevent cancer cell spread via increased SOX9 expression.

Carl C. Smith Student Mechanisms Award Fund

Recipient: Regina Schnegelberger
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Pittsburgh

Ms. Schnegelberger became a member of SOT in 2018 and attended her first SOT meeting shortly thereafter. She is looking forward to attending the upcoming SOT meeting, which will be her third. Each meeting she has been overwhelmed by the quality and breadth of research presented and always finds herself with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and excitement towards her own studies. She is positive the upcoming meeting won?t be any different and that the information she receives from attending will be very helpful not only for her research project, but also for her professional development as a scientist. She is very excited and honored to receive this award and afford her the opportunity to present her research, develop relationships with fellow scientists, and explore the possibilities that a doctorate degree can provide to her.

The research in Ms. Schnegelberger's laboratory focuses on the environmental toxicant vinyl chloride (VC) and its exposure in the context of underlying liver disease. The overall goal of her laboratory is to demonstrate that low environmental exposure may have significant effects on human health when combined with additional risk factors for liver disease. Specifically, data published by her lab showed that sub-hepatotoxic levels of VC/VC metabolites can exacerbate existing liver injury. Ms. Schnegelberger's lab has shown that VC exposure is mitotoxic, significantly decreasing mitochondrial respiration and respiratory capacity. VC also enhanced oxidative and ER stress caused by high-fat diet (HFD). Mechanistically, very little is known regarding how chronic VC exposure enhances the risk of developing liver disease. Her current research project is an extension of the previous work from her lab to fill this critical gap. One of the major observations in her work was that VC caused mitochondrial dysfunction and ER stress. Mitochondria and the ER physically interact via specialized contact sites called mitochondria-associated ER membranes (MAMs), through which membrane and luminal components exchange. Importantly, MAMs shelter key components that impact cellular and organelle function by regulating and controlling mitochondrial function, ER stress signaling, and autophagy. Moreover, ER-mitochondria contact sites also support the mediation of mitochondrial fission and fusion events, and disrupted ER-mitochondria interactions can result in ER stress. Ms. Schnegelberger has specifically hypothesize that VC exposure disrupts ER-mitochondria communication, resulting in dysregulated calcium homeostasis, reactive oxygen species generation, impaired mitochondrial function, and ER stress.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Hadil Al Muhisen
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD in Toxicology
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Dr. Al Muhisen is so honored to receive the Women in Toxicology Award. She felt her heart come back to life again and wanted to invest more in leadership roles and commitment to support more women in the field and be part of the change. She is greatly pleased to be recognized and appreciated for the effort and this means more to her than just an award. Dr. Al Muhisen believes winning this award means belonging to a family and a union to serve for one mission with a good cause. There are not enough words to explain how much Dr. Al Muhisen is thrilled and thankful for this recognition. 

Dr. Al Muhisen's research work was focusing on investigating the effect of alcohol on sex differences of neural stem cells using ex vivo models during her master's degree. She then switched her focus to studying male reproductive biology and toxicology to characterize the novel testis-specific actin related proteins (ARPs) and investigating the toxicological profile of Remdisiver with the focus on testis and spermatogenesis during her PhD degree. Dr. Al Muhisen's short-term goal is to continue serving and contributing in the field of DART in the United States and explore more roles to practice her knowledge as CRO, Consultant, or Regulatory scientist in either government or private sector industry or pharmaceuticals. She hopes during her career that she can learn and expand her expertise with DART field and beyond. Dr. Al Muhisen is committed to continue actively serving within the field toxicological societies. In her long-term goals, Dr. Al Muhisen hopes to be part of the decision makers and became an expert leader in the field. She hopes to build international cooperation and work together globally. Dr. Al Muhisen hopes that she can bring change to this world and leave her mark among toxicological societies to inspire other individuals. The Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund recognizes women in toxicology leadership roles and makes an impact to the field in toxicology and helps other women in STEM. This award is to continue supporting other women and recognize their effort in making a change in toxicological societies and the field. Dr. Al Muhisen hopes this award will inspire more women in leadership and contribute to their career choices. 

 

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Rachel Alford
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS Environmental Science; MS Environmental and Occupational Health in progress
Institution/Affiliation: Indiana University School of Public Health

Ms. Alford is absolutely elated to receive this award. She has been fortunate to have many female STEM role models in her life, and having the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of women in science and toxicology in her work with various community organizations feels incredibly impactful. This award will not only support her research but also her outreach efforts

Ms. Alford studied the influences of sex on the gut and lung microbiome in a mouse model before and after an environmental allergen challenge. Further understanding how sex impacts the body's response to environmental contaminants is vital to progressing women's health research. Outside of the lab, Ms. Alford spends a lot of time teaching and developing supplemental STEM education opportunities for girls ages 5-18, because she believes all girls should have easy access to science. In the future, she would like to do further work on the impact of contaminants on women's health as well as pursue a career related to improving science communication to the public. 

 

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Alyssa Bellomo
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Bellomo was extremely happy to win this award for her graduate research work. It means a lot to her to be a part of the Women in Toxicology Special Interest Group and she was very honored to have received this award, which will help Ms. Bellomo pursue her research by funding her travel to Nashville. As a result of the award, her conference fees have been fully covered. It has been a great opportunity to network, meet mentors, and discover potential career paths to pursue after the completion of her degree.

Ms. Bellomo's research centers on how the chemical weapon mustard gas causes lung injury. Mustards are known to cause inflammation leading to progressive lung diseases. She studied this interaction by using a mouse lung explant model, precision cut lung slices. By using this model, she can study early events in mustard-induced lung injury while both reducing and refining animal use in research. During this SOT session, she presented on the lung function and cellular metabolic effects of nitrogen mustard, a specific mustard vesicant. Ms. Bellomo's graduate research has highlighted her passion for creating alternative animal models to help reduce animal use in toxicology. She would ultimately like to find a postdoctoral opportunity that also utilizes alternatives to animal models.

 

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Rachel Sun
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PharmD in progress
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Sun felt it was a great honor to receive the Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund. Receiving this award has inspired her to continue pursuing research, especially considering not only that women are often not represented in science fields, but that she is receiving a competitive award early in her career. This award has given her the motivation to explore her interests and the opportunity to network with amazing researchers in the field. 

Ms. Sun's research focuses on immunometabolism - the bridge between immune cell function and metabolic pathways. Alterations in the metabolic activity of the mitochondria by endotoxins can lead to to changes in the outcomes of immune cells. She investigated macrophages, essential innate immune cells that contribute to host defense during inflammatory diseases, and delved deeper into their metabolic profile. In the future, she hopes to target not only the immune-related pathways, but also metabolic pathways to repair cellular function and restore immune homeostasis for translational research. 

 

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Shannah Witchey
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: National Toxicology Program

When Dr. Witchey first saw the email that she had received the WIT Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award, she had to read it a few times because she was in disbelief. Then she felt honored and humbled to have been awarded, as she does not have a formal toxicology background. She has worked in a CRO and in multiple toxicology labs but her doctorate degree is in behavioral neuroendocrinology. She was thrilled to share the news with her wonderful mentors who are outstanding and strong female role models that have shown her relentless support. Receiving this award early in her career will help broaden her network within SOT and enable her to continue to grow as a toxicologist. 

As an intramural research training award (IRTA) fellow, Dr. Witchey works on interdisciplinary teams of scientist to access the potential toxicity of chemical, pharmaceutical, and other environmental agents. Her current project focuses on examining the potential exposure effects of organophosphate flame retardants, triphenyl phosphate and isopropyl phenyl phosphate. These compounds are closely related to organophosphate pesticides known to be neurotoxic, specifically targeting cholinesterase activity. Both compounds are detected in the environment and in human samples, with levels predicted to rise due to increased industrial use. This is concerning as limited toxicological data is available. Their group has demonstrated cholinesterase activity was significantly reduced in blood and brain samples following exposure to both compounds. Ongoing projects are focused on determining a point of departure based on cholinesterase activity and evaluating for potential effects on the brain using sequencing techniques. 

 

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Jamie Young
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

Dr. Young was truly humbled to receive this award. Her first reaction to being notified that she was the 2022 postdoctoral recipient of the Women in Toxicology Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award was that she could not wait to tell her people! And by “people” she means all the people in her life, both individually and collectively, that have played a role in her success. Those who have supported and encouraged her and reminded her that, in fact, there is no box (no need to think “outside the box” because there is no box!). This award provides for a unique opportunity to network and connect with other amazing women in the field of toxicology. It is these connections that lead to great research and discoveries that will undoubtedly have transformative impact on the field of toxicology. 

Dr. Young's research project focuses on how unstable chromosomes contribute to the progression and severity of fatty liver disease, while taking into consideration how factors such as sex and biological aging influence disease susceptibility. She will use two drinking water containments of major public health concern, hexavalent chromium and perfluoroalkyl substances, to show that factors that perturb chromosome structure and fat metabolism work together to drive liver disease progression. Thus, her project will transform understanding of fatty liver disease progression, creating a platform for new targeted therapies while providing critical insight into environmental contributions to liver disease. 

 

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.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Meghan Rebuli
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dr. Rebuli was very excited about receiving this award. It validates all of the work that she has accomplished in her tenure as a postdoctoral researcher and reinforces the importance of her service and leadership in advancing women in toxicology. This award will help her pursue her research by encouraging her continued dedication to efforts to advance the visibility, recognition, and support of women in the field of toxicology. Additionally, Dr. Rebuli will continue to strive to improve the inclusion of women as subjects in scientific research and analyzing all of her endpoints by sex to enhance the available data on toxicology relevant to women's biology and physiology.

A variety of pulmonary diseases are known to affect females differently than males, in incidence, clinical manifestation, and severity. In the case of asthma, incidence and severity are thought to be sex hormone dependent as males are more susceptible before puberty, then incidence flips to be female-heavy after puberty, and is further altered during changes in hormonal status such as pregnancy and menopause. Another example is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), where cigarette smoking was previously thought to be a primary risk factor, however recent evidence suggests that even females who are never smokers are more likely to be diagnosed with COPD than men. In both asthma and COPD, environmental factors have also been linked to disease incidence and exacerbation severity, however little is known about the interaction of sex and environmental exposures and their collective contribution to disease. To fill this gap, Dr. Rebuli's postdoctoral research has focused on investigating the interaction of inhaled pollutants, including wood smoke and e-cigarettes, and sex to induce differential effects on the respiratory innate immune system. She first identified a number of baseline sex differences in respiratory immune gene expression, which was the basis for analyzing effects of toxicants in the airway sex-specifically. She then completed two human studies to identify sex-specific effects on respiratory immune host defense after exposure to wood smoke and e-cigarettes. In the wood smoke exposure study, Dr. Rebuli used a human controlled exposure system to expose healthy human subjects to wood smoke in order to mimic wildfire exposures in a more controlled system. She then administered a vaccine dose of Live Attenuated Influenza Virus (LAIV), a cold adapted virus that only replicates in the nasal passages, to safely study the potential for air pollutants to alter response to infection. She collected samples pre- and post-infection from the nose and used targeted gene array technology to analyze nasal immune cell gene expression. From this study, Dr. Rebuli identified a variety of genes in the airway that interacted both with sex and exposure, where males experienced increased rates of inflammation in response to wood smoke exposure, compared to filtered air; while females experienced mild suppression of host-defense responses (effects in opposite directions). These effects suggest that males and females are likely differentially susceptible to infection and infection induced inflammation after wood smoke exposure. This work has been published in the top respiratory journal in her field, American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine. Presenting this work, Dr. Rebuli has also won several awards and has been featured as the first author in several popular press pieces about this work. To explore the potential for a common mode of action (MOA) in sex specific response to toxicants, she completed a similar study using a different toxicant, e-cigarettes, she inoculated non-smokers, e-cigarette users, and cigarette smokers with LAIV, taking samples from the nose pre- and post- infection, analyzing changes in nasal epithelial cell gene expression and nasal mucosal immune mediator levels using the non-invasive nasal sampling method that she developed. In this study, Dr. Rebuli reproduced previous findings of impaired host-defense response in cigarette smokers and she identified novel sex-specific responses, particularly in e-cigarette users. While links between sex and environmental exposures have been suggested in epidemiological and animal studies, her postdoctoral work includes the first controlled human exposure studies to identify respiratory sex differences after toxicant and influenza exposure. To expand on these studies and fill knowledge gaps related to sex specific impacts of respiratory toxicants, her ongoing research is focused on investigating potential mechanisms of action (correlation of sex hormone levels with effects or sex-specific gene-level regulation of effects), the role of critical windows of exposure on clinical outcomes, and understanding sex specific effects of air pollutants on respiratory diseases across the lifespan. Overall, the goal for her research is to understand the interaction of sex and air pollutants on the respiratory immune system.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Victoria Salemme
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees:
Institution/Affiliation: University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Ms. Salemme was amazed and so grateful to have received this award from the Women in Toxicology Special Interest Group. This award will help with some of the costs associated with traveling to the SOT annual meeting, where she is presenting a poster on the research project she is currently working on, and the reason she was given this award. Presenting at a large scale conference allows her to network with researchers in the field of toxicology while learning more about current and up-and-coming research. As an undergraduate student aiming to pursue a PhD and a career in research, learning from others in the field is immensely beneficial to helping her navigate the world of science and determine where and how she can achieve her personal and scientific goals.

Currently, Ms. Salemme is using computer programs to sort and identify cellular functions within the body that are highly affected by exposure to environmental and occupational pollutants or chemicals. She has found that chemical exposure alters hormonal functions in the body, the innate immune response, and the use of lipids in the body. Other expected functions seen previously in a multitude of chemical exposure experiments were also found to be altered. This experiment will aid future researchers in determining the effects of chemicals on the body in ways previously unknown and unstudied. As a researcher, she hopes to use experiments such as this one to formulate new diagnostic methods for animals and humans, with a focus on chronic diseases and exposures.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Rachel Speer
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

Ms. Speer felt extremely honored to have received this award. She has always been passionate about supporting women in toxicology and encouraging women in the STEM fields. This award will help support her travel to the SOT meeting where she hopes to broaden the scope of her work and add to the quality of her research. She also hopes to meet other researchers to work with and collaborate with in the future.

Ms. Speer's research is in environmental toxicology focusing on how metals lead to carcinogenic endpoints. Her doctoral research has focused on how hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] affects human and wildlife health using a One Environmental Health Approach. This work is informative about how metals in the environment lead to adverse effects in humans, wildlife, and the environment. In the future she hopes to apply this approach to study how other environmental toxicants affect health by looking at different endpoints. This award was given for her research investigating Cr(VI) effects on the high fidelity DNA repair pathway, homologous recombination. This work investigates how Cr(VI) inhibits an essential protein in this pathway, RAD51, affecting its transcriptional regulation by the transcription factor E2F1. Specifically, Ms. Speer shows Cr may bind to acetylated lysine at promoter regions inhibiting transcription. This work is important because it helps identify a key mechanism of Cr(VI) carcinogenesis that may be applied to other carcinogenic pathways of Cr(VI) exposure.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Anne Turco
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BA
Institution/Affiliation: University of Wisconsin Madison

Ms. Turco was extremely excited upon receiving this award. She will use this money to continue to pursue outreach opportunities. She purchases supplies for activities with students every year so a portion of these funds will go to purchasing these supplies to educate grade school children about toxicology.

Ms. Turco's PhD project is investigating the impact of an environmental contaminant on nerve density and smooth muscle contraction in the prostate. As men age, they experience difficulty urinating, but it is unknown why. One treatment is to prescribe drugs that relax prostate smooth muscle, but it is unknown why these drugs work. She has hypothesized that axons that control prostate smooth muscle contraction increase in density after exposure to an environmental contaminant to increase smooth muscle contraction and urinary symptoms. Ms. Turco's future career goals are pursuing a career as an independent toxicologist in industry. She won the present award for leadership and service during her graduate career. She is her graduate program's student leadership president and she organizes professional development seminars, the annual retreat, and authors the semi-annual newsletter. Lastly, she organizes her graduate program's outreach program. Further, Ms. Turco is the vice president of Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) Madison chapter where she organizes industry tours, authors the monthly newsletter, and organizes professional development events.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Rita-Josiane Gousesse
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: INRS - Institut Armand-Frappier

Ms. Gousesse was very honored and thankful. This prize was a real surprise for her because she did not expect it, it is an invaluable recognition of all her accomplishments. She was encouraged to work better to do an excellent job but also to get more involved in her community. This award represents a great recognition for her accomplishments and will help her to accomplish more to enable access to education that is for her, the undeniable form to support the current and future female and male toxicologist, and scientist leaders all around the world.

Brominated flame retardants (BFR) are chemicals added to consumer and household products to reduce their inflammability and ignition rate. Over the time, BFR leach out in the environment leading to human and wildlife exposure mainly through breathing and ingestion of house dust. The problem is that some of the BFR act as endocrine disruptors which are substances that mimic or block the action of endogenous hormone. Because of theses harmful properties, BFR can have adverse effects on human health. Moreover, when exposure occurs during pregnancy, it may increase the risks for the infants to develop heath disorders later-on in life. Therefore, it is important the understand the effects of this chronic exposure to BFR on human heath. Her project specifically aims to understand the effects of exposure to BFR on mammary gland development in mothers and their infants. They previously orally exposed female rats to different doses of an environmentally-relevant mixture of BFR, based on concentration found in house dust, through pregnancy and breastfeeding, leading to perinatal exposure of the pups. Their results show that exposure to BFR disrupts mammary cell-cell adhesion both in mothers and their pups. Overall, their results suggest that environmental hormonal imbalance disturbs mammary gland signaling during the pregnancy-breastfeeding cycle and the puberty which are sensitive periods for breast development and cancer. Their study raises important concerns about the consequences of environment hormonal disruption on long-term. Their current and future studies will enable us to better understand the effects of BFR exposure on mammary gland development and pathogenesis.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Lauren Lewis
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Ms. Lewis was honored to receive the Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award. She is very thankful for the support of the Society of Toxicology and the Women in Toxicology Specialty Section. This award will allow her to attend the annual SOT meeting to present her dissertation research. Attending this conference will be a great experience because she will be able to network and participate in idea sharing with experienced scientists from academia and industry. In addition to attending lectures and discussions about her area of research, she will also be exposed to other areas of toxicology that she is less familiar with. Presenting a poster at the SOT annual meeting will allow her to receive valuable feedback about her research project. She will also be able to participate in continuing education classes which can help her improve her research techniques and methodologies. Overall, attending this conference will be a fantastic opportunity for her to gain knowledge about her area of research, network, and help her stay at the forefront of her field of research.

Epigenetic reprogramming represents a major component of “genome instability” which is an enabling characteristic of carcinogenesis. Exposure to chemical carcinogens can alter the chromatin landscape by inducing changes in DNA methylation, histone remodeling and alteration of microRNA expression. In addition, genetic variation can influence individual susceptibility to toxicants. Further investigation of the mechanistic link between the genome, epigenome, and DNA damage is necessary to understand inter-individual variability in response to environmental chemicals. In her research, she uses the model genotoxic carcinogen 1,3-butadiene to explore how the epigenome plays a role in individual susceptibility to genotoxic exposures. Her  goal is to characterize population variability in epigenetic and genotoxic effects of 1,3-butadiene in a population-based model.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Saniya Rattan
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

When Dr. Rattan received the email that she was awarded the Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award, she was in disbelief. Excitement and joy immediately followed when she realized that she was selected for this prestigious award. This award will greatly assist her research endeavors. She will be able to reduce the cost of attending the SOT Annual Meeting where she will get critical feedback on her research.

Dr. Rattan's research focuses on the effects of a plasticizer chemical, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). DEHP is found in common consumer goods that contain polyvinyl chloride plastic. She looked at how exposure to DEHP only during the second half of pregnancy in mice affects female reproduction. She specifically looked at the ovary in the daughters, grand daughters, and great-grand daughters of the exposed mothers. The specific research for which she won this award examines the pathways that DEHP disrupts in the ovaries of these generations. The pathways that DEHP disrupts in the ovaries vary in the generation, but overall her research indicates that the effects of DEHP differs in each generation. Additionally, her research indicates that DEHP exposure may cause these effects through DNA methylation.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Brittany Rickard
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of the Sciences

Ms. Rickard has said that receiving an award inspired by one of the early leaders in toxicology, Ms. Anne Wolven Garrett, is truly an honor. As an undergraduate student studying Pharmacology and Toxicology, she finds it incredible to think that she has been recognized as a woman in the early stages of developing her career in toxicology. Since this award is a tribute to one of the most notable women in the field, it is not only incredibly humbling, but it also proves to her that her passion for and dedication to toxicological research has not gone unnoticed. She plans to use this award to fund future research projects in various areas of the field with the hopes of presenting her findings at future scientific conferences, such as SOT.

Ms. Rickards's research at the University of the Sciences focuses on the biotransformation and toxicity of an agricultural fungicide known to cause liver necrosis in rats. Interestingly, this compound is structurally similar to the drug troglitazone, which was once used to treat type II diabetes until it was found to cause liver damage in humans. Currently, they are exploring the breakdown of this fungicide into its metabolites in the presence of various cell lines in order to understand the mechanism behind and structural feature(s) responsible for the observed toxicity. This project, along with other research opportunities that she has been lucky enough to receive, has inspired her to attend graduate school next fall. In graduate school, she hopes to expand on both her knowledge and research experience in toxicology, specifically focusing on how organ tissues are formed and how environmental or pharmaceutical compounds can impact their proper development.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Jessica Murray
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Pennsylvania

Receiving this award was incredibly exciting! Her lab is running short on funds, so this award will help cover travel expenses to future SOT meetings and supplies for her thesis project.

She studies the metabolic activation of nitroarenes, highly mutagenic components of diesel engine exhaust that may contribute to lung cancer risk. She uses high resolution mass spectrometry to identify metabolites of these compounds and resulting DNA adducts in human lung cell culture to identify human enzymes that lead to toxification events. She hopes to continue researching within the field of chemical carcinogenesis in an academic or government setting after receiving her PhD. She won this award in part due to her service and leadership at UPenn and SOT. In addition to her research, she is actively engaged in STEM outreach and have founded an organization that supplements existing STEM outreach organizations in Philadelphia with Pharmacology and Toxicology lessons and activities that help reinforce principles of Biology and Chemistry in a fun and approachable manner.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Samantha Snow
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: US EPA

She was beyond honored and excited to receive the Women in Toxicology SIG Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award! Reception of this prestigious award instills in her the confidence to keep pursing this line of research knowing that others in the field respect the novelty and importance of these findings, while at the same time validates the long hours and hard work she put in towards becoming an independent toxicologist.

Previous studies from her lab have shown that exposure to inhaled environmental irritants (ozone and acrolein) affects systemic metabolic homeostasis through activation of the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axes to induce multi-organ metabolic alterations (i.e. impaired glucose homeostasis), which is likely a common mechanism for many chemical and non-chemical stressors. The purpose of her current research project is to use newly developed radio-telemetry technology, which is capable of providing real-time quantitative glucose and core body temperature data in conscious and unrestrained animals, to assess the impacts of ozone exposure across time and concentration. Most high-throughput technologies allow only a snapshot picture of biological processes, but not a multidimensional view of in-life, real-time dynamic biomolecular changes as environmental stressors are encountered. The use of these glucose monitoring implants provide an opportunity to acquire temporal data for blood glucose levels in freely-moving animals prior to, during, and following an exposure. The acquisition of these types of datasets are necessary for accurate elucidation of disease etiology and are critical for development of predictive, computational models of the adverse effects of environmental stressors. In the introductory study involving these glucose telemeters, she hypothesized that ozone exposure would impair normal circulating glucose rhythms in a concentration-dependent manner. Male, 13 week old Wistar-Kyoto rats (n=8), were implanted with HD-XG glucose telemeters (Data Sciences International, St. Paul, MN) and exposed to 0.0, 0.2, 0.4, and 0.8 ppm ozone for 4h/day, 1 day/week for 4 consecutive weeks. A crossover design was used wherein all 8 implanted animals were exposed to each concentration with continuous monitoring of blood glucose levels, core body temperature, and locomotor activity throughout the entire 4-week period. Exposure to 0.8 ppm ozone caused a precipitous increase in blood glucose levels as core body temperature simultaneously decreased, approximately 1.5h after the beginning of exposure. Glucose tolerance testing performed immediately after exposure to filtered air and 0.8 ppm ozone further revealed ozone-induced impaired glucose tolerance. These data for the first time demonstrate the real-time temporal dynamics of ozone-induced hyperglycemia and glucose intolerance. Furthermore, this novel approach has the capacity to be amenable to a variety of environmental chemical and non-chemical stressors, allows for generation of a temporal data set without the need for using large numbers of laboratory animals, provides data critical for dynamic computational modeling strategies, introduces a new in vivo screening tool, and supports harmonization of risk assessment through common stress response mechanisms fundamental in systems biology that have not previously been studied in the context of environmental contaminants.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Suangsuda Supasai
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of California, Davis

She was so glad when she heard that she was a recipient of SIG Cerebrating Women in Toxicology Award in 2018. This award is the highest honor not only for her but also for woman toxicologists/scientists in her home country, Thailand. She believes that this award will make her and also other woman scientists to voice louder for improving the scientific community in the future. Since she got the fellowship from her home country to study her PhD and earn outstanding research experiences in the United States, her future goal is clear to go back and contribute good research for better living and healthy environment in Thailand. This award will help her play important roles for national and international scientific research and make research collaboration in the future.

Her current research emphasis is investigation of pathogenic mechanisms by which acute intoxication with organophosphates (OPs) leads to long-term morbidity. As known, acute OP intoxication causes hundreds of thousands of death annually, and survivor of OP-induced status epilepticus (SE) face significant, long-term morbidity including cognitive deficits and recurrent seizure. Current medical countermeasures can decrease mortality, but does not protect against long-term deficits. The development of more effective neuroprotective strategies is stymied by limited understanding of persistent neuropathology following acute OP intoxication. Thus, her study is focusing on pathogenic mechanisms in OP-induced SE model to better understand molecular changes, leading to develop therapeutic strategy for mitigating neurologic sequelae in the future. In addition, her findings identify acute OP intoxication as a potential risk factor for neurodegenerative disease later in life. After 2018 SOT meeting, she will return to my home country to serve on the faculty in School of Tropical Medicine in Thailand. Her goal is to continue to conduct research related to toxicology, particularly in the context of issues prevalent in Thailand. OP pesticides, commonly used in many agricultural areas, are associated with increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases and, it is her hypothesis, these population may be also more susceptible to infection in tropical diseases such as dengue virus and malaria.

 

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Alison Sanders
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: PhD, MS
Institution/Affiliation: Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

She is honored to receive the 2017 postdoctoral CWIT award. For the last decade, she has dedicated her career to the field of toxicology and to developing the research, teaching and leadership skills that will carry her through her future academic career. SOT's recognition of her efforts through the CWIT award will undoubtedly help her to achieve her overarching career goal of becoming an independent investigator environmental perinatal health, and conducting research that will protect vulnerable populations from toxic insults. Her research focuses on how toxic metal exposure (e.g. lead, mercury, cadmium) during pregnancy alters epigenetic marks and molecular pathways of pediatric and later life hypertension. She has acquired interdisciplinary training ranging from geospatial statistics, computational and molecular biology, and epigenetic epidemiology to in vitro toxicology. During her pre- and postdoctoral training in environmental health, she applied these approaches to the study of birth defects and preterm birth, two leading causes of infant mortality in the US. She has published 16 peer-reviewed manuscripts (10 as first or last author). In a series of recent studies, she analyzed levels of 800 microRNAs in cervical samples collected from 80 pregnant women. She identified several candidate microRNAs and signaling pathways associated with lead exposure and shorter gestations. In parallel, she conducted analyses of 400 children in the same cohort with prenatal lead exposure and blood pressure measured at 4 years of age; she identified a significant positive relationship among children born preterm. It is this work that has inspired her current research, which investigates how prenatal metal exposure mediates childhood hypertension through epigenetic mechanisms, and the unique susceptibility of babies that are born prematurely. The knowledge gained will ultimately lead to a better understanding of epigenetic pathways in chronic disease and new avenues for therapeutic development.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Jessica Sapiro
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona/Wayne State University

Upon notification, she was quite pleased and honored that my research and leadership was found noteworthy and significant by colleagues in the Women in Toxicology Special Interest Group to be an award recipient. As a young and rising scientist and leader, it is important to see herself advancing in the field. SOT awards are quite competitive so being recognized as a strong researcher and leader to compete against her peers is quite rewarding. Acute renal injury is increasing in occurrence resulting from various compound exposure to the body and the formation of breakdown products in the body. It can present itself as a co-morbidity with other medical conditions in patients yielding a substantial concern. My dissertation work explores how a vitamin A metabolite, all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA), can protect against kidney injury. This work demonstrates that ATRA can induce several cellular stress proteins in its mechanism of protection. Specifically, the cellular stress kinase, ERK, plays a key role in the protection process. Based on our findings, we hope that ATRA and/or analogs thereof may serve as an effective therapeutic intervention in acute renal injury. Currently, we have established a cell culture model to assess ATRA cytoprotection and have generated mechanistic findings. This award will allow for more extensive mechanistic investigation exploring ERK activation and the continued development of a rodent model to assess ATRA protection. Following graduate school, she wishes to continue exploring the discovery and investigative toxicology space. The development of agents that have therapeutic potential against injuries and diseases is prominent in our goal of creating a safer and healthier world. In addition to kidney toxicity, it would be interesting to explore the development of a therapeutic agent that has clinical application to multiple organs. She also plans to continue in her future endeavors mentoring and training younger scientists to keep our field growing with fresh talent and innovation.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Priyanka Trivedi
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Harvard Medical School

She was really excited and pleased when she received this award. She immediately shared the good news with her advisor and also thanked him for all his support and encouragement. This award will provide recognition to her work and complement her research in the field of renal toxicology. She will use this award as a springboard for her career in which she will make important contributions to advancing our understanding of toxicology research. Her research focuses on discovering therapeutic targets for acute and chronic kidney diseases. In order to identify druggable targets, we performed RNA sequencing in mouse model of toxic kidney fibrosis and identified Phospholipase D4 (PLD4), a single pass transmembrane glycoprotein, as one of the highly up-regulated genes. Up-regulation of PLD4 was confirmed in three mechanistically distinct mouse models as well as in patients with biopsy-proven kidney fibrosis. Mechanistically, we show that PLD4 facilitates fibrogenesis by modulating innate and adaptive immune responses thereby promoting a TGF-ß signaling pathway. Moreover, PLD4 induced the expression of a1-antitrypsin protein (a serine protease inhibitor) that resulted in subsequent down-regulation of a protease neutrophil elastase (NE) expression, thereby leading to the accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins. Interestingly, therapeutic targeting of PLD4 using specific siRNA also protected the mice from kidney fibrosis by inhibiting TGF-ß signaling and inducing NE expression. In conclusion, our findings identified PLD4 as a novel therapeutic target for kidney fibrosis - an unmet medical need. Her future goal is to continue contributing to the toxicological science, which can be directly applied clinically to benefit the society.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Kimberly Keil
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of California Davis

Neurodevelopmental disorders affect 1 in 10 children in the US and rates are increasing. Environmental factors are implicated in these disorders and are thought to interact with genetic susceptibilities. However, mechanisms by which environmental chemicals interact with genetic factors to confer individual risk remain a current knowledge gap in our understanding of these diseases. Epigenetic changes, which are modifications to DNA that alter gene expression without altering the DNA sequence, are one mechanism by which genes and environment may interact to influence individual neurodevelopmental disease risk; however, there is a paucity of experimental data in direct support of this mechanism. The goal of Dr. Keil's current research is to address this gap, yielding novel mechanistic data regarding not only the developmental neurotoxicity of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are a current risk to the developing human brain, but also the role of the epigenome, specifically DNA methylation, in gene-environment interactions that confer risk for adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. Collectively, her results presented at the 2016 SOT meeting suggest that enzymes responsible for DNA methylation regulate basal dendritic growth in vitro and that their expression can be modified by PCB 95. These observations suggest DNA methyltransferase enzymes as a target of PCB developmental neurotoxicity that may represent a convergence point for gene-environment interactions that influence the risk and/or severity of neurodevelopmental disorders. This information is urgently needed to inform rational strategies for minimizing neurodevelopmental risk by mitigating relevant exposures and for identifying novel therapeutic targets and is an area she intends to pursue in her career goal of becoming a tenure track faculty member.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Dana Lauterstein
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: New York University

The use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) during early life stages may pose a significant risk to the developing central nervous system, and Ms. Lauterstein's work seeks examine potential adverse outcomes associated with exposure to these products throughout gestation and lactation. Furthermore, this work addresses the emerging need for studies examining early life exposure to environmental toxicants and later adult disease. She has received this award for a portion of her doctoral work that she is presenting this year at SOT. For her project she exposed pregnant mice to aerosols produced from e-cigarettes with and without nicotine via whole body inhalation. The mice were exposed throughout gestation, and after birth both mothers and offspring were exposed to e-cigarette aerosols together throughout the lactational period. Following lactational exposure a subset of male and female offspring were sacrificed (~1-month-old at time of sacrifice) and RNA Sequencing was preformed on frontal cortex samples to examine global genomic changes. Subsequently, pathway analyses enabled the prediction of downstream biological outcomes associated with the observed changes in levels of gene expression. Results from this study demonstrated that e-cigarettes, both with and without nicotine, induced sex-dependent gene expression changes associated with predicted adverse neurobiological and neurobehavioral outcomes similar to those associated with early life exposure to the smoke from conventional cigarettes. Another subset of mice was used for behavioral testing in adulthood (done in collaboration with Dr. Cory-Slechta at the University of Rochester). She wishes to contribute much-needed research for the toxicological assessment of alternative tobacco products (ATPs). Many ATPs, including e-cigarettes, are being used widely in the U.S. and around the world today. Many, if not all of them pose sizeable health risks, but are not adequately studied and/or regulated and thus are perceived to have reduced harm when compared to conventional cigarettes. After she finishes her doctoral degree she would like to have a career in risk assessment for a regulatory agency where her work directly influences public health policy decisions. She also wishes to play a role in communicating scientific findings with the general public to further their knowledge of potential toxicological dangers in their environment.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Kristin Licko
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Water Quality Association

As the Toxicology Manager for the Water Quality Association, Ms. Licko collaborates with other members of the Joint Peer Review Steering Committee (JPRSC) which is comprised of representatives from competing ANSI accredited product certification bodies working together to reconcile and develop safe levels for chemicals found in drinking water treatment products. It is a delicate balance of sharing expenses, directives, and producing defensible criteria – in addition to all of our individual organizational priorities. We have made exceptional progress toward making sure all products are evaluated to the same safe levels, no matter where product certification is sought. In choosing this profession and expanding upon her education, she hopes to work to continue the directive of the JPRSC and improve her skills in order to develop risk assessments for chemicals we are exposed to that have not yet been evaluated.

Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award Fund

Recipient: Samantha Snow
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: US EPA

Dr. Snow's research focuses on investigating the adverse pulmonary, cardiovascular, and metabolic effects associated with exposure to gaseous pollutants in susceptible animal models, and determining the role stress hormones may play in these adverse responses. This current research explores the notion that dietary supplementation with fish oil or olive oil would attenuate ozone-induced metabolic impairments.

Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund

Recipient: Congress of Toxicology in Developing Countries (CTDC) Travel Awards 
Award Year: 2023

The Society of Toxicology (SOT) provided funding to the International Union of Toxicology (IUTOX), which was also supported in part by the Daniel and Patricia Acost Diversity Student Fund, to provide travel awards for the 12thCongress of Toxicology in Developing Countries (CTDC) in Santiago, Chile.  These travel awards supported junior and senior scientists from countries where toxicology is underrepresented and have an active research program or currently are active in the practice of toxicology.

Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund

Recipient: SOT Undergraduate Research Awards (SURA) 
Award Year: 2023

The Society of Toxicology (SOT) Undergraduate Student Research Award recognizes outstanding undergraduates who have not yet received their bachelor's degrees and present research at the Annual Meeting. The goal of the award is to foster interest in graduate studies in the field of toxicology. Awardees are selected based on their research and other statements and the nomination of the advisor. Awardees receive national recognition, complimentary meeting registration, and travel and lodging for the SOT Annual Meeting. Each recipient is matched with a mentor for the meeting, recognized during a special event, attends the SOT Undergraduate Education Program, and participates in other meeting activities. In 2023, diverse award recipients were supported in part by the Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund. A listing of all 2023 recipients can be located on the 2023 Honors and Awards webpage

Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund

Recipient: CDI Undergraduate Diversity Program  
Award Year: 2023

The Undergraduate Diversity Program takes place during the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo and includes introductory toxicology lectures, participation in mentoring groups, opportunities to meet with academic program directors and toxicologists from different employment sectors, and participation in Annual Meeting sessions. In 2023, this program was supported in part by the Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund.

Participation in this Committee on Diversity Initiatives (CDI)–led program is limited to the recipients of the Undergraduate Diversity Program Student Awards. Students selected for these awards attend the Undergraduate Diversity Program. Students enrolled at accredited undergraduate institutions are eligible to apply, with preference for sophomores and juniors and students who are from racial/ethnic groups underrepresented in the sciences, are first-generation college students, or are attending institutions receiving low amounts of federal funding for biomedical research. 

For insight into how previous Undergraduate Diversity Program awardees have continued in the sciences and transitioned into the biomedical workforce, visit the “Eye on CDI” web page. For reflections on the influence and history of the program, see blogs written by Frederic Moulin and Claude McGowan.

Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund

Recipient: CDI Undergraduate Diversity Program 
Award Year: 2022

The Undergraduate Diversity Program takes place during the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo and includes introductory toxicology lectures, participation in mentoring groups, opportunities to meet with academic program directors and toxicologists from different employment sectors, and participation in Annual Meeting sessions. In 2022, this program was supported in part by the Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund.

Participation in this Committee on Diversity Initiatives (CDI)–led program is limited to the recipients of the Undergraduate Diversity Program Student Awards. Students selected for these awards attend the Undergraduate Diversity Program. Students enrolled at accredited undergraduate institutions are eligible to apply, with preference for sophomores and juniors and students who are from racial/ethnic groups underrepresented in the sciences, are first-generation college students, or are attending institutions receiving low amounts of federal funding for biomedical research. 

For insight into how previous Undergraduate Diversity Program awardees have continued in the sciences and transitioned into the biomedical workforce, visit the “Eye on CDI” web page. For reflections on the influence and history of the program, see blogs written by Frederic Moulin and Claude McGowan.

Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund

Recipient: SOT Undergraduate Research Awards 
Award Year: 2022

The Society of Toxicology (SOT) Undergraduate Student Research Award recognizes outstanding undergraduates who have not yet received their bachelor's degrees and present research at the Annual Meeting. The goal of the award is to foster interest in graduate studies in the field of toxicology. Awardees are selected based on their research and other statements and the nomination of the advisor. Awardees receive national recognition, complimentary meeting registration, and travel and lodging for the SOT Annual Meeting. Each recipient is matched with a mentor for the meeting, recognized during a special event, attends the SOT Undergraduate Education Program, and participates in other meeting activities. In 2022, diverse award recipients were supported in part by the Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund. A listing of all 2022 recipients can be located on the 2022 Honors and Awards webpage

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

Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund

Recipient: CDI Undergraduate Diversity Program 
Award Year: 2020

The Undergraduate Diversity Program takes place during the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo and includes introductory toxicology lectures, participation in mentoring groups, opportunities to meet with academic program directors and toxicologists from different employment sectors, and participation in Annual Meeting sessions. In 2020, this program was supported in part by the Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund.

Participation in this Committee on Diversity Initiatives (CDI)–led program is limited to the recipients of the Undergraduate Diversity Program Student Awards. Students selected for these awards attend the Undergraduate Diversity Program. Students enrolled at accredited undergraduate institutions are eligible to apply, with preference for sophomores and juniors and students who are from racial/ethnic groups underrepresented in the sciences, are first-generation college students, or are attending institutions receiving low amounts of federal funding for biomedical research. 

For insight into how previous Undergraduate Diversity Program awardees have continued in the sciences and transitioned into the biomedical workforce, visit the “Eye on CDI” web page. For reflections on the influence and history of the program, see blogs written by Jennifer Rayner and Claude McGowan.

Daniel and Patricia Acosta Undergraduate Educator Award

Recipient: Wade H. Powell
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Kenyon College

Dr. Powell’s dedication to providing outstanding toxicological education to undergraduates makes him the ideal recipient of the 2019 SOT Daniel and Patricia Acosta Undergraduate Educator Award. After receiving his PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from Emory University in 1997, Dr. Powell embarked on a career in toxicology, initially studying aryl hydrocarbon signal transduction in fish as a postdoctoral scholar in the Biology Department at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Since 2000, he has taught at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he is now a professor of biology. Dr. Powell’s teaching activities use the entire life sciences curriculum to expose undergraduates from all levels and varied majors to different facets of toxicology. The molecular biology lab and environmental toxicology seminar are examples of Kenyon courses he instituted that enable students to engage in the field of toxicology directly, and his introductory classes are rich with toxicological examples and anecdotes. Dr. Powell’s most notable accomplishments involve the performance and promotion of research with undergraduates. Since 2001, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has funded Dr. Powell’s lab with multiple AREA grants, ensuring that the undergraduates composing his group have research opportunities that prepare them well for postgraduate careers. He has mentored more than 50 research students at Kenyon, many of whom have become active participants in the greater toxicology community. Twenty-three of his undergraduates, including several SOT award winners, have presented their research at the Society’s Annual Meetings, and all research publications from Dr. Powell’s group include undergraduate authors. His students’ success proves the effectiveness of Dr. Powell’s methods; they have become scientists, physicians, veterinarians, teachers, and public servants, continuing their education or launching careers at institutions such as the National Institutes of Health, Harvard University, Princeton University, and the Cleveland Clinic. Kenyon College has recognized Dr. Powell for his contributions to undergraduate education by bestowing upon him the Robert J. Tomsich Science Award and the Trustee Teaching Excellence Award, the most prestigious honor among Kenyon faculty. Dr. Powell also has served as an active and trusted member of the SOT Undergraduate Education Subcommittee, and many of Dr. Powell’s learning resources are included in the SOT Undergraduate Toxicology Curriculum Resources database.

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

Recipient: Pavani Gonnabathula
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: US FDA-NCTR

Dr. Gonnabathula was grateful for the recognition of her work and the support, which bolsters her confidence and encouraged her to keep exploring new avenues to continue her research in prestigious organization.

Dr. Gonnabathula's research was focused on developing dynamic life-stage models by using PBPK modeling and simulation techniques and applying them to COVID-19 therapeutic drugs for optimal pediatric dosing. She received an award for part of this research on model-based dose suggestions in special populations.

 

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

Recipient: Souvarish Sarkar
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: HMS

Dr. Sarkar was thrilled to receive the award. He has previously received the award as a senior graduate student and so receiving this award in his final year of post doc also means a lot and it will help him pursue his career in translational science. It will help him with his confidence as he starts his own research lab. 

Epidemiological studies strongly support the role of environmental factors, particularly pesticide exposure, in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD). Genetic risk factors, including penetrant single-gene mutations and risk factors identified from genome-wide associated studies (GWAS), also contribute to PD risk and progression, but available model systems are limited in their ability to interrogate gene-environment crosstalk in vivo and at scale. In order to build a model that can study the interaction among the genome and the exposome in neurodegenration, they had to make sure that the model can be altered in a cell-specific manner, is robust, and can be used for different types of exposure. To serve all these three purposes, they use Drosophila as a model system to understand complex gene-environment interactions in PD. They developed a multiplex model in Drosophila in which they knocked down GWAS candidate genes in neurons or in glia in a new α-synucleinopathy model and exposed the flies to environmental neurotoxicants, rotenone, and Manganese. They identified multiple interactions among various genes, α-synuclein and environmental factors and decided to further study the interaction among LRRK2, rotenone, and α-synuclein. Expression of the disease-causing Lrrk-G2019S mutant in the presence of rotenone and alpha-synuclein-induced behavioral deficits and mitochondrial dysfunction. Further, super-resolution microscopy analysis revealed that the interaction of LRRK2, α-synuclein, and rotenone leads to hyperstabilization of the actin cytoskeleton. They have previously shown that LRRK2 has actin severing activity, and previous studies have implicated the GTPase domain in regulating actin severing. They next expressed a GTPase domain mutant, Lrrk-Q1003H, designed to mimic the human protective mutant LRRK2-R1398H. Interestingly, expression of the LRRK2 protective mutant attenuated behavioral deficits mediated by LRRK2-rotenone-synuclein interactions. Further, the expression of the protective mutant also attenuated the actin stabilization and mitochondrial deficits. Moreover, genetic analysis from a patient cohort who had previous pesticide exposure revealed that the patient's LRRK2-R1398H mutation reduces the chance of developing PD. Since global actin severing may have unwanted side effects, they used a combination of forward genetic screening and proteomics to identify potential kinases that can be druggable targets. They identified Cdc42 binding protein kinase MRCKα, an actin-binding protein, as a potential target. Genetic and pharmacological inhibition of MRCKα in Drosophila can modify the toxicity induced by the interaction among LRRK2, α-synuclein, and rotenone by inhibiting actin hyperstabilization. Using their novel multiplex model in Drosophila, they have identified an interaction between LRRK2, α-synuclein, and rotenone which is modulated by actin stabilization and mitochondrial dysfunction. They have further demonstrated that by using this multiplex approach, they can study the mechanism of these interactions as well as identify novel drug targets for the interactions. Their findings have implications for the development of a personalized approach to drug discovery and lead identification.

 

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

Recipient: Avinash Kumar
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Louisiana State University

Dr. Kumar was very happy and felt honored after receiving the award from ASIO-SOT. This award helped him attend the SOT Annual Meeting in person, which allowed him to meet and discuss his research with experts in this field. This can lead to new collaborations and connections which might help in achieving his future career goals. 

Dr. Kumar's current project is researching how exposure to particulate matter is associated with aggravated respiratory diseases such as lower respiratory tract infections and asthma, especially in infants and children. His future goal is to become a scientist/principal investigator in academia or a research laboratory. Dr. Kumar won this award for his research on particulate matter and its role in exacerbating influenza infection. He and his team were able to demonstrate that insufficient levels of IL22 may be responsible for aberrant epithelial repair and immune responses, leading to increased Flu severity due to particulate matter exposure. 

 

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

Recipient: Isha Mhatre-Winters
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Florida International University

Dr. Mhatre-Winters was very honored and thankful to the ASIO and SOT for recognizing her work and making these awards possible. She was grateful for their generosity and encouragement. She hopes that her research questions will aid in understanding the risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) from a more relevant standpoint and ultimately lead to an impact for patients, either by preventive measures or by disease modification. This award will help her research gain recognition on a global scientific platform and significantly aid in her career development as an academic researcher in the field of neurotoxicology. 

APOE4 genotype and sex are significant risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), with females demonstrating increased risk that is modulated by APOE genotype; however, the mechanism(s) responsible for this interaction are still a matter of debate. In recent years, neuroinflammation, a complex response modulated by microglia and astrocytes, has emerged as a prominent player in AD research, with the identification of more than 20 gene variants associated with AD by recent Genome-wide association studies. Nonetheless, most experimental studies have excluded sex and APOE genotype. The humanized targeted replacement APOE mice provide a relevant translational representation to study the effects of neuroinflammation by APOE genotype as they lack other traditional aggressive genetic mutations that drive the early-onset form of AD. Importantly, the incidence and cost of treating AD continue to rise dramatically, and there is a desperate need to understand the interactions between non-modifiable risk factors such as sex and genotype and inflammatory responses for therapeutic interventions. This study primarily focuses on understanding the mechanisms of how APOE genotype and female susceptibility modulate the response to an inflammatory stimulus. Our findings reveal differences in the inflammatory profiles of both genotypes influenced by sex, a key variable not considered in previous studies. In highly purified primary microglia and astrocyte cultures isolated from humanized targeted replacement APOE mice, basal pro-inflammatory gene expression and cytokine secretion were affected by both APOE genotype and sex, with a greater inflammatory profile observed with the APOE4 genotype and female sex. Furthermore, their results indicate that following inflammatory stimulus, the expression of pro-inflammatory genes and cytokine release was upregulated in the order E4 female > E4 male > E3 female > E3 male. Collectively, these data indicate that the APOE4 genotype and female sex together contribute to a greater pro-inflammatory response in microglia and astrocytes. These data are consistent with clinical data demonstrating that multiple factors contribute to susceptibility to neuroinflammation, thus providing insight into the roles of sex and genotype in this susceptibility. Ongoing and future studies will focus on profiling inflammation in microglia and astrocytes from adult/ aged animals, thus defining the in vitro modulation of genotype and sex by age differences as aging influences glial phenotype and molecular profile. Additionally, because the frontal cortex and hippocampus are the most vulnerable regions for developing AD pathology, investigating the region-specific activation of microglia could provide further mechanistic insights. 

 

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 Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Milan Prajapati
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BPharm, MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Brown University

Dr. Prajapati was honored and excited to receive a Dharm V. Singh Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award. He believes that receiving this award is a professionally rewarding experience that will improve his professional skills, build professional networks, and help him achieve short- and long-term goals. The Society of Toxicology has provided him a unique platform to exchange scientific ideas and achieve productive interactions with other researchers. Such interactions have always led to constructive feedback on his research projects. He conveys sincere thanks to his mentor Dr. Bartnikas, SOT, and ASIO leadership for their time and dedication.

Dr. Prajapati's postdoctoral research was focused on identifying key molecular pathways of manganese toxicity using inherited mouse models of manganese excess. Manganese is an essential nutrient important for many biological functions. However, excess manganese can be detrimental and often leads to disease conditions. The first disease of inherited manganese excess was reported in 2012 due to mutations in SLC30A10 (also known as Znt10), a novel manganese transport protein. SLC30A10 mutation in patients is associated with hypermanganesemia, dystonia, polycythemia, and cirrhosis. These phenotypes are attributed to manganese excess, however, the exact molecular mechanisms leading to these phenotypes have yet to be elucidated. To address this end, Dr. Prajapati has developed a mouse model of inherited manganese excess due to Slc30a10 deficiency that recapitulates key phenotypes of human disease (PMID: 31527311). He is using this inherited mouse model of manganese excess to identify key molecular pathways leading manganese toxicity. His research projects take advantage of novel techniques developed in molecular biology to advance the field of toxicology by shedding new light into the role of systemic manganese toxicity in the mammalian body. Dr. Prajapati's long-term research goal is to understand the mechanistic causes underlying human diseases of Mn excess and enable the development of efficient and targeted treatments for metal toxicity. The understanding of metal regulation, homeostasis, and toxicity mechanisms will provide new avenues for pharmacological interventions for patients experiencing inherited or environmental/occupational metal exposure leading to systemic toxicity. His long-term career goal is to contribute towards the future of scientific research in allied health sciences by establishing himself as tenure-track faculty. He enjoys teaching as it provides an opportunity for brainstorming new research ideas and sharing his love of science. In the future, Dr. Prajapati sees himself running his own research group solving fundamental issues about the interaction of these metals with the mammalian body. His plan for development towards an independent research career in metal biology involves the acquisition of new scientific skills in genetic engineering, biotechnology, pathology; career development training to include presentations at scientific meetings, the publication of research findings, mentoring students, and attending professional development workshops. His short-term goal is to secure independent research funding which will him achieve his long-term research and didactic goals.

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

Recipient: Niyati Vaccharajani
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Dr. Vaccharajani was absolutely delighted and deeply honoured to have received this distinguished award. She is extremely passionate about her work and gaining recognition for it has motivated her to work even harder on this important research field. Recognition of her work through this prestigious award will enable her to promote the rapidly developing and challenging field of exosomes in the critical research area of drug-induced liver injury. In turn, this will enable Dr. Vaccharajani to discuss ideas, and potentially collaborate with leading scientists working on similar research areas, thus promoting interdisciplinary scientific endeavors. Additionally, Dr. Vaccharajani will be able to reach out to a wider community of international scientists working in toxicology - including those from India and those who are of Indian origin. She will also get a valuable opportunity to learn more about the on-going toxicology-based international research such as in countries like India.

Drug-induced liver injury (DILI) is a major public health issue which impacts patients, healthcare providers, drug developers, and drug regulators. Moreover, idiosyncratic DILI (IDILI) is the most problematic form of DILI as it occurs only very rarely among treated patients and often only after several weeks or months of treatment with the offending drug. As a result, this liability is typically detected only late in clinical development. Dr. Vaccharajani's current work will help support the prediction and understanding of IDILI, thereby reducing the potential for patient harm and the cost of drug development. Her professional goal is to make strides in a medically-relevant research field that identifies, as well as correctly interprets, early signals of debilitating human diseases - thereby preventing them all together. She hopes to achieve this goal by being a research scientist in the pharmaceutical sector. Dr. Vaccharajani had previously demonstrated alterations in hepatocyte-derived exosomes (HDEs) prior to and in the absence of overt necrosis associated with idiosyncratic drug-induced liver injury (IDILI). HDEs contain miRNAs and proteins which may possess value in the form of sensitive and specific biomarkers for IDILI liability. The objective of this project was to identify HDE-based biomarkers of IDILI by profiling protein and miRNA changes in primary human hepatocytes exposed to subtoxic and toxic concentrations of IDILI compounds.Through her research, she has identified 4 potential biomarkers of IDILI in HDEs which she is currently in the process of validating.The findings of this study are novel as several of the candidate biomarkers have not been previously reported in HDE and/or to be altered in response to IDILI. Importantly, the HDE-based candidate biomarkers identified in this study may be utilized to refine existing in vitro assays for improving IDILI predictions.

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

Recipient: Manushree Bharadwaj
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: DVM, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: CVM, FDA

This award recognizes not just Dr. Bharadwaj's work but her lab and her advisors' support as well. This award helped her in defraying some of the travel cost to attend the meeting as she was not able to find another funding source.

BPAF is an industrial chemical used to make plastic and we all get exposed to it. Dr. Bharadwaj studied the role of BRAF in developmental toxicity. The next step is to perform transcriptomis to assess the early on gene changes that may have occurred due to BPAF exposure.

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

Recipient: Bharat Bhushan
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Bhushan was really excited upon receiving this award. This award will help him get recognition in the Society of Toxicology, which is very crucial for a research carrier.

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

Recipient: Shanthi Ganesan
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: Postdoc
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University

She is delighted to receive Dr. Dharm Singh Postdoctoral Fellow Best Abstract Award. She believes that this award will help her to continue her research passion in toxicology field to identify other pesticides and chemicals and its toxic effects in mammals.

She has focused on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of chemical-induced infertility using an in vitro ovarian culture, a cell culture, and an in vivo obese model. Currently she is working on Glyphosate (GLY), which is used to control weeds (herbicide) in agriculture throughout the world. GLY has been found in breast milk, and pregnant women’s blood, indicating human exposure through contaminated food, water and air. An epidemiological study in humans carried out in the USA showed a modest association between GLY exposure and infertility in agriculture-rich regions. Thus, she is investigating the mechanisms of glyphosate-induced infertility in women. Up to this point, she has found that glyphosate impairs ovarian function by altering ovarian follicular development and steroid hormone synthesis in female ovaries. Her future study will be conducted to characterize the mechanisms of glyphosate-induced infertility and birth defects with regards to DNA damage. As a toxicologist, her life time goal is to identify various toxic chemicals and their levels in the environment, help raise awareness, and enforce rules and regulations to control the usage of those chemicals.

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

Recipient: Nithya Mariappan
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Alabama at Birmingham

This award will be a vital recognition of her research endeavor and will motivate her for further and deeper research in the field of toxicology. It will also provide her with platform from where she can establish channels of communication among other scientists and leaders in the field of toxicology to share new research ideas as well as her professional growth.

Acute lung injury (ALI) through exposure to toxic chemicals/warfare reagents causes life-threatening respiratory failure in humans. Among the available chemical warfare agents, sulfur mustard (SM), also known as mustard gas, has been widely used as a chemical weapon. It is a strong alkylating agent and exposure to SM causes a variety of detrimental effects including airway injury with enhanced vascular permeability, coagulation, and airway obstruction. However, there is limited information as to how mustard gas causes severe multi-organ damage years after a single exposure. A variety of treatment modalities including antioxidants, anti-inflammatory drugs and others have failed to provide promising therapeutic benefits. To address this gap, they used 2-chloroethyl-ethyl sulfide (CEES), an analog of SM, and found that CEES exposure enhances the release of circulating nucleic acids and determined that this mechanism forms the basis of underlying inflammation and lung toxicity. Importantly, administration of hexadimethrine bromide (HDMBr), a nucleic acid scavenger and anti-inflammatory agent, mitigated the toxic effects of CEES. As such, they have found that HDMBr plays a pivotal role in attenuating CEES-induced lung injury and inflammation. She strongly believes that this research will establish a strong foundation for her research career and lead to our society. She wishes to continue her career in academic research in the field of pulmonary toxicology and she would regard her selection for this award not only as a great honor, but also as a great responsibility and an obligation to continue working hard.

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

Recipient: Sunitha Meruvu
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: Ph.D.
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

She felt extremely honored and inspired by this award to do more outstanding research which is recognized and helps advance toxicology research. She felt immensely encouraged as a scientist of Indian origin to achieve success in the USA and contribute significantly to the field of Toxicology. Also, receiving this award provided her a great opportunity to attend the 2018 SOT Meeting where she can present and share her work with other prominent scientists working in the same area, and also build valuable networks. Winning this award significantly adds to her accomplishments in the scientific community and helps her in achieving the assistant professorship she is looking forward to in future.

She studies the effects of phthalates or plasticizers (widely used environmental chemicals) and their epigenetic role in placental diseases. Recent epidemiological studies have shown that women with pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth, preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), have higher than normal levels of phthalates in the body. Presently, she is working on an interesting and novel aspect of phthalate mode of action which is the induction of hypoxia in the placenta. Preeclampsia (PE) which affects 5-8% of pregnancies worldwide, is usually associated with increased placental hypoxia/ischemia. MiR-210-3p (hypoxamir) has been previously shown to be up-regulated in PE placentas. Based on these observations, they hypothesized that mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP), a commonly used plasticizer, can induce hypoxia effects in human placental cells. In their studies on a human placental cell line, they have observed that MEHP is capable of inducing hypoxia by stabilizing HIF-1α, which upregulates miR-210-3p, which in turn disrupts ATP synthesis and oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria. This is the first study that suggests a potential mechanism mediated by MEHP through miR-210-3p and HIF-1α that could induce preeclampsia in pregnant mothers when exposed to this endocrine disruptor. The observations and results of this study are presented in the abstract that she submitted and for which she received the Dr. Dharm Singh Postdoctoral Fellow Best Abstract Award. Receiving the ASIO-SOT postdoctoral fellow award for the best abstract is a great asset to her and will undoubtedly enhance the process of her getting an academic position in the fall semester. As the mission of ASIO-SOT is to enhance collegiality, fellowship, networking, and professional development of scientists of Indian origin, it is an honor for her to get this award which will encourage her to aspire to higher career goals.

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

Recipient: Satya Achanta
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: DVM, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Duke University School of Medicine
Dr. Achanta feels honored to receive this prestigious award. As an aspiring scientist, this award will be a feather in his hat and give him more enthusiasm to pursue toxicological research. The treatment of chlorine gas induced acute lung injury (ALI) remains challenging because of the lack of mechanism-based therapeutic approaches. Chlorine gas is a severe chemical threat agent with frequent exposures in domestic and occupational environments and in transportation accidents (for example, train derailment in Graniteville, SC, 2005). Recent chlorine bomb attacks in Syria resulted in a death toll of several thousands. Despite its known chemical threat potencies since World War I, there is no specific antidote for chlorine gas. They examined the therapeutic effects of a novel transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (TRPV4) inhibitor, GSK691, in pigs exposed to chlorine gas as a translational model of human chemically induced acute lung injury to meet the US FDA’s animal rule.

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

Recipient: Priyanka Trivedi
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Harvard Medical School
She was really excited and pleased when she received this award. She immediately shared the good news with her advisor and also thanked him for all his support and encouragement. This award will provide recognition to her work and complement my research in the field of renal toxicology. She will use this award as a springboard for my career in which she will make important contributions to advancing our understanding of toxicology research. Her research focuses on discovering therapeutic targets for acute and chronic kidney diseases. In order to identify druggable targets, they performed RNA sequencing in mouse model of toxic kidney fibrosis and identified Phospholipase D4 (PLD4), a single pass transmembrane glycoprotein, as one of the highly up-regulated genes. Up-regulation of PLD4 was confirmed in three mechanistically distinct mouse models as well as in patients with biopsy-proven kidney fibrosis. Mechanistically, they show that PLD4 facilitates fibrogenesis by modulating innate and adaptive immune responses thereby promoting a TGF-ß signaling pathway. Moreover, PLD4 induced the expression of a1-antitrypsin protein (a serine protease inhibitor) that resulted in subsequent down-regulation of a protease neutrophil elastase (NE) expression, thereby leading to the accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins. Interestingly, therapeutic targeting of PLD4 using specific siRNA also protected the mice from kidney fibrosis by inhibiting TGF-ß signaling and inducing NE expression. In conclusion, their findings identified PLD4 as a novel therapeutic target for kidney fibrosis - an unmet medical need. Her future goal is to continue contributing to the toxicological science, which can be directly applied clinically to benefit the society.

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

Recipient: Ratanesh Seth
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of South Carolina
With obesity becoming a global pandemic and more than a third are obese in this country, Dr. Seth's research focusing on the environmental toxins as potentiators of hepatotoxicity and disease has monumental significance. He has established the novel link between environmental toxin bromodichloromethane and Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). Though environmental contaminants and NASH development is known, the mechanisms remain unclear. His research has established that environmental toxin bromodichloromethane (BDCM), a disinfection byproduct of drinking water causes NASH and hepatic metabolic reprogramming, mediated by cytochrome P450 isoform CYP2E1 and adipokine leptin in an underline condition of obesity. In his current project, he investigated the molecular mechanism of transient receptor potential vanilloid channel 4 (TRPV4) regulating inflammation and Kupffer cell activation in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis by attenuation of CYP2E1-mediated oxidative stress. Nitric oxide regulates CYP2E1-mediated oxidative stress, inflammation and endothelial injury and attenuate NASH progression. Based on the above, targeting TRPV4 or its downstream signaling cascade might be a promising therapeutic strategy in NASH. He is sure that these findings are prooving to be very significant and novel to the field of liver disease research.

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

Recipient: Priyanka  Trivedi
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Harvard Medical School
Dr. Trivedi's research focuses on discovering therapeutic targets for acute and chronic kidney diseases. Kidney fibrosis, the hallmark of the chronic kidney disease (CKD), is an irreversible process leading to the life-threatening end-stage renal failure. Unfortunately, no effective therapeutic strategies are available to cure this condition. This is due to lack of our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of fibrosis. Using RNA sequencing, we identified phospholipase D4 (PLD4) as one of the targets for the treatment of kidney fibrosis. Our research work deciphers a mechanistic role of PLD4 in the regulation of fibrosis. We observed that PLD4 was significantly increased in mechanistically different mouse models of kidney fibrosis as well as in patients with biopsy-proven kidney fibrosis. Further, we found that PLD4 knockout mice (PLD4-/-) showed less fibrosis compared to the wild type (PLD4+/+) mice after folic acid injection- as well as unilateral ureteral obstruction-induced kidney fibrosis. This was attributed to mainly two reasons, (i) PLD4-/- mice had increased level of anti-fibrotic cytokines compared to the PLD4+/+ mice and, (ii) sustained activation of the proteases, due to decreased level of serpina1 (a protease inhibitor) in PLD4-/- mice, led to an efficient degradation of collagen rescuing these mice from scar tissue formation in the kidney. Thus we identified that PLD4 is a central target that can be intervened in preventing fibrosis-associated organ dysfunction. Her future goal is to continue contributing to the mechanistic toxicological sciences, which can be translated clinically.

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

Recipient: Amrendra Ajay
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Harvard Medical School
Amrendra Ajay is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Medical School who received the Dharm V. Singh Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund for his work entitled, "SMOC2 mediates kidney fibrosis via activating fibroblasts." Kidney toxicity is a major problem worldwide causing high mortality every year. Due to lack of therapeutic targets and early and sensitive biomarker it’s impossible to detect and treat chronic kidney diseases. He and his group employed RNA sequencing approach to find out the early and sensitive biomarker and therapeutic target for chronic kidney injury. His research will use in vitro and in vivo models to find out the mechanistic aspects of compounds related to different class of compounds. To ding out the signaling events that can be useful to stratify the compounds. In some cases drug metabolites are toxic to kidney once metabolized by liver. Using in vitro molecular tools may provide important insight into the mechanism of toxicity of drugs. Toxicity due to unknown compounds is also one of the emerging problems where it’s found that epidemically there is occurrence of kidney, liver or other organ toxicity.

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

Recipient: Ratanesh Seth
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: Ph.D.
Institution/Affiliation: University of South Carolina
Ratanesh Seth is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of South Carolina and received the Dharm V. Singh Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund for his work entitled "M1 Polarization bias and subsequent toxicity-induced NASH progression is attenuated by nitric oxide donor DETA NONOate." He mainly works on diet-induced obese models to understand how drinking water disinfection by products, specifically bromodicholromethane potentiate induces progression of steatosis to silent stage nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. In this awarded study he looked into how our internal defense machinery (immune system), specially macrophages regulate the disease progression so that we can identify therapeutic targets which may help in curing the disease.

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

Recipient: Gul Mustafa
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Texas Medical Branch
Gul Mustafa is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas Medical Branch and received the Dharm V. Singh Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Award for her work entitled, “Discovery and Validation of Serum Protein Biomarker Candidates for Early Detection of Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC).” The impetus behind the study was that development of a simple and reliable screening tool for early HCC detection which stems from the recognition that early detection is critical for therapeutic efficacy-late detection normally associated with clinical presentation of symptoms comes with a poor prognosis and 5 year survival rates of less than 5%. She hopes that in the future the discovery and validation of these biomarkers will make earlier detection more feasible, which will enable clinicians to offer patients better clinical management and more effective treatment. She hopes that physicians will use proteomics analyses at many points in the management of disease in addition to enhance drug development.

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

Recipient: Nagender Reddy Panyala
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: PhD MSc
Institution/Affiliation: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Nagender Reddy Panyala is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and received the Dharm V. Singh Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Award for his work entitled “Identification of Unknown Impurities in the Decorporation Agent 3,4,3-LI(1,2-HOPO) Using UPLC Xevo-TOF MSMS Instrumentation” His research showed that unknown trace impurities in the decorporation drug (which removes internally deposited toxic radioactive nuclides from the body after an accidental intake) using Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LCMS) instrumentation and elucidated their structure using structural elucidation softwares. This structural information is very fundamental to know toxicity of trace impurities and their effect on drug activity especially at the preclinical stage. He hopes play a key role in advancing the toxicology in the 21st century as a potential toxicologist by developing scientific collaborations, staying abreast of current toxicology and integrating ideas from expert scientists in other fields as well as to explore more resources for aid his research in the field of toxicology.

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

Recipient: Amrendra Ajay
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Harvard Medical School
Amrendra Ajay is a postdoctoral student of the Harvard Medical School and is the recipient of the Dharm V. Singh Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award for his work entitled, “Systems Biology Approach Identifies Transcriptional Regulator of Kidney Injury Molecule-1.” His work focused on the regulator or Kidney Injury Molecule -1 (KIM-1). KIM-1 is expressed by kidney tubular epithelial cells and is excreted in the urine following kidney injury. It is a qualified biomarker for kidney injury. Using their gene expression data Dr. Ajay and his group used the bioinformatics approach that predicted STAT3 and Chk1 as upstream regulators of KIM-1. They used molecular and immunological techniques to prove the mechanism of KIM-1 regulation. They showed that Chk1 phosphorylates STAT3 binds on the KIM1 promoter for its transcription. Finally using genetic and pharmacological inhibition approaches Dr. Ajay and his colleagues confirmed the regulation of KIM-1 by STAT3 and Chk1 in human proximal tubular epithelial and renal cell carcinoma cells. The award will help him obtain further funding and become an independent scientist.

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

Recipient: Aditya Joshi
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Texas Medical Branch
Aditya Joshi is a postdoctoral student of the University of Texas Medical Branch and received the Dharm V. Singh Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award for his work entitled, “Transcription Regulation by Novel Interaction of Kruppel-like Factor 6 with Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor at the NC-XRE.” His research showed a novel interaction of well known anti cancer protein Kruppel like factor 6 (KLF6) that interacts with another protein aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). AhR regulates adaptive and toxic responses to variety of chemical pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons, most notably 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Therefore AhR-KLF6 complex may contribute to dioxin-mediated carcinogenesis, particularly given the documented role for both proteins in cell cycle control. His long-term goal is to become an academic investigator with a focus on molecular toxicology and carcinogenesis.

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

Recipient: Kartik Balachandran
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Harvard University, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering
Kartik Balachandran, of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, for his work entitled, “Valve Thin Films: A Novel Assay for Safety Evaluation of Cardiac Valve Function.” His work presents a novel in vitro cardiac valve-on-chip for the analysis of Adverse Drug Reactions (ADR) on cardiac valve function. This "valve thin film" assay can be used during drug discovery and as supporting data for animal experiments in safety pharmacology studies. He hopes the work he is doing will play a potentially valuable role in accelerating drug development by providing a quick and efficient way to weed out candidate molecules with potential toxic or other adverse effects. He also hopes that such in vitro assay systems will eventually supplement or even replace expensive animal studies in the drug development and approval process.

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

Recipient: Neera Tewari-Singh
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Colorado Denver
Neera Tewari-Singh, of University of Colorado Denver for her abstract titled "Therapeutic Efficacy of Silibinin in Attenuating Sulfur Mustard Analog-Induced Skin Injuries." She plans to continue her research on the chemical warfare agents that pose a probable threat as weapons of warfare and terrorism. This award has not only given her enthusiasm to continue to develop therapeutics to treat skin injuries by chemical warfare agent sulfur mustard, but also made many other people aware of her research accomplishments. This will further help her in developing meaningful collaborations, discussion and incorporation of ideas from other scientists who are experts in other fields, as well as to explore more resources for funding opportunities.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Christina Klotz
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MSc
Institution/Affiliation: Department of Toxicology, University of Würzburg

Ms. Klotz feels extremely honored to have been awarded the Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund. Receiving this award is an invaluable recognition which inspires, and motivates her to continue research on elucidating the mechanism of OTA carcinogenicity. She is delighted and thanks the award selection committee of the SOT for this great award.

The focus of Ms. Klotz's research is to further elucidate the molecular mechanism of action underlying the carcinogenicity of Ochratoxin A (OTA) in order to address uncertainties in the current risk assessment of OTA in food. The mycotoxin OTA is frequently found as a contaminant in a wide variety of foods, including cereal products, coffee, spices, fresh and dried fruits, preserved meat and ripened cheese. OTA is a potent renal carcinogen in rodents, raising health concern that dietary intake of OTA may present a tumor risk to humans. The mode of action of OTA carcinogenicity is still poorly understood. In particular, it is not clear whether and to what extent genetic toxicity of OTA contributes to its carcinogenicity, which is one of the major causes of uncertainty in the current risk assessment of OTA in food. Recent in vitro studies conducted by her group provided first experimental evidence that OTA interferes with DNA replication. Using the DNA fiber assay, which is a technique to determine replication fork velocity, Ms. Klotz and her team observed a small but significant delay in replication fork progression in human kidney cells (HK-2) exposed to OTA. Furthermore, immunofluorescence analyses of the DNA damage marker γH2AX revealed yH2AX foci to be colocalized with newly replicating DNA, which indicates a replication-coupled mechanism of OTA-induced DNA damage. However, based on western blot and immunofluorescence analysis it appears that OTA does not effectively activate DNA damage response pathways which are crucial to arrest cell cycle progression and repair DNA damage before cells enter into mitosis. This suggests that the mild levels of replication stress induced by OTA may be not sufficient to elicit a full DNA damage response which may allow cells with under-replicated DNA or unresolved DNA damage to enter mitosis, leading to mitotic defects and chromosome segregation errors observed in response to OTA. Overall, results from this study provide first experimental proof for interference with DNA replication as an early key event in OTA genotoxicity, supporting that mitotic aberrations and genetic damage induced by OTA may arise from unresolved replication stress. Ms. Klotz expects that the knowledge to be gained from this study will significantly support human risk assessment of this important food contaminant by further elucidating the primary molecular events involved in OTA carcinogenicity and by characterizing the dose-response for these key events at the target site of OTA carcinogenicity in rat kidney in vivo.

 

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Manasi Kotulkar
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center

Ms. Kotulkar was sincerely honored to have been selected as the recipient of the Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Graduate Student Endowment Award. Receiving it has helped her to find a renewed energy and passion for the work she does. This award is very well recognized in the toxicology community. Receiving the award is going to help her set up the foundations in her career path in toxicology. 

The overall goal of Ms. Kotulkar's dissertation project is to investigate the role of the nuclear receptor HNF4α in the pathogenesis of liver diseases including liver cancer. HNF4α is a highly conserved member of the nuclear receptor superfamily that is essential for liver function. HNF4α controls the expression of many liver-specific genes associated with liver functions including drug metabolism, nutrient metabolism, and many other hepatocyte-specific pathways. As part of this project, Ms. Kotulkar is currently studying the regulation of other nuclear receptors which are important for xenobiotic metabolism such as such as Aryl hydrocarbon Receptor (AhR), Constitutive Androstane Receptor (CAR), Pregnane X Receptor (PXR), and Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor-alpha (PPARα) by HNF4α. Their data showed that the function of hepatic AhR, CAR, PXR, and PPARα were disrupted in the absence of HNF4α, and HNF4α is critical for the activation of these toxicologically important hepatic xenosensors. Her findings are significant because recent studies from the Apte Lab showed that a progressive loss of HNF4α is associated with the progression of chronic liver disease that ultimately leads to hepatocellular carcinoma. In the absence of HNF4α, toxicologically important xenosensors are disrupted, which might lead to the dysregulation of genes involved in the ADME of pharmacological agents. This suggests that maintaining HNF4α function is critical for the activation of toxicologically important xenosensors. Ms. Kotulkar's goal is to study the basic mechanisms that connect xenobiotic exposure to cancer pathogenesis in the liver. After her doctorate studies, Ms. Kotulkar would like to continue working in the field of toxicology. She envisages herself working as a toxicologist in the drug industry, where she wants to apply her knowledge to translational toxicology studies. Involvement in the Society of Toxicology, specifically the Carcinogenesis Specialty Section, will allow her to interact, learn, and network with researchers and scientists in the field of toxicology. 

 

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Idoia Meaza
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MSc, MSc
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

Ms. Meaza was honored and extremely grateful to receive such a prestigious award. This achievement has further encouraged her to continue devoting herself to her projects and education. This award will help support her travel to the annual meeting in Nashville where she plans to network with fellow peers and experts in multiple disciplines, as well as expand her scientific knowledge and improve her communication skills, by presenting her work. Ms. Meaza would like to express her most sincere appreciation to the Society of Toxicology and especially the Carcinogenesis Specialty Section for this recognition. 

The research for which Ms. Meaza won this award focuses on elucidating the mechanisms by which hexavalent chromium causes lung cancer. Previous research in the Wise Lab has shown that prolonged Cr(VI) exposure causes numerical chromosome instability, which is a hallmark of lung cancer. In this project, Ms. Meaza explores the malfunction of the cohesin complex, a ring protein complex whose main functions are to maintain genomic stability. In her work, she shows that cohesin regulators, such as separase and sororin, are affected by Cr(VI) after prolonged exposures and these effects lead to the malfunction of cohesin observed as premature centromere division and spreading, premature anaphase, centriole disengagement and centrosome duplication. Ms. Meaza’s future goal is to become a successful independent researcher in the field of toxicology and has a particular interest in toxicant-induced DNA damage and its effects on chromatin topology. 

 

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Shivani Singla
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, S.A.S Nagar, India

Dr. Singla was honored, delighted and pleasantly surprised to be selected for this award. She would like to thank her research guide, Prof. G.B. Jena, for his constant support. She is also very grateful 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.

Dr. Singla is working in the area of colitis associated colorectal cancer and comorbid Diabetes mellitus with central point of role of PARP-1 inhibitors. Epidemiological findings suggest that diabetes represents the relevant risk factor for colitis associated and potentially shared common aetiological mechanisms. In light of the fact that PARP-1 inhibitors have emerged as one of the most intriguing new therapeutic targets for various malignancies as well as DM. PARP-1 inhibitors are exciting new treatment options that are easily administered, highly effective and are associated with few drug dependent side effects. Present study can be considered as novel approach to treat colitis associated colorectal cancer alone as well as associated with comorbidity i.e., Diabetes mellitus.

 

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Daniel Hernandez-Cortes
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: The University of Arizona Cancer Center

Mr. Hernandez-Cortes was very excited, surprised, and thankful to receive the Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award. This award will contribute to helping him achieve his future career goals as a researcher. The award will now sit as one of Mr. Hernandez-Cortes' academic achievements, and also allowed him to attend the SOT 61st Annual Meeting. While there, he was able to continue learning about toxicological research and new discoveries in the field and present and share his research with other colleagues from around the world. 

Mr. Hernandez-Cortes' work focuses on the identification of molecular mechanisms that drive the transition of indolent (low risk) into aggressive (high risk) muscle invasive prostate cancer through the laminin-binding integrins triggered by the hypoxic tumor microenvironment, a hallmark of all cancers. His future goals are acquiring and keep building communication and technical skills, and competence in understanding cutting-edge basic science research strategies and discoveries that make a significant difference in cancer research. More specifically, his project focuses on kindlin-2, a critical beta1 integrin adaptor essential for integrin activation, clustering, cell spreading, and focal adhesion formation. Hernandez-Cortes and his team propose that the laminin-binding integrins are driving smooth muscle invasion of prostate cancer cells coordinated by kindlin-2, and triggered by hypoxia, a physiologically relevant condition in prostate cancer. 

 

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Haiyan Lu
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

This award is an affirmation of Dr. Lu's research work and furthers her awareness of the importance of this research to human health. The award encourages and inspires Dr. Lu's confidence in continuing to pursue scientific research.

Dr. Lu's research project is about the cainogeneses of hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] and human lung cancer. Lung cancer is a major human health problem and the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. As we know, cigarette smoking is the most familiar cause of lung cancer. In fact, of those diagnosed with lung cancer, 1 in 5 women and I in 12 men never smoked. Thus, understanding how non-tobacco environmental carcinogens cause lung cancer is a key aspect of combating this disease. Particulate Cr(VI) is a well-established human lung carcinogen, but the mechanism for Cr(VI)-induced cancer is still uncertain. It is imperative that they learn the mechanisms governing its carcinogenicity. They used the rats exposed to zinc chromate suspension by oropharyngeal aspiration to be their experimental model. They found Cr(VI) induced DNA double strand breaks and inhibit homologous recombination (HR) repair in rat lung. The findings are similar to the outcomes in cultured human lung cells. Furthermore, they found female rats were more sensitive to Cr(VI)-induced HR repair inhibition than male animals, consistent with observations that lung cancer is more prevalent in women who never smoked than men who never smoked. Successful completion of this project will demonstrate that Cr(VI) induces chromosome instability through HR inhibition in vivo. This is a significant step in building a Cr-induced lung cancer research model to investigate chromium carcinogenesis and help to fight lung cancer. In the future, they will translate the outcomes to human lung tumor slides from chromate workers to determine will these outcomes continually persist to lung tumor formation.

 

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Idoia Meaza Isusi
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BS, MS, PhD candidate
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

Ms. Measa Isusi is very grateful and honored to be awarded with the Carcinogenesis Specialty Section Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Graduate Student Endowment Award. This award reinforces her passion for a career in carcinogenesis.

The awarded poster title is “Chromate-induced Loss of RAD51 and Increased Chromosome Instability in Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells.” This is the first study translating Cr(VI)- induced DNA repair deficiency and chromosome instability, two key driving events in the mechanism of Cr(VI) carcinogenesis, to human bronchial epithelial cells. In the future, Ms. Measa Isusi will study the mechanism by which Cr(VI) might be remodeling chromatin structure, often observed in cancers.

 

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Lei Zhang
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Ms. Zhang indicated that this award will help her purchase scientific analysis software to assist her in pursuing her research.

Ms. Zhang is a graduate research assistant in the laboratory of Stephen Safe, where she conducts research on the molecular oncology and potential clinical applications of a series phytochemical derived natural products that are ligands for the orphan nuclear receptor 4A1 (NR4A1, TR3, NUR77). Globally, their 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. Ms. Zhang's specific project is focused on the resveratrol, a NR41A ligands that are relatively non-toxic and can be used as adjuncts along with current therapies. Her long-term goal is investigating the mechanism of receptors in cancer and developing/optimizing anti-cancer drugs based for the clinic therapies.

 

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. 

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Qiran Chen
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD Candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Indiana University School of Public Health

Ms. Chen's study aims to develop a new method to quantify the dose-response relationship of carcinogens. Besides the liver tumors induced by TCDD, the precursor events are also included in the assessment instead of using a single specific event for dose-response assessment in the current approach. This work can overcome some limitations of current approach to dose-response assessment from a biological perspective. It will also provide for more meaningful scientifically-based cancer risk assessment.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Md Sanaullah Sajib
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: MPharm
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Mr. Sajib was both delighted and honored to receive the award. This will help him in attending the SOT conference and learn about the latest advancements in the field.

Cancer generally starts at a site of the body. When it spreads to other organs it is called 'cancer metastasis'. This spreading occurs through the blood vessels. In his research project, Mr. Sajib has investigated one of the pathways that the cancer cells exploit to travel in and out of blood vessels. He has found that the cancer cells activate 'RhoA-ROCK' pathway of endothelium (the inner cell lining of blood vessels). By using various techniques including animal models, he has shown that metastasis can be reduced by blocking this pathway in endothelial cells.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Jennifer Toyoda
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

When Ms. Toyoda received the award notice, her heart raced with excitement, and she found it rewarding to see the evidence build for the role of centrosome amplification in the carcinogenic mechanism for hexavalent chromium. This award motivates her to improve communication about the studies she is pursuing and she is excited to show SOT attendees next year what else she has learned.

Hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] is a well-known lung carcinogen with environmental and occupational exposure risks, yet the carcinogenic mechanism of hexavalent chromium is unknown. A key mechanism for Cr(VI) carcinogenesis is induction of chromosome instability, including changes in chromosome number which can arise due to centrosome amplification. Centrosome amplification is observed in many types of cancers and is present in neoplasias, tumors, and is associated with aggressive cancers. Ms. Toyoda's study examines centrosome amplification in Cr(VI)-exposed human lung cells and human lung tissue, and investigates the mechanism of Cr(VI)-induced centrosome disruption in human lung cells. Her hypothesis is Cr(VI) disrupts proteins that regulate centrosome duplication, leading to centriole disengagement and centrosome amplification. This study shows Cr(VI) exposure causes centrosome amplification in human lung cells, and she also observed centrosome amplification in Cr(VI)-induced lung tumors. Cr(VI) exposure causes centriole disengagement, which is a key driver of centrosome over-duplication. Additionally, key proteins that inhibit centriole disengagement, securin and cyclin B1, are decreased after Cr(VI) exposure. Together, these data demonstrate prolonged Cr(VI) exposure induces centriole disengagement, centrosome amplification, and causes decreased levels of proteins that inhibit centriole disengagement. Ongoing studies using securin and separase siRNA knockdown, as well as an animal inhalation model are elucidating the role of these proteins in the Cr(VI) carcinogenic mechanism.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Keshav Karki
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees:
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Mr. Karki was very excited and felt very honored to receive this award. He thanked the committee 'Carcinogenesis SS Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Graduate Student Award Endowment Award', the SOT and his PI for making this happen.

Mr. Karki's research is primarily focused on drug discovery and development for glioblastoma. He discovered a new gene in glioblastoma which acts as a driver for glioblastoma cell proliferation and invasion. He is currently working to identify the drug target for that particular gene. His future goal is to investigate the key pathways that are associated with that particular gene. He applied for the research entitled 'Nuclear Receptor 4A2 (NR4A2) as a Drug Target for Treating Glioblastoma'. Glioblastoma patients have limited treatment options and poor prognosis and there is an urgent need to develop new chemotherapeutic approaches for treating this disease and identifies less toxic mechanism-based therapeutics. He has demonstrated that NR4A2 knockdown affects several critical oncogenic pathways and genes in patient-derived GBM cell lines. CDIM12 is NR4A2 antagonist and decrease NR4A2-dependent cell growth, proliferation and invasion and related genes indicating that CDIM 12 is a potent NR4A2 antagonist in cell culture and animal models. Mr. Karki posits that therefore, the NR4A2 antagonists represent a new class of mechanism-based anticancer agents for the treatment of glioblastoma as standalone drugs or in drug combinations for patients that express the receptor.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Sumira Phatak
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Utah State University

Ms. Phatak was honored to be selected for such a prestigious award that greatly facilitated her attendance at the 2019 SOT meeting. Her long-term career goal is to attain a faculty position at a major research university, optimizing lifestyle intervention strategies that influence cancer outcome. She has stated that recognition by experts in her field is humbling and it reignites her motivation to continue working hard towards accomplishing her career goals.

The overall objective of Ms. Phatak's dissertation is to determine how exposure to the Western dietary pattern across multiple generations impacts colorectal cancer (CRC) outcome, epigenome programming, and gut microbiome composition. Deep frying foods damages macromolecule components and contributes to the formation of several toxic compounds known to negatively influence health outcomes, increasing CRC risk. She conducted a preclinical study, investigating how consumption of deep fried oil in combination with a Western diet impacts CRC outcome. The unexpected observation that deep fried oil disrupted glucose regulation in the context of a Western diet prompted further investigation of hepatic function via gene expression analysis on the Fluidigm Biomark platform, using novel reference genes for normalization.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Sharavan Ramachandran
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees:
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Dr. Ramachandran was overwhelmed to receive this prestigious award. It has inculcated confidence and positivity in his research. This award will invigorate his career prospects and is a great acknowledgment of his research. He really felt honored to be acknowledged by Carcinogenesis Specialty Section. Dharm V. Singh Graduate Endowment Award aided his research to be showcased on a global arena. Moreover, he was pleased that this award aided him in covering his conference-related expenses. 

Dr. Ramachandran's research is based on investigating the usage of Pimavanserin, an anti-Parkinson drug in pancreatic cancer. Current treatment options for pancreatic cancer have failed due to the development of resistance towards these options. So, a novel treatment option is needed to combat the progression of pancreatic cancer. Therefore, Pimavanserin could serve as a novel treatment option for pancreatic cancer.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Sreedhar Reddy Suthe
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BPharm
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Mr. Suthe was excited and happy about receiving this award. He knew this would be a very competitive award as he attended 2018 SOT in San Antonio and saw some wonderful work being recognized. He thanks the committee for this wonderful award.

In this work, his aim was to target Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) because of the lack of targeted treatment options. He was successful in establishing the RON receptor as a validated target which could be useful for TNBC patients in the future.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Ian Huck
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS Microbiology
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center

Mr. Huck was honored to learn he received support throught the Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund. This award will allow him to attend the 2018 SOT Annual Meeting and receive feedback from experts. This meeting always provides new ideas and refreshed perspective for ongoing projects in the lab and he is grateful to the SOT Endowment Fund for their support.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) occurs in 20-30% of the population in western countries and is increasing worldwide. NAFLD patients are at high risk of developing cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). It has been shown that the persistent organic pollutants perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) can induce hepatomegaly, hepatic steatosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in rodents. Furthermore, previous studies from his laboratory have shown that PFOA and PFOS decrease expression of hepatocyte nuclear factor 4a (HNF4a), the master regulator of hepatic differentiation. Loss of HNF4a is associated with increased HCC pathogenesis. Based on these data, he and his team hypothesized that exposure to persistent organic pollutants PFOA and PFOS may exacerbate disease progression to severe forms of liver disease such as HCC in patients with existing fatty liver disease. To test this hypothesis they fed mice either a normal diet or high fat diet with and without environmentally relevant doses of PFOA or PFOS. As expected, PFOA and PFOS induced hepatic steatosis in normal diet fed mice. To their surprise, PFOA and PFOS exposure was protective against hepatic fat accumulation in the mice fed high fat diet. To explore possible mechanisms behind this unexpected finding, they examined expression of genes involved in lipid metabolism. PFOA and PFOS treatment affected expression of lipid trafficking genes in a pattern favoring hepatocyte fat accumulation in normal diet conditions, which was reversed in high fat conditions. Included in these genes were targets of HNF4α, a nuclear receptor known to bind fatty acids. Examination of HNF4α target genes unrelated to metabolism suggests PFOA and PFOS inhibit HNF4α activity in normal diet conditions. In high fat diet conditions, HNF4α activity is restored, perhaps because fatty acids competitively exclude PFOA and PFOS from the ligand binding pocket of HNF4α. The findings provide evidence for inhibition of a known tumor suppressor (HNF4α) in a diet dependent manner. This study highlights the importance of taking into account environmental variables (diet) when assessing the tumor promoting effects of a chemical.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Xilin Li
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Indiana University

Dr. Li was writing his PhD dissertation when he learned he received this award. He would like to express his sincere gratitude to Dr. Dharm V. Singh, the founder of the award, and the selection committee for choosing him as the recipient of the Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Endowment Graduate Student Award. This award is a great honor to him and he was humbled to be selected. He has always been interested in the mechanisms of chemical induced liver tumors and their application for human risk assessment. He is tremendously fortunate to have his mentor, Dr. James E Klaunig, who has been working on carcinogenesis for more than 35 years. All of Dr. Li's works would be impossible without Dr. Klaunig's guidance, inspiration, and thoughtful feedback. This award will keep encouraging him to dedicate his career in the research of chemical carcinogenesis.

The abstract is mainly on the topic of how the exposure to drugs or chemicals may influence on the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which has become a major public health burden that affects up to one third of adult general population in western countries. Non-alcoholic fatty liver may progress to advanced stages such as steatohepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. In this abstract, he and his team showed the pre-existing fatty liver might enhance the adverse effects (cell proliferation, inflammation, activation of xenobiotic nuclear receptors) induced by perfluorooctanoate, a drinking water contaminant regulated by EPA. Such effects have important implications for the risk assessment of environmental chemicals. Due to the epidemic of obesity and metabolic syndromes, the prevalence of fatty liver is expected to increase in the future. Patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease might be more susceptible to the inflammatory and carcinogenic effect of chemical exposure, and need special attention in future risk assessment.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Sumira Phatak
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Utah State University

Ms. Phatak is both honored and humbled to be selected for such a prestigious award that greatly facilitates her attendance at the SOT Annual Meeting. She looks forward to meeting other members of the CSS, allowing her to network with leaders in the field and enhance her skill set. She sees this as an opportunity to open new doors that lead to the next chapter of her career.

As a graduate student in the Benninghoff Laboratory, her innovative work explores the connection between nutrition, colon cancer, and epigenetic modifications. Immediately after arriving at Utah State, she began a multi-generational rodent study; having completed the preclinical portion, she recently moved on to a molecular investigation of mechanisms. The findings from this project will answer her questions about how the standard American diet influences the health outcome of grand-offspring, despite never being directly exposed themselves.  Ultimately, she sees herself running her own research program that answers essential questions about how diet impacts disease states while optimizing lifestyle intervention strategies.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Nehal Gupta
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: MPharm, BPharm
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Ms. Gupta was very excited and enthusiastic after receiving Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Graduate Student Award. She would like to thank SOT for selecting her for this award. This award would offer a tremendous financial support to attend the 2017 SOT Annual Meeting. It will be an excellent opportunity to meet scientists across the globe and share her work with them, which will provide novel insights to her work. Also, Recognition by award committee has boosted her morale to do better work in the field of toxicology as well as science. She started her project on breast cancer, which is one of the most malignant carcinoma in women worldwide. Despite of currently available treatment options, breast cancer kills approximately 40,000 women every year, making it the second-leading cause of cancer related deaths. Resistance to current chemotherapeutics is the major obstacle in treating breast cancer patients. She and colleagues developed resistance towards paclitaxel in various breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7, 4T1, HCC1806). With extensive research, they are able to unravel the mechanism behind the resistance and based on previous publication (Ranjan et al. “Penfluridol: An antipsychotic agent suppresses metastatic tumor growth in triple negative breast cancer by inhibiting integrin signaling axis” Cancer Research 2015), they are able to develop penfluridol as a treatment option to overcome resistance. Their results showed that penfluridol treatment synergistically enhanced the growth suppressive effects of paclitaxel in vitro as well as in vivo. They also observed that chronic treatment of mice with penfluridol was not associated with any toxicity or behavioral side effect. Therefore, combining penfluridol with paclitaxel will reduce the dose as well as toxic side effects of current chemotherapy. Since penfluridol is an FDA approved drug, the pharmacology, formulation and potential toxicities are already known. Their preclinical studies can fasten the clinical trial and review by Food and Drug Administration. This could bring relief to the patients with highly lethal and resistant breast tumors. For her long term goals, she would like to develop her professional career as an academic scientist in the field of Oncology. She has been mentored by one student that gave her motivation to train new researchers in cancer field.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Alisa Suen
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: NIEHS/UNC Chapel Hill
Currently Ms. Suen is a 4th year PhD student in the Curriculum in Toxicology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Her research is performed in the laboratory of Carmen Williams, a UNC-Chapel Hill adjunct faculty member who is a Clinical Investigator in the Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in RTP, NC. She won the CSS Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Endowment Award for her research on aberrant SIX1 expression in a developmental mouse model of hormonal carcinogenesis. During her dissertation research, she plans to investigate molecular mechanisms underlying the development of endometrial carcinoma following neonatal exposure to estrogenic chemicals. Her research will focus on the oncoprotein, sine oculis homeobox 1 (SIX1), a developmentally important and cancer-associated transcription factor that becomes overexpressed in the uteri of mice treated neonatally with the synthetic estrogen, diethylstilbestrol (DES), or the phytoestrogen, genistein. Her hypothesis is that persistent uterine SIX1 expression contributes to the cancer phenotype observed in this mouse model of hormonal carcinogenesis. To test this hypothesis, she designed a series of experiments to investigate the role of SIX1 in cancer development and the mechanisms by which neonatal estrogenic chemical exposure induces uterine SIX1 expression. She plans on pursuing an industry career focusing on drug discovery related to reproductive health, or reproductive/developmental toxicity testing.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Elizabeth Lightbody
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BScH
Institution/Affiliation: Queen's University Cancer Research Institute
Elizabeth Lightbody is a graduate student with the Queen's University Cancer Research Institute and received the Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award for her work entitled, "PPAR? Loss Increases Metastatic Potential of HER2+ Breast Tumours in Mammary Epithelial Targeted Knockout Mice." Her research project investigates the link between the ligand-activated transcription factor PPAR? to the poor prognosis in patients with breast tumours that overexpress human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2+). Her epithelial-specific HER2 overexpressing PPAR? knockout mouse model has shown increased lung metastases, suggesting that a loss of PPAR? may enhance the metastatic potential of HER2+ breast tumours to the lung. This project will unveil novel PPAR? upstream and downstream targets that may be used as predictive biomarkers for HER2+ breast tumour patients susceptible to increased metastasis, and lay a foundation for similar studies in other human breast tumour subtypes. She is interested in the potential of drugs to be repurposed for different diseases and was drawn to work that focuses on using thiazolidinedione drugs that were previously used in the clinical setting to treat and prevent type II diabetes. These drugs are now implicated to have chemotherapeutic potential. Through increased knowledge of drug re-purposing and combination therapies she hopes to advance the science of toxicology to create an improved response rate and overall survival for these poor prognosis patients.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Christal Lewis
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers Biomedical Health Sciences
Christal Lewis is a Graduate Student at Rutgers Biomedical Health Sciences and reveived the Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award for her work entitled, “In Utero Exposure of F-344 Rats to Low Levels of Dietary Zeranol Induces Transgenerational Effects on Sexual Development and Susceptibility to Chemically-Induced Mammary Carcinogenesis.”Her work entails a transgenerational study, treating pregnant rats with zeranol to see if it has an effect in physical and developmental changes to subsequent generations. Her research is attempting to create a healthier way to look at the effect of food additives and steroids across generations in hopes that people will be more cautious with the food intake and consumption. She also seeks to be an advocate in the field of consumed carcinogens in all populations but especially the urban or disadvantaged populations.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Chad Walesky
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center
Chad Walesky is a PhD candidate at the University of Kansas Medical Center and he received the Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award for his work entitled, “Deletion of Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4 Alpha Promotes Diethylnitroasmine-induced Carcinoma.” His work focused on the mechanisms of carcinogenesis within the liver with a primary focus on hepatocellular carcinoma. He and his colleagues investigated the role of hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha within a classic model of hepatic carcinogenesis and found that livers which lack this factor are more susceptible to cancer development and progression. The award allowed him to attend the SOT Annual Meeting to gain feedback on this research and the award will further his reputation in the research community. He hopes to become an independent academic research scientist.

Dharm V. Singh Carcinogenesis Award Fund

Recipient: Sara Nowinski
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: BA
Institution/Affiliation: Austin College of Pharmacy
Sara M. Nowinski, of Austin College of Pharmacy, for her research entitled, “Mitochondrial Uncoupling Protein 3 (UCP3) Antagonizes Epidermal Tumor Promotion and Growth Signaling.” Her ongoing experiments aim to define the molecular mechanism(s) underlying chemoprevention in this model, and to further our understanding of the interactions between metabolic changes and canonical oncogenic cell signaling pathways. One of her career goals as a toxicologist is to one day hold a position as a professor at an academic institution. She wants to continue to use her knowledge of toxicology and cancer biology, and use cutting-edge techniques to study mechanisms of carcinogenesis in her own lab.

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Eric Brown Jr.
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BA
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mr. Brown was excited to learn about receiving this award as it enables him to further examine how exposures to metals mixtures are associated with disease, specifically adverse neonatal outcomes. This award will directly assist him in the pursuit of a multidisciplinary approach to model complex environmental chemical mixtures, enhancing the statistical methods used in his dissertation. Furthermore, as a first-generation college student, this opportunity will expand his personal and professional network to achieve his long-term professional goal of becoming a principal investigator. 

Mr. Brown's research uses sophisticated approaches to investigate the mechanisms that underlie the association between exposure to complex chemical mixtures and adverse health outcomes across the life course. He characterizes these associations using transdisciplinary approaches from scientific fields including molecular epidemiology and computational biology. In particular, he is interested in elucidating how exposure to metals, individually or in mixtures, can lead to preterm birth. For his career development award, Mr. Brown will learn different advanced statistical approaches for handling complex chemical mixtures. He will also explore the molecular drivers in the placenta that mediate the effect of environmental metals on preterm birth.

 

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Chelsea Cary
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Cary was very excited and grateful upon seeing the news that she won this award. This award will allow her to attend SMDP Biotech which she believes will be a pivotal moment in her career development.

Ms. Cary researches how inhalation of micro and nanoplastics throughout pregnancy affects uterine and placental vessels.

 

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Mahmoud Salem
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees:
Institution/Affiliation: SUNY at Stony Brook

Mr. Salem was very excited to receive this award, which he believes allows him an easier road to his academic goals. He is very pleased to have an organization supporting his academic success.

Mr. Salem's research explores the mechanism behind PFAS degradation by bacteria, and he also works in biomarker discovery. His ultimate goal is to become a MD-PhD recognizing how chemicals start and end tumors. This award will help him in acquiring skills with transcriptomic studies that the industry performs on tumor cells, and the treatment transcriptomics he hopes to do with the bacteria. 

 

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Antonio Saporito
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BA
Institution/Affiliation: NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Mr. Saporito is quite excited to receive this award as it means he can pursue a course called "Environmental Mixtures" and help build his understanding of exposure science and risk assessment regarding mixtures. 

Mr. Saporito is a 2nd year graduate student pursuing a degree in Environmental Health Sciences looking to examine the health risks and exposure associated with occupational cooking in commercial cooking. He hopes to become involved in academia or government work. 

 

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Ashley Valentina Schwartz
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: San Diego State University

Ms. Schwartz is extremely excited and grateful to be chosen as a recipient of the Diversity Initiatives Fund Award. The receipt of this award will allow her to expand her skill set and research endeavors by providing the financial support to attend an advanced research course titled Gene Regulatory Networks for Development offered by the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA. The course will be conducted by leading developmental biologists from across the country. This opportunity will provide complementary training for Ms. Schwartz's dissertation project and give her a new perspective on computational modeling for developmental toxicology. 

Ms. Schwartz's research is in the field of developmental toxicology with a primary focus on computational and biological modeling. She aims to develop and utilize computational and mathematical models to identify the way environmental contaminants affect embryonic development. Recently, she developed a dynamic network model that elucidated the impact of developmental abnormality co-occurrence observed in the zebrafish model following exposure to the environmental contaminant tris(4-chlorophenyl)methanol (TCPMOH). To further advance this research, Ms. Schwartz intends to expand the network modeling approach to diverse developmental toxicity datasets for a broader translational impact. She hopes to advance the field of computational developmental toxicology throughout her PhD studies and to establish a career as an impactful interdisciplinary scientist. 

 

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Talia Seymore
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Upon receiving this award, Ms. Seymore was ecstatic but most of all grateful. This award will play a large role in the progression of her research by helping her to attend a conference that has a sole focus on the placenta, the main character of her dissertation project. 

Ms. Seymore's research focuses on the effect of maternal inhalation of nanoparticles on placental function. The specific project that she will be presenting at the conference looks at the ability of the placenta to transport glucose when put under the stressful environment that the nanoparticles elicit on the uterine environment. Glucose is one of the most important nutrients that have to cross the placenta for healthy fetal growth. Without it, the growing fetus faces developmental consequences. Additionally, Ms. Seymore is investigating how the placenta is metabolizing glucose, given that it needs this molecule as an energy source as well.

 

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Jada Spady
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: The Pennsylvania State University / Genentech

Ms. Spady had just finished her last final exam when she opened the email announcing that her application was selected for the 2023 Diversity Initiatives Fund Award. She felt a rush of excitement and gratitude that the Committee on Diversity Initiatives was able to recognize her achievements and support her on her scientific plan path. This award will support her during her summer internship to expand her network, work to be a leader in her field, and further develop her skills in clinical drug development research. 

Ms. Spady is a current senior undergraduate at The Pennsylvania State University majoring in Pharmacology and Toxicology. This summer, she will be working as an intern for Genentech within the clinical pharmacology developmental sciences department in San Francisco, California. She will have the privilege of doing quantitative research to determine therapeutic drug dosages for ongoing clinical trials, alongside some of the brightest minds in the biotech industry. This award helped fund Ms. Spady's journey to start this opportunity. She plans on applying to PhD programs in the fall of 2023, and will take advantage of this internship to add leverage to her application and further her studies in pharmaceutical sciences. 

 

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Catalina Cobos-Uribe
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ms. Cobos-Uribe received the news during a lab meeting. At first, she was confused; she had received the email three days prior but hadn't seen it. When she finally understood what was happening, she was pleased and excited to share the news with her PI and the whole lab. The Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award will provide the resources needed for her to attend the Exposome Boot Camp organized by Columbia University. This Boot Camp will introduce her to the principles of exposomics and its analysis, which she intends to apply in her current and future research.

E-cigarettes are widely used around the world. Although impressive from a marketing point of view, the variety of devices, flavors, and formulations represents a challenge for e-cigarette studies. Ms. Cobos-Uribe's research focuses on identifying which chemicals derived from e-cigarettes reach and interact with the respiratory mucosa and how these interactions may lead to disease or adverse health outcomes. 

 

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Rakeysha Pinkston
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BS, MS, PhD candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Southern University and A&M College

Ms. Pinkston was thrilled to learn that she was selected to be a recipient of this award. She is deeply humbled for SOT's generous support. This award will play a major role in affording her the opportunity to travel and discuss her findings to a wider audience at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in San Francisco, CA, where she has been selected to present a poster-discussion presentation. Compared to a traditional poster session, this will provide additional exposure to her research, as she will be allotted time to also present her work orally. This conference is directly in line with her area of research, and as a graduate student in the final stages of doctoral study, this award marks a pivotal turning point in her academic career. It will not only allow her to obtain additional career development training to enhance her potential as a respiratory toxicologist, but it will also provide her with the opportunity to network and engage in conversation with accomplished researchers to generate new ideas.

Ms. Pinkston's area of research is in the field of Inhalation Toxicology, where she studies the effects of aerosols generated from various models of electronic cigarette (e-cig) devices, including JUUL and the 3rd generation style e-cig model, on lung health and immunity. To understand the toxicological effects these devices have on lung health, she exposes lung cells and macrophages utilizing a physiologically-relevant system that mimics human inhalation exposures to e-cig and JUUL aerosol. She also utilizes animal models to understand the effects these aerosols have on lung physiology. Her work is conducted in partnership with Louisiana State University, School of Veterinary Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Alexandra Noël, who is her doctoral advisor. The work she will be presenting investigates the effect JUUL menthol-flavored aerosol exposure has on allergy-induced asthmatic responses in juvenile mice. This research topic is very timely due to current epidemiological evidence indicating that youth who use e-cigs, have increased risk of developing asthma. Not to mention, the high prevalence of e-cig usage in youth and young adults makes this is a major public health concern. Ms. Pinkston's goal is to provide new scientific information that is critical for public health policies and regulations of these devices. In the future, she intends to establish a career as an independent investigator.

 

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Krystal Taylor
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University

Ms. Taylor was filled with joy and excitement when she found out that she had been selected as an award recipient. The Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award will help to finance her travel to attend the Scientist Mentoring & Diversity Program for Biotechnology in San Diego, CA. As an SMDP scholar, she will be paired with an industry mentor for one year and together they will work on developing and honing the skills that she has learned in school and through the lab so that they may be transferable and marketable to any industry career position.

Ms. Taylor's research involves looking at the impact of PFAS exposure on B cell development and antibody production. She hopes to develop a novel protocol to identify key players in an adverse outcome pathway with PFAS and the immune system. She believes the results from her research will continue to build the weight of evidence that will allow laws and regulations to be implemented to ensure that impacted communities receive the proper diagnosis, treatment, and access to services. After graduate school, she plans to pursue a consumer toxicology and science communications career. In these roles, she can be an advocate for the public to ensure that toxicants do not end up in their everyday use products and their environment, as well as ensure that the public understands the measures that consumer goods corporations take to guarantee that the best safety precautions were taken in each product line development. She applied for this award to help bridge the shortfall she has in gaining industry mentors. Her background is vast in academic experience and exposure so she knew that it would be vital to obtain guidance to help her navigate and pursue her passion in consumer toxicology.

 

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Dalisa Kendricks
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Auburn University

Upon receiving this award, Ms. Kendricks was more than a little excited and immediately announced it to her mentor. This award is important for her to receive the necessary training to both complete her dissertation project and to give her the necessary skills for a career in uncovering behavioral and biological markers of developmental neurotoxicity.

Ms. Kendricks' research seeks to determine long-term effects of exposure to the environmental contaminant, methylmercury, during early development. Her goal is to better understand the consequences of such exposure and how it relates to symptoms and biomarkers of neurological disorders. The first step in doing this is gaining an understanding of how methylmercury induces long-term behavioral and neural changes. The current research seeks to coalesce these tow aspects of methylmercury toxicity by observing changes in memory and attention and relating these changes in dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with these behaviors and of methylmercury.

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Courtney McClure
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of California, Los Angeles

Ms. McClure was delighted to receive this award and to further advance her career in toxicology! It is a great opportunity for her as a result of SOT's generosity. The course is highly relevant to her field of study, molecular toxicology, and she is very excited to further her training. The award will help her pursue her research by advancing her foundational knowledge of toxicology and equip her to better assess and improve her current project. Having this increased understanding of toxicology will help her to be able to understand the field at a completely new level and have a new ability to pursue her research.

Ms. McClure's work focuses on how we are affected by toxicants in our environment. She is particularly interested in the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is a commonly used pesticide across the US. Her research is investigating what effects chlopyrifos may have on serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter important for mood, sleep, and cognition. She uses the model organism C. elegans, a 1 millimeter long nematode, chosen for its simple nervous system. In humans, chlorpyrifos produces multiple neurodegenerative disorders, and is known to have effects in C. elegans' behavior as well. She is interested in assessing how chlorpyrifos affects the nematode C. elegans in terms of behavior that is innervated by serotonin. This will help her to better understand how environmental toxicants like chlorpyrifos act on our nervous systems.  

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Dalia Arredondo
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees:
Institution/Affiliation: University of St. Thomas

Ms. Arredondo was very honored when she received the news that she had qualified to obtain this award. Being a first generation college student, it has always been her goal to take advantage of the opportunity to expand her learning and receive as much academic experience as she can. As a senior at the University of St. Thomas, attending a national conference has been an interest of hers. This year, thanks to the Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award, she will have the opportunity to attend the 2019 Annual Entomology Society of America conference. Attending this conference will give her the opportunity to present the research on which she and her colleagues are currently working to and meet other professionals in the field of toxicology. Ms. Arredondo is very grateful to the Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development fund for this award and she would also like to especially thank Dr. Rosemarie Rosell for being an exceptional mentor and an amazing professor.

Houston, being one of the top five largest cities in the United States, has a great deal of inhabitants and just as many industrial work facilities. As a result, there are various types of toxic compounds released into the atmosphere that civilians are at risk of inhaling. Toluene is an example of these toxic organic compound detected in the air, and is commonly found in household products, beauty products, and industrial workplaces. This research essentially focuses on the effect of toluene in terms of reproductive functionality and resulting offspring survivability. The effects of toluene are investigated on Drosophila melanogaster, a model species, that share similar human gene homologs, proteins and similar functions in regard to the reproductive system. As D.melanogaster have been exposed to toluene, we determined that as the concentration of toluene exposure increased, fecundity and offspring survivability decreases. To further advance the research in the search for additional results, the focus will be on determining fly offspring developmental outcomes and the underlying mechanisms of decreased fecundity and survival of offspring.

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Yanelli Nunez
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS, MA
Institution/Affiliation: Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University

Ms. Nunez felt it was great news to find out that she had been selected as one of the Career Development award recipients – she and her advisor were both trilled with the news! Attending this workshop will be an incredible opportunity to broaden her knowledge on the in silico analysis of exposure/response data and the general steps involved in the risk assessment process.

Ms. Nunez's dissertation research uses in vitro and in vivo models to study the potential contributions of low-chronic metal exposure to the pathology of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Using in vitro cell models, she generated survival-concentration curves for neuronal and glial cells to identify minimal metal exposure concentrations that elicit toxic effects in each cell type. Additionally, she is currently evaluating the effects of chronic low-level manganese exposure in an in vivo model of ALS. Through her laboratory work she became interested in the field of risk assessment, specifically in analyzing exposure/response data and the process of determining safety margins for environmental compounds. For her postdoctoral training, Ms. Nunez plans to take advantage of the increasing availability of toxicological data and exposure/response computational models to evaluate the environmental contributions to neurodegenerative diseases and identify risk levels of exposure. The Pharmacometric Dose-Response Analysis in Clinical trials using R workshop will equip her with an essential set of tools to further her knowledge of the process involve in risk assessment as well as in managing and analyzing dose/response data.

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Jephte Akakpo
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center

Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award - Jephte Akakpo is a PhD student at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He attended an advanced imaging mass spectrometry (AIMS) laboratory course at Vanderbilt University through the support of SOT’s Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award. Hands-on workshops allowed him to interact with experienced faculty members and graduate students in the mass spectrometry department as well as leading instrument vendors. The experience allowed him to gain skills in sample preparation, matrix application, and data processing with specialized software. The unique experience in this cutting-edge technology along with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills he is acquiring in his PhD training will allow him to successfully build a career in analytical toxicology.

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Giovan Cholico
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: Biochemisty and Molecular Biology, BS
Institution/Affiliation: Boise State University

Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award recipient, Giovan Cholico, is a student at Boise State University. Last fall, he received the Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award, which is administered by the Committee on Diversity Initiatives. He was beyond ecstatic to receive training to interpret his results from RNA-Seq data at the National Center for Genome Research (NCGR) under the guidance of biostatisticians and bioinformaticians.

His research focuses on understanding the role of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) in mediating liver fibrosis, specifically the molecular mechanisms that occur in a fibrotic liver through AhR activation. To accomplish this, he used RNA-sequencing to look at transcriptional changes in livers from mice that had (or lacked) liver fibrosis. 

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Roxana Coreas
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of California Riverside

Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award recipient, Roxana Coreas, is a PhD student at the University of California, Riverside, and due to the generous funding from Society of Toxicology Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award, she attended the American Chemical Society 256th National Meeting and Exposition in Boston, MA. This conference aligned with her current projects and was an excellent opportunity to increase her understanding and to immerse herself in trending developments in the field. It will remain an invaluable experience for her professional growth. During her poster presentation she discussed her results with multiple professors in order to solidify her research direction. Overall, this opportunity allowed her to improve her presentation and communication skills and gain a better sense of nanoscience and its diverse applications. Her goals were to present her research, receive feedback on her results and aims, network with experts, and learn from experienced nanotechnology experts.

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Rosemarie  de La Rosa
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of California, Berkeley

Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award recipient, Rosemarie de la Rosa, is a PhD student at University of California, Berkeley. Attending the 11th Gordon Research Conference on Environmental Endocrine Disruptors in Les Diablerets, Switzerland has contributed to both her scientific and professional growth. She was particularly excited to attend the session on mixture effects because of a collaborative project she currently has with two scientists at Boston University to understand the effect of multiple chemical exposures on glucocorticoid receptor signaling. This award provided the financial resources needed to attend a conference that would enhance her scientific knowledge of environmental endocrine disruption and assist in accomplishing her long-term goal of becoming a research professor of toxicology. The most rewarding aspect was networking with fellow graduate trainees and researchers from all over the world. During her poster presentation she received suggestions on her project and career moving forward. Organized group trips were also a fun opportunity to build relationships with colleagues. Overall, the conference provided a space for networking with scientists at various career stages and encouraged young researchers, like her, to pursue careers in endocrine disruptor-related research.

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Kimberly Rivera-Caraballo
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: Bachelor's Degree in Progress
Institution/Affiliation: University of Puerto Rico at Humacao

Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development recipient, Kimberly Rivera-Caraballo, is a student at University of Puerto Rico at Humacao. Last spring, she received the Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award, which is administered by the Committee on Diversity Initiatives, to attend the Society for Developmental Biology (SDB) 77th Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon, July 20-23, 2018. It was a small annual conference with international participants. She networked with undergraduates who were conducting research at various institutions. She attended many concurrent sessions in which oral presentations were given on topics that included cell polarity, evo-devo, biology of cancer, and human genetic diseases. The animal models used were very diverse, from C. elegans and Drosophila to butterflies and cephalopods. It was surprising for her to see the modern technology used in current research such as live imaging in cells. After finishing her developmental biology class last spring, she felt comfortable understanding signaling pathways research on Wnt/β-catenin, BMP, and Hedgehog. She took advantage of the attendees’ group breakouts into Theme Tables to learn more about work-life balance during graduate studies. She receives advice for selecting a great mentor and lab in which to work.

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Sylvia Sanchez
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of California, Berkeley

Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award recipient, Sylvia Sanchez, is a PhD student at University of California, Berkeley, and attended her first conference focused entirely on her research interest of endocrine disruptors. The Society of Toxicology Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award provided her with the opportunity to attend the 11th Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Environmental Endocrine Disruptors (EEDs) in Les Diablerets, Switzerland, from June 3-8, 2018. This year’s conference marked the 20th anniversary of the first GRC on EEDs and brought together leading experts on endocrine disruptors from around the world. She is deeply appreciative of this award as it allowed her to partake in a notable conference in a picturesque country known for academic scientific inquiry, all while advancing her laboratory pursuits and future career as a research scientist.

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Rosa Chan
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of California San Francisco

Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award - Rosa Chan, a PhD student at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), is a recipient of the inaugural Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award for 2017. The award was used to assist Ms. Chan’s attendance to the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) in Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Toxicity. In addition to providing networking and career development opportunities, the GRC has increased Ms. Chan’s knowledge on risk assessment, computational models, and systems biological approaches. Her current research at UCSF investigates the potential of the Biopharmaceutics Drug Disposition Classification System (BDDCS) as a methodology for evaluating toxicological outcomes of therapeutic agents. The goal of this research is to advance the understanding of toxicities associated with the liver and the skin, the two organs most commonly involved in serious adverse drug reactions through the application of physicochemical properties on in vitro screening assay data, and human clinical data. Specifically, her work has implications in terms of physicochemical drug properties and in vitro assays that should be conducted for the evaluation of Stevens Johnson Syndrome/toxic epidermal necrolysis (STS/TEN) and drug-induced liver injury (DILI). Ms. Chan’s career goal is to become an expert in bridging the gap between the in vitro toxicology assays and the pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamics analysis to allow for more rapid translation of therapeutic targets.

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Kristin  Noell
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award -  Kristen Noell, a PhD student at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), is a recipient of the inaugural Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award for 2017. The award was used to assist Ms. Noell’s attendance to the 28th Molecular Parasitology Meeting hosted by the University of Chicago Marine Biological Laboratory. At this meeting, Ms. Noell presented her dissertation work on Perkinsus marinus as an ideal aquatic parasitic model, in regard to lipid metabolism. The meeting exposed her to alternative techniques to detect lipid droplets in parasitic cultures, as well as projects that explored the molecular and cellular level of these parasites’ functionality, which could be useful to toxicologists or many interdisciplinary scientists. She said she was able to add increased diversity to the meeting because she was one of the few African American women in attendance, thus presenting a double minority. Ms. Noell is the vice student representative for the SOT National Capital Area Chapter and the graduate student representative for Toxicologists of African Origin (TAO).

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Monica  Rios-Cabanillas
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award - Monica Rios-Cabanillas, a PhD student at Michigan State University, is a recipient of the inaugural Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award for 2017. The award was used to assist Ms. Rios-Cabanillas’ attendance to the 2017 Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference. Her current study is on the mechanisms of methylmercury-mediated calcium dysregulation and induced cell death of spinal cord neurons after an acute exposure. Ms. Rios-Cabanillas also assisted with the Committee on Diversity Initiatives’ exhibit booth at SACNAS and shared opportunities in toxicology to undergraduate. In addition to presenting her own research, Ms. Rios-Cabanillas judged posters for undergraduate student attendees. She is a mentor to undergraduate students herself and is dedicated to mentoring and developing underrepresented minority student scientists. SACNAS exposed her to a diverse community in STEM, as well as access to future educational and professional opportunities in her fields of interest in neurotoxicology, toxicity regulation, environmental advisory, and neurotoxicity research.

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Ignacio Tripodi
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: BA
Institution/Affiliation: University of Colorado at Boulder

Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award - Ignacio Tripodi, a PhD student in the BioFrontiers Institute Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology program at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is a recipient of the inaugural Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award for 2017. The award was used to assist Mr. Tripodi’s attendance to the 10th World Congress in Alternatives to Animal Use in the Life Sciences (WC10). Mr. Tripodi’s motivation to go to graduate school was to learn about research techniques that contribute to moving the 3Rs paradigm forward: to develop approaches to reduce, refine, and replace animal testing. At WC10, he was surprised to learn about the existence of many alternatives to animal-based reagents and the advantages of tools such as xeno-free media. To his delight, he also discovered animal welfare organizations working in concert with scientific advisory boards to promote the implementation of the 3Rs, with an emphasis on replacement whenever possible. Mr. Tripodi’s background is in computer science and he hopes to bridge the gap between biology and data analysis.

Diversity Initiatives Fund

Recipient: Yislain Villalona
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: Bachelor's in progress
Institution/Affiliation: Northern Kentucky University

Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award - Yislain Villalona, an undergraduate at Northern Kentucky University (NKU), is a recipient of the inaugural Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award for 2017. The award allowed Ms. Villalona to attend and present at her first national scientific conference, the 41st Anniversary Annual Meeting of the Developmental Neurotoxicology Society, held in Conjunction with the 57th Annual Meeting of the Teratology Society. She used the opportunity to network with prominent scientists and attended various workshops for mentoring and professional development and was able to fill an unmet need at her institution’s smaller science program. Ms. Villanola works at Dr. Christine Curran’s toxicology lab at NKU and has been learning the basics of PCR genotyping, histology and immunohistochemistry. A native Spanish speaker, Ms. Villanola has a special interest in toxicology outreach and has previous experience educating immigrant children whose native language were not English. She hopes to apply for graduate programs that can further her path in public health.

Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award Fund

Recipient: Morgan Domanico
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of California Davis

Ms. Domanico is very honored to be an SOT Inhalation and Respiratory Specialty Section (IRSS) Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award recipient. This award will allow her to pursue a very exciting training opportunity in lipidomics and apply this expertise to her dissertation research. Lipidomics approaches have only recently been implemented to explore respiratory toxicants, but with great success in providing new insights, and so it is important to continue to implement this emerging technology and powerful tool.

A portion of Ms. Domanico's dissertation research investigates the effects of toxicant exposure on the developing airway. Lung development continues to occur postnatally and is known to have increased susceptibility to air pollutants. Ms. Domanico intends to use lipidomics to investigate a possible mechanistic explanation of observed phenotypic changes following toxicant exposure. It is her belief that this will be the first lipidomics application in a developmental model exposed to the under-studied toxicant. The findings will be used in Ms. Domanico's dissertation and shared with the scientific community in a peer-reviewed journal. Lipidomics is an emerging field and this training will allow her to carry forward that knowledge into her next research position as a respiratory toxicologist.

 

Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award Fund

Recipient: Satya Achanta
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: DVM, PhD, DABT
Institution/Affiliation: Duke University School of Medicine

Dr. Achanta was very thrilled and honored to receive this prestigious award! Winning this award gave him a sense of recognition for the hard work and time that he put into his research. This award also encouraged him to continue to make meaningful progress in the field. He is thankful to the leadership and awards committee of the Inhalation and Respiratory Specialty Section (IRSS) for their thoughtful consideration of his application for this award. These funds will help him in organizing a webinar series on comparative inhalation animal models and strategies for the successful conduct of large animal studies. This webinar series will not only be beneficial to him but also serve their IRSS-SOT community in exchanging their knowledge on this topic, expanding our research, and probably bringing opportunities for collaboration. 

One of Dr. Achanta's research portfolios is to study the harmful effects and develop medical countermeasures against exposure to inhalation toxicants such as chlorine gas, phosgene gas, sulfur dioxide, and tear gas agents. As clinical trials are not feasible in humans for most of the toxicants, animal models play a key role in correlating the natural history of disease progression to humans. His research focuses on developing the most relevant animal models and testing potential medical countermeasures based on the mechanism of action. His long-term expertise in rodent and non-rodent inhalation studies helped him in winning this highly acclaimed award. Mr. Achanta's future goals include establishing a nationally recognized center for excellence to develop medical countermeasures. 

 

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.

Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award Fund

Recipient: Cody  Smith
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Dr. Smith was elated to learn he'd been awarded the Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award. Receipt of this award will allow him to gain additional training outside of his primary mentor's expertise, which will broaden his scientific toolkit and open novel lines of independent investigation. 

Dr. Smith's postdoctoral research focuses on the role of innate immune cells, namely macrophages, in toxicant-induced lung injury and repair. His long-term career goal is to be an established investigator directing a research program focused on elucidating cellular signaling mechanisms contributing to sex-based differences in pulmonary disease. As part of this training experience, he plans to learn techniques to investigate the role of estrogen receptor signaling in mesenchymal stem cell differentiation in toxicant-induced lung injury and repair as a mechanism contributing to sex-based differences in lung disease, an emerging area of research. This training and education experience will allow him to broaden his scientific toolkit, promote his independence, and facilitate his transition to a faculty position.  

Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award Fund

Recipient: Andres Henriquez
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: ORISE/EPA

Dr. Henriquez was surprised and thankful of this opportunity for collaboration. This award will help him to test how endothelial cell disruption may be a key event in mediating ozone-induced adverse effects.

Dr. Henriquez's research is focused on the exploration of mechanisms by which air pollutants induce, exacerbate and modulate pulmonary and extra-pulmonary responses. Neuroendocrine stress response has been identified as a major mechanism regulating ozone toxicity. His future goals include the bridging from in vivo to in vitro to characterize cell-specific responses to ozone-induced derangements in circulating stress hormones. The innovation of this proposal is the use of in vivo and in vitro approaches to address important mechanistic questions involved in health effects of air pollutants. Specifically, he plans to examine how endothelial cells are affected by the previously characterized ozone-induced changes on serum levels of adrenal-derived stress hormones.

Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award Fund

Recipient: Jared Radbel
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: MD
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Dr. Radbel was honored and excited to receive the Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award. Through this award, he will be able to learn how to develop animal models of acute lung injury following ozone exposure.

His research focuses on the effects of air pollutants in the development of life-threatening lung diseases. For this award, he plans to examine the inflammatory mechanisms by which ozone exposure predisposes mice to infection-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome. His future goal is to become a translational scientist who develops treatments for serious lung diseases associated with air pollution exposure.

Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award Fund

Recipient: Meghan Rebuli
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dr. Rebuli's reaction upon receiving the award was excitement about the ability to share the newly developed, novel nasal mucosal sampling technique with others in the field of respiratory toxicology. It is her hope that the ability to create their instructional video and share the technique and its uses will facilitate new translational research and collaborations. New research and collaborations using the technique will help to better characterize airway immune profiles (cytokine, chemokine, protease, proteome, etc.) in a variety of populations and determine adverse effects of toxicant exposures. She also hopes to expand the use of the technique into other applications.

Her research in the Jaspers lab focuses on investigating the effects of air pollutants and other inhaled toxicants (wood smoke, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes) on respiratory innate immune host defense responses. She is particularly interested in understanding the role of sex in varying responses to these toxicants. Her plan is to expand upon her current research and combine it with her graduate work in neuroendocrine toxicology to support a future academic research career. To more effectively answer their research questions, she helped develop a new nasal mucosal sampling technique. This method was specifically designed to collect concentrated and replicable samples from the nasal mucosa and improve on the current gold standard, nasal lavage. This method, because of its quick and non-invasive nature, is easily adaptable to epidemiological studies as a biomarker collection technique, field studies because of its stable capture of proteins, and use in the clinic in a variety of populations. Her proposal to share the technique via instructional video and webinar is why she won this award.

Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award Fund

Recipient: Matthew McGraw
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: MD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Colorado School of Medicine
Dr. McGraw was honored to receive the Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Award. This award will allow him to learn the entire process of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) reprogramming from reprogramming methodologies, iPSC identification, isolation and characterization, and current approaches to their directed differentiation into endodermal and lung lineages. He will use the information learned at Dr. Kotton's lab in Boston to use cell-based therapy for repair of a damaged epithelium after sulfur mustard inhalation injuries and prevention of bronchiolitis obliterans. His research is on inhalation injury after sulfur mustard. Sulfur mustard is a common warfare agent that causes both acute and chronic morbidity and mortality. One common long-term morbidity is bronchiolitis obliterans (BO). BO is defined as a progressive narrowing of the airway from fibroproliferation. One of the central pathways behind the development of BO is injury to the airway epithelium and aberrant repair. His research focuses on the contribution of the airway epithelium after inhalation injury. Additionally, he is interested in how an impaired epithelium after injury contributes to the development of BO. Recently, his lab has shown a lack of proliferation and differentiation of the airway epithelium weeks after exposure to sulfur mustard with the concurrent development of BO. The Donald Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award will allow him to travel to Boston to study induced pluripotent stem cell programming. He hopes to use this education to identify, isolate, and re-program airway epithelium after sulfur mustard exposure to prevent the development of BO.

Donald E. Gardner Inhalation Toxicology Education Award Fund

Recipient: Katherine Zychowski
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of New Mexico
Dr. Zychowski studies how air pollution drives vascular disease. Her hope is to stay in an academic or government research setting. Additionally, she is very interested in toxicological implications pertaining to public health. Under the esteemed mentorship of Drs. Matt Campen(University of New Mexico) and Jim Wagner (Michigan State University) her plan is to use this award to travel to Michigan State University this summer to train on the state-of-the-art mobile air pollution laboratory, AirCARE 2.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Sarah Avila-Barnard
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of California, Riverside

Ms. Avila-Barnard's initial reaction was complete gratitude and respect for the award committee as well as BDRP for providing her with the opportunity to attend this conference by relieving her of some of the financial travel burdens. She felt very honored and elated to be receiving an award that will allow her to attend a conference where she truly gets to immerse herself in the knowledge that focuses on understanding and protecting developing embryos, fetuses, children, and adults against potential hazards. In addition, being able to collaborate with a variety of scientists which come from extremely diverse backgrounds helps Ms. Avila-Barnard to grow both personally and professionally in her future career path by extending her network and providing her with a framework for what to expect in the years to come. She is truly captivated by the adventure that has been her PhD journey and to be part of wonderful organizations such as BDRP. 

Ms. Avila-Barnard is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), in Environmental Toxicology (ETOX), where she seeks to reveal how exposure to organophosphate flame retardants alters early embryonic development, cellular metabolism, and global DNA/RNA methylation in zebrafish and human cell-based model systems as part of the Volz lab. Throughout graduate school, Ms. Avila-Barnard has served in multiple leadership roles including within the ETOX graduate student association, where she mentored first-year graduate students, maintained the financial budget for the ETOX graduate student association, served on the planning committee for the program’s annual symposium, as well as organized annual interdepartmental and collaborative events for her graduate community. She has also served as an ETOX social event coordinator for trainees, supported by UCR’s NIEHS-funded T32 training grant, focused on environmental toxicology. As a senior graduate student within her PI's lab, she has had the opportunity to mentor, train, and work closely with several undergraduate student researchers within the Environmental Sciences, Cellular, Molecular and Developmental, and Biology programs as well as a first-year ETOX PhD student within her PI's lab, providing her additional opportunities to hone on instructional, mentorship, and leadership skills. Ms. Avila-Barnard has authored four peer-reviewed papers in Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, Environmental Research, Environment International, and the Journal of Visualized Experiments. Her newly developed method for in situ detection of 5-methylcytosine within developing zebrafish embryos was published as a methods paper in JoVE. In addition, she is currently using pharmacologic strategies to probe potential mechanisms underlying the effects of TDCIPP within HEK293 cells. Her current project will serve to increase and promote the exchange of information and perspectives on applied toxicology, developmental toxicology, and safety assessment of organohalogen flame retardants, a known hazard to human health. She has been a BDRP graduate student member since 2021. After graduation, Ms. Avila-Barnard intends to pursue a postdoctoral scholar position at a research-intensive university. Her career goal involves becoming an academic researcher who helps further science communication and education, guides the pathway for future minority student researchers within the field, and serves communities while collaborating with other researchers/health professionals/decision-makers who share similar goals.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Josh Everson
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Texas

Dr. Everson felt excitement, joy, and validation when he received this award. As a long time teratology researcher, he was thrilled that the award committee chose him. He understands the critical need to disseminate research findings to the wider scientific community and public, and this award promises to bring more eyes to his work. But overall, it refills his enthusiasm to keep grinding towards the next big discovery! Thank you!

Dr. Everson's work focuses on understanding the complex origins of the birth defects that affect thousands of children each year. Specifically, he uses animal models to examine gene-environment and co-environmental interactions, which are thought to account for the large number of human birth defects. His current work leverages the higher throughput capacity of zebrafish to identify chemicals and chemical combinations that adversely affect brain and face development. Specifically, he has developed a higher throughput assay for detection of brain and face defects in zebrafish. Zebrafish embryos, which are optically clear, can be engineered so that specific cells of interest (e.g., face cells or brain cells) fluorescently glow. These embryos can then be exposed to chemicals, and fluorescent glow can be measured in high-throughput using a plate reader. Dr. Everson found chemicals that cause craniofacial birth defects caused dose-dependent reductions in fluorescent glow, which positively predicted craniofacial defects later in development. Together, this provides a sensitive and fast method for prediction of hazardous chemicals and mixtures. His future goal is to lead a research program at a public US university, where hazardous chemical combinations and gene-chemical interactions will be identified using the enhanced throughput of zebrafish, and then validated and finely characterized in mice. Overall, Dr. Everson's goal is to provide avenues for birth defect prevention by identifying and communicating chemical risks, to clarify the black box of human birth defect etiology.

 

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Danielle Kozlosky
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Kozlosky was ecstatic upon receiving news of being awarded this very prestigious award. As she is at the tail end of her PhD, she has been noticing diminished motivation as her final experiments are finishing. Winning this endowment award was the jump-start she needed internally to complete her last few studies and to continue writing her dissertation. Moreover, the monetary award will enable her to purchase crucial reagents that are running low to finish such experiments to complete a sound research story. 

Ms. Kozlosky's research examines mechanisms of placental toxicity resulting in fetal growth restriction in mice. The study herein investigates the protection conferred by a single placental efflux transporter against heavy metal placental accumulation and fetoplacental toxicity particularly focusing on placental vascularization and fetal nutrition. In the future, she plans to become an independent research scientist in the developmental and reproductive toxicology field. Thus, having been awarded distinguished recognition through this award is vital in advancing her career goals. 

 

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Alison Neff
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS, MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Upon receiving this award, Dr. Neff felt happiness and excitement because it will help her share her work with the toxicology community.

Dr. Neff's research investigates the cellular mechanisms of action underlying the toxic effects of phthalate metabolites in the ovary. The research submitted for this award focuses on the role of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor in the MEHP-mediated decline in estrogen synthesis by ovarian antral follicles. Her future goals are to use her background in physiology and toxicology to work for a government regulatory agency, such as the FDA or EPA, to assess the safety of food, drugs and environmental chemicals for human consumption/exposure.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Kian Afsharian
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BSc
Institution/Affiliation: University of Toronto

Mr. Afsharian is incredibly honored to be awarded this recognition from two societies whose members include the world's foremost leaders and innovators in the field of toxicology. The Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention has offered him tremendous support in the short time he has been a student member, through educational sessions, networking opportunities, awards, and more. Recognitions such as the Edward W. Carney Trainee Award not only enables him to attend international meetings that help him grow as a scientist, but also helps broaden societal awareness of research that seeks to improve human and environmental health.

Their lab investigates the contribution of reactive oxygen species (ROS) to the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders. More specifically, he is interested in determining if enhancement of oxidative DNA damage (i.e. 8-oxoG) in utero leads to epigenetic dysregulation in the developing brain, which can result in abnormal gene expression and postnatal behavioral deficits. His research explores various stages of brain development using distinct model systems: embryo culture to explore morphological development and early epigenetic programming; fetal brain analyses to explore functional development and late epigenetic programming; and behavioral analyses in postnatal mice to explore characteristics of clinically relevant neurodevelopmental disorders. Their goal is to demonstrate that reversal of these epigenetic changes, using distinct biomolecular probes targeting epigenetic regulators, can reverse behavioral deficits seen in mice exposed to ROS-enhancing drugs during gestation. These findings could facilitate the development of therapeutic interventions to prevent or mitigate behavioral disorders in humans. To investigate 8-oxoG-dependant mechanisms of epigenetic dysregulation during gestation, they first wanted to determine the time point of maximal 8-oxoG formation in the brains of mice exposed in utero to a ROS-enhancing drug, ethanol. The research for which Mr. Afsharian won this award involved a time-course study quantifying 8-oxoG formation following maternal ethanol administration. These findings will allow them to precisely select ideal timepoints for the analyses of epigenetic marks, gene and protein expression, and activity of epigenetic regulators.

 

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Bevin Blake
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: US EPA

Dr. Blake felt incredibly honored to receive the RDTSS Edward W. Carney Trainee Award. This award will help her pursue her research through supporting her travel to the BDRP 2022 Annual Meeting, where she will have the opportunity to share the work with scientists, researchers, physicians, and other birth defects research experts. The impact of research is not fully realized until it is communicated to others, and this meeting is the ideal venue for communicating research since it brings together experts from many diverse fields of study. She is excited to be able to present her work at this year’s meeting and hope it helps to generate new ideas for future studies. 

Dr. Blake's doctoral research was focused on improving understanding of the human health effects associated with exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which comprise a diverse universe of environmentally ubiquitous chemicals commonly used in the production of products resistant to heat, stains, oil, and water. To do this research, she used a blend of different scientific tools, including human epidemiological analysis, animal models, and cell culture systems. The specific research supported by the RDTSS Edward W. Carney Award was conducted using mice to help them better understand the effect of exposure to PFAS on the placenta. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a PFAS associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes including hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and low birth weight. PFOA has been phased out of production in the US and replaced with new compounds, including hexafluoropropylene oxide-dimer acid (HFPO-DA, commonly called GenX). The placenta plays a critical role in both maternal and fetal health, and it is suspected that PFAS exposure may impact placental function, but this isn’t fully understood for well-studied PFAS (like PFOA) or newer PFAS (like GenX). They hypothesized the placenta is a target of PFAS and exposed mice to PFOA or GenX during pregnancy. They found that exposure to either PFOA or GenX during pregnancy resulted in increased placental weight, decreased fetal-placental weight ratios, and lesions in the placental labyrinth which included atrophy and congestion. GenX exposure during pregnancy also disrupted placental thyroid hormone levels. They are currently in the process of completing transcriptome-wide gene expression analyses of the placentas to better understand the underlying biological pathways disrupted by exposure to PFOA or GenX in the mouse placenta. 

 

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Kendall Langsten
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MS, DVM
Institution/Affiliation: Wake Forest School of Medicine

Dr. Langsten felt that it was an absolute thrill to learn that she had received this endowment award. It is wonderful to have hard work recognized and she is so honored that their work was chosen. This award will help cover the cost of her attendance to the Society of Toxicology meeting in San Diego. She hopes to use this opportunity to meet future collaborators and learn about toxicology.

They developed a mouse model of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, the most common subtype diagnosed in women, that spontaneously metastasizes from the mammary tissue to the bone. Bone metastases are incurable in women and often are associated with bone and nerve pain. There are few models of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer bone metastasis, and fewer models that do not include the administration of exogenous estrogens, which will modulate the bone microenvironment. Their model exhibits spontaneous metastasis to the bone without exogenous estrogen, is responsive to antiestrogen therapies (tamoxifen and faslodex) and is in an immunocompetent host, allowing them to characterize the immune response within the tumor and throughout the major organs. Dr. Langsten's future goal with this work is to determine the effects of certain antiestrogen therapies with specific tyrosine kinase inhibitors in their model to inhibit bone metastasis growth.

 

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Cassandra Meakin
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Dr. Meaken was honored and thrilled when she found out that she had been selected to receive the Edward Carney Trainee Award. This award will allow her to travel to San Diego and attend the SOT conference in person this year and expand her network by fostering collaboration with other scientists in her field. 

For Dr. Meaken's research project, she has successfully developed an experimental method that assesses how environmental compounds alter cellular migration and development of the human placenta. Several of the classes of compounds examined, including heavy metals, bisphenols, and organophosphate flame retardants, have implications for early and later life health outcomes. Her future goals include pursuing a career in regulatory toxicology where she may use her training and expertise to inform public health decision making. 

 

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Haneesha Mohan
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University Health Network (UHN), Toronto General Research Institute, Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower (PMCRT)

Dr. Mohan was deeply honored and very excited when she received the email from the Society of Toxicology (SOT). She says thank you so much for this prestigious opportunity and award for the Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology Specialty Section Edward W. Carney Trainee Award. Accepting challenging deadlines and working independently is the foundation of her education and work experience thus far in the field of science. She understands with this award provided by SOT, there is utmost responsibility and accountability required. Through these experiences, she has developed an understanding of methodological and funding compromises inherent in conducting research. This award strengthens her career path as a potential independent researcher, as she has the ability to depict her efficiency in data production and her awareness of funding to produce innovative research aiming for a sense of gratification in following a project from its genesis to its completion. Her training, along with her previous Postdoctoral and PhD work experience, provided the opportunity to edify her training career path in biomolecular sciences, therapeutics, and toxicology. Overall, winning this award is very dear to her heart, providing a pivot foundation for her career aspects in the field of Toxicology, where as a scientist she is to always be inspired and take the utmost pride in producing quality work in training, teaching, attaining success in her proposed research plans, and developing into an independent investigator. 

Dr. Mohan's research in the past and current years have focused on immunology and metabolic diseases where her main goal has been to explore fundamental and translational research to forge new intervention for diseases in immunology. She has been very intrigued by HIV and Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that have been implicated in glucose metabolism but are less studied. She is always fascinated to determine how novel pharmacologic approaches in the field of HIV effect whole-body energy metabolism and its co-interactions with the immune system. Although there are many ARV drugs made to treat the HIV pandemic, which was once identified as a fatal disease, basic science has discovered multiple ways to treat HIV with effective scientific and translational discoveries to transition this pandemic to a chronic disease increasing one’s lifespan. Dr. Mohan's curiosity led her to explore this area by joining the Serghides lab, in the Department of Immunology and Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto, and Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada. There, she is pursing her current Postdoctoral fellowship, and in this lab she aims to determine the effects of ARV drugs in the fields of fetal development, maternal health and glucose metabolism. In this lab, they have been able to hone various skills on multiple novel models to implement in vitro and in vivo, that endeavor various experimental designs aimed to answer pertinent questions of clinical relevance in HIV, pregnancy and congenital anomalies. Patient samples and cohorts used within their studies conducted in their lab demonstrates the strength and capacity of their HIV proposals, and research accomplishment in their workforce are well laid to optimally plan, implement, and focus for high-impact prevention interventions and strategies to reduce HIV-related morbidity, child mortality, and women-related health disparities across the world. The future direction of her research is as follows: The majority of people living with HIV are women of childbearing age. Dolutegravir (DTG) and other integrase strand transfer inhibitors (INSTI) are commonly used antiretrovirals (ARVs) in people living with HIV, including pregnant women. While these ARVs are very good at preventing transmission of HIV from mother to child, the secondary effects of ARVs, which include maternal metabolic perturbations and negative effects on early fetal development, remain a concern. Higher incidence of neural tube defects (NTD) in women living with HIV receiving DTG from conception was reported by an ongoing NIH-funded observational study in Botswana. These findings highlight the urgent need to improve their understanding of the underlying pathophysiology associated with DTG exposure in pregnancy. Maternal obesity and diabetes are recognised risk factors for NTD. DTG has been associated with hyperglycemia and metabolic complications are common side-effects of ARVs. In this study they will investigate the impact of exposure to DTG and other INSTIs during pregnancy on maternal metabolic health and fetal development – focusing on NTD using a mouse model. They will examine whether DTG exposure affects maternal liver function and glucose metabolism. They will study the effect of DTG exposure on insulin–responsive tissues and examine the effects on insulin production and activity. Their study will help to determine if DTG exposure increases the risk for NTD and if this risk extends to other INSTIs. They will identify potential biomarkers of NTD in DTG exposed pregnancies, and mechanistically assess biological pathways contributing to NTD, specifically metabolic dysregulation. Their study will address critical knowledge gaps in their understanding of the pathobiology of NTD in the context of ARV use in pregnancy, establish a rational basis for further evaluation of effective interventions, and help inform regimen selection in pregnancy. As well, Dr. Mohan has generated data on close to 10,000 fetuses and has already published one paper on her findings on the impact of DTG exposure in pregnancy on fetal development, with two more papers in progress. With respect to the specific research for which she won this award: Background: Dolutegravir (DTG), an integrase strand transfer inhibitor (INSTI), is a WHO-alternative first-line regimen. Initial findings from an observational study in Botswana showed an elevated incidence of neural tube defects (NTDs) with peri-conceptional exposure to DTG. They have previously shown that DTG exposure yielding therapeutic levels in pregnant mice on a folate sufficient diet was associated with higher rates of fetal anomalies compared to control-treated mice. Here they explore potential DTG reproductive toxicities in a folate deficient pregnancy mouse model. Methods: Female C57BL/6 mice fed a folic acid deficient diet for a minimum of 2 weeks, were mated and randomly allocated to either control (water) or 1x-DTG (2.5mg/kg DTG+50mg/kg tenofovir 33.3mg/kg emtricitabine). Drug/water was administered once daily by oral gavage from day of plug detection to sacrifice at E15.5. Fetuses were assessed for anomalies by two independent reviewers who were blinded to treatment allocation. Mixed effects logistic regression was used to assess differences between treatment groups accounting for litter effects. Results: A total of 1533 fetuses from 209 litters were assessed (control n=103 litters, 756 fetuses; 1x-DTG n=106 litters, 777 fetuses). Percent viability, placental weight, fetal weight, fetal/placenta weight ratio, and maternal weight gain did not differ between groups. Crown-rump length was lower and head width was higher in the 1x-DTG vs. control groups. Seven NTDs (exencephaly, n=2; encephalocele, n=3; spinal bifida, n=2) were observed in the 1x-DTG group (7/777=0.9%), with no NTDs in controls. Fetuses exposed to 1x-DTG also had higher rates of severe turning defects (2.2% vs. 0.4%, p=0.04), abdominal wall defects (3.5% vs. 0.4%, p=0.04), limb defects (3.9% vs. 0.5%, p=0.001), cranial/spinal bleeds (15.7% vs. 5.4%, p<0.001), and severe edema (7.0% vs. 1.3%, p<0.001). Conclusion: DTG treatment was associated with higher rates of fetal anomalies compared to controls in pregnant mice on a folate-deficient diet. 

 

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Madeline Vera-Colon
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of California Riverside

Ms. Vera-Colon was very honored to have been selected for this trainee award. This is a very exciting opportunity and helps validate why her research is important. All a researcher can ever hope for is to make an impact within their research community. This trainee award will help distinguish her work and allow her to reach many different target audiences. The most rewarding aspect to research to her is relaying her findings to the public. Without this trainee grant, she would not be able to do this. Additionally, she will continue to advocate and support alternative methods to mammalian models.

Ms. Vera-Colon's dissertation project focuses on elucidating the effects of embryo-toxicants on embryonic skeletal development. In order to reduce animal testing, their lab utilizes a human embryonic stem cell differentiation protocol that reliably and reproducibly produces osteoblasts following a 20-day differentiation period. Therefore, they are able to recapitulate embryonic skeletal development using their in vitro differentiation model. Exposure to chemicals released from everyday sources are largely overlooked as a cause of birth defects. Ideally, evaluation of new toxicants would be tested on a multitude of species, however human embryonic exposure is clearly not ethical. Current assessments remain in need of a higher predictivity rate on humans. With the advent of human pluripotent stem cell models and their application to derive bone cells, it has now become possible to leverage these cells for risk assessment associated with environmental exposure. Ms. Vera-Colon's future work will segue into environmental justice motives to improve contaminant exposure and birth defect rates in largely minority communities. She will still be utilizing human embryonic stem cells as a human-relevant method to study embryonic development and reduce the necessity for animal testing. 

 

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Elana Elkin
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD, MPH
Institution/Affiliation: University of Michigan

Dr. Elkin was very surprised and humbled to receive the Carney Trainee Award from the Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology Specialty Section. It will help her to attend SOT scientific sessions, present her work, and most importantly, network with other toxicologists in her field.

Dr. Elkin's research evaluates the effects of environmental contaminants on the placenta in order to elucidate mechanism by which pollutants may contribute to adverse birth outcomes.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Vasiliki Mourikes
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine

Ms. Mourikes was incredibly surprised when she found out she was selected for the Edward W. Carney Trainee Award. She feels very grateful to her adviser and her colleagues for encouraging her to apply. Their support has been pivotal in making the transition between a veterinary curriculum and a research environment quite enjoyable. The award will make a significant contribution to her travel expenses for the 59th annual SOT meeting in Anaheim. Beyond sharing her own research, attending the conference will allow Ms. Mourikes to network with other successful toxicologists exchanging information about new developments in toxicology, including techniques and approaches that she can apply to her future research.

At the time of the award, Ms. Mourikes was a third year DVM-PhD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The broad goal of her research is to characterize toxic endpoints of agricultural chemicals and understand their mechanism of toxicity to the ovary. Most agricultural chemicals currently in use pose a massive toxic trade off to human, animal, and environmental health. By further researching detoxification mechanisms, we can develop pesticides that are both efficient and non-threatening. Ultimately, she sees herself in either of two capacities; as a professor in academia or working for a government agency like the NIEHS. With training in both clinical medicine and research, she will be positioned to provide unique perspective and a comparative approach to the ever-growing field of translational veterinary medicine. In addition to doing her own research in veterinary and environmental toxicology, Ms. Mourikes is motivated to bring the field to the forefront of both human and animal healthcare systems. She hopes to act as a positive mentor to other students and wants to make herself accessible to people that are not in the science or medical fields. Regardless of the setting, her goal is to study the direct impacts of agricultural chemicals on animal health and use her work as a platform to raise awareness of the connectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. The specific research for which Ms. Mourikes won this award addresses the effects that imidacloprid, the most popular neonicotinoid insecticide, has on ovarian antral follicle growth and steroidogenesis. Neonicotinoids are synthetic nicotine derivatives that act as systemic neurotoxicants. They can be found across all agricultural systems, as well as in flea and tick preventatives that we apply to our pets. Their ubiquitous and rapidly increasing use results in chronic exposure of non-target species including humans and our pets, livestock, fish, birds, and pollinators. Hypotheses: Environmentally relevant levels of imidacloprid interfere with ovarian antral follicle growth and steroidogenesis. Methods: Antral follicle culture is an extremely valuable tool in environmental and reproductive toxicology. The antral follicle contains three different cell types that intricately communicate with each other to make critical contributions to reproductive and systemic physiologic health. The oocyte, granulsa cells, and theca cells make critical contributions to reproduction as well as systemic physiological health. The sex steroid hormones released from granulosa and theca cells work in feedback loops with gonadotropins and hypothalamic hormones in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. Unlike single cell culture systems, antral follicle culture allows one to explore the individual functions as well as the interactions of these three cell types much like they would function in the whole animal. The four concentrations of imidacloprid were carefully selected to be representative of humans and animals who are exposed as consumers of contaminated food and water, and imidacloprid containing pharmaceuticals (0.2 and 2 μg/ml), as well as humans who are occupationally exposed and livestock who have higher exposure because of their proximity to the sites of imidacloprid application (20 μg/ml). The value in assessing the toxic endpoints associated with various concentrations is that it allows us to better understand the patterns of dose response which are often quite convoluted for endocrine disrupting chemicals. The antral follicle growth pattern described in the abstract above (48hrs in culture) as well as the growth patterns associated with 72hr and 96hr cultures, support the hypothesis that endocrine disruption by imidacloprid exhibits a nonmonotonic dose-response where exposure to the lowest concentration(0.2 μg/ml) is most inhibitory on follicle growth, and exposure to the highest concentration(200 μg/ml) is least inhibitory on follicle growth compared to control. Changes in expression of cell cycle regulators and apoptotic factors explain some of the observed patterns, but not all. For example, the significant down regulation of the proliferation factor Ki67 and the cell cycle stimulator Ccna2 in the follicles treated with 0.2 μg/ml imidacloprid explain why those follicles experience the greatest growth arrest. The expression of these factors remained unchanged in the follicles treated with 200 μg/ml imidacloprid, suggesting that other factors mediate the effects that imidacloprid has on antral follicle health. Outcomes: As described above, the production of sex steroid hormones by the antral follicle has both local reproductive effects as well as systemic effects in the whole animal. By assessing the steroidogenic machinery that exists within each of these cells, she can identify if imidacloprid interferes with steroidogenesis, and if so, how it does so specifically. Imidacloprid exposure caused significant changes in expression of the cytochrome P450 monooxygenases involved in steroidogenesis by both the granulosa and theca cells. These changes in expression along with the quantification of hormones released into the culture media indicate that imidacloprid can interfere with the functional ovary. The changes in expression observed in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor and both estrogen receptors provide valuable insight into the mechanisms through which imidacloprid can have negative reproductive and systemic health outcomes. Together, the data collected from this multi-cell culture system have given Ms. Mourikes both direction and important insight for designing an in vivo protocol to assess the impact of imidacloprid in the mouse- an invaluable model for the mammalian species. As she continues to characterize the morphological and functional manifestations of imidacloprid toxicity to the ovary, she is looking forward to adding bioactive metabolites to her analysis, as well as other relevant neonicotinoids. She is excited at the prospect of exploring mechanisms of neonicotinoid toxicity, as well as detoxification mechanisms in the ovary.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Catheryne Chiang
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Ms. Chiang felt incredulous and elated This award will help pursue her research by relieving the financial burden incurred by travel to SOT. Additionally, this award will strengthen her CV and make her a stronger candidate in future applications for awards and postdocoral positions.

Ms. Chiang's research focuses on how specific plasticizers affect female fertility, especially how acute exposure affects a female over her life time, using a mouse model. her future goals are to work with safety/regulation/public health as it concerns toxicology. She is hoping to acquire a postdoctoral position in a governmental agency focused on or around those areas. The specific research she conducted to win this award involved acutely exposing mice to DEHP and a DEHP replacement chemical, DiNP. She analyzed fertility indices and hormone levels in these mice immediately, 3 months, and 6 months post dosing. Her research shows that acute exposure to both of these chemicals has long lasting effects on female fertility and affects sex steroid hormone levels within these mice.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Subham Dasgupta
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS, MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of California Riverside

Dr. Dasgupta was absolutely delighted on receiving this award, since he believes that it provides a validation for the work that he has been doing for the last 2 years within the area of developmental toxicology. For him, this recognition by his peers is definitely a great achievement, and will motivate him more in continuing to work within this field. The monetary amount also allowed him to defray the cost of traveling and lodging for the conference and lessened the financial burden on his mentor so that more funds can be used to pursue research in the lab.

Dr. Dasgupta is studying the toxic effects of early the flame retardant TDCIPP on early development of embryos. TDCIPP is known to impact the movement of cells within the embryo, leading to an arrest of a cell-migration process called "epiboly". Within this research he has shown that the impacts of TDCIPP on this process may be driven by epigenetic changes within the embryo that can further disrupt biological pathways. In addition, TDCIPP also alters specific lipid metabolites within the embryos, which may also contribute to the epiboly arrest. Overall, this research shows that the flame retardant can disrupt development during early stages of the embryo, which can lead to embryo mortality, teratogenesis and implantation failure.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Isabelle Lee
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Pennsylvania

Ms. Lee was honored and grateful to be the recipient of the Edward W. Carney Trainee Endowment Award. This award supported her travel to the 58th Annual Society of Toxicology Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland in March, 2019 where she presented her research elucidating the role of environmental toxicants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), in driving endometrial cancer. She significantly benefitted from this support during this final phase of her graduate school tenure, as traveling to national and international scientific meetings is an integral part of her training and development as a scientist. At the SOT Meeting she not only had the opportunity to strengthen her knowledge in reproductive toxicology by listening to fellow scientists, but also by receiving critical feedback that would bolster her own work. She also had the chance to meet prospective employers and attend professional development workshops at a critical point in her career trajectory. She thanks the committee once again for granting her with this award!

The increase in endocrine-related cancers, including endometrial malignancies, may be related to increased exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. Endometrial cancer is a disease of unopposed estrogens, and the source of these estrogens could endogenous or exogenous. Ms. Lee's research focuses on determining whether environmental toxicants, specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and their metabolites, act as exogenous estrogens in the human endometrium. In this project, she demonstrated that some PAH metabolites with structural resemblance to estrogens act as ligands for the estrogen receptor. These compounds also promote the expression of cell cycle genes, and the proliferation of endometrial cells. She additionally found endometrial cells to metabolize the prototypic PAH, benzo[a]pyrene, into estrogenic metabolites. This work reveals how environmental toxicants may activate nuclear receptors to promote endometrial hormone dependent malignancies, such as endometrial cancer. Her future goal is to investigate whether the more potent effects of PAH are driven by other forms of estrogen receptors such as GPR30; and she will be knocking down estrogen receptors alpha and beta in endometrial cells to determine whether this can block the effects of PAH metabolites on cell growth. The end goal will be to elucidate the mechanism of action of PAH in driving endometrial cell proliferation.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Danielle Drake
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BSc
Institution/Affiliation:

Ms. Drake was surprised and excited to receive this award! She is glad that others recognize the potential impact a breast cancer 1 protein deficiency may have during development, and the importance of identifying possible genetic or environmental risk factors for neurodevelopmental deficits in children. This award will provide an opportunity to explain her research to more people and further exposure for these findings.

To date they have identified a mechanism involving forms of reactive oxygen that can damage DNA, contributing to an increased risk of neurodevelopmental deficits in individuals that are deficient in DNA repair. They have characterized their model using a threshold dose of alcohol (ethanol), which can generate more of the reactive oxygen, resulting in greater levels of DNA damage and learning and memory deficits only in the genetically predisposed progeny deficient in DNA repair. Her interest in developmental toxicology is why she would like to pursue a career in contract research when she has completed her PhD, to help protect children from the toxic effects of potential pharmaceutical products.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Shilpa Mokshagundam
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS, BA
Institution/Affiliation: Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Ms. Mokshagundam and her mentor were both surprised and thrilled upon receiving the news that their work had been selected to receive this award! They dedicated considerable effort in developing this disease model, and were pleased that the reviewers recognized the importance of this research. Receiving the Edward Carney Award will not only support her travel to the Teratology Society Conference this coming June, but has also validated their endeavors. They are looking forward to sharing and discussing this work at the meeting!

Their laboratory, under the mentorship of Dr. Kaylon Bruner-Tran, has developed a mouse model of in utero exposure to environmental toxicants. They look at the implications of in utero toxicant exposure on the function of reproductive and non-reproductive tissue across generations. In their current study, they are looking at the role of parental toxicant exposure on offspring susceptibility to a life-threatening disease, necrotizing enterocolitis. They found that after supplementing breastmilk with an inflammatory substance, dextran sodium sulfate, the offspring of toxicant-exposed mice have increased susceptibility to this disease when compared to offspring of parents without toxicant exposure. Understanding the mechanisms behind development of this severe disease can provide a window for both more accurate diagnostics and targeted therapeutics. As a third-year medical student planning to pursue a career in Obstetrics and Gynecology, this research has considerable implications on her future practice. Through this research, she has learned the importance of preconception nutritional counseling. In addition, this work has demonstrated the significant role of the father in pregnancy health and outcomes. As an Ob/Gyn, she hopes to support families prior to and during pregnancy, in order to ensure that optimal outcomes for both the mother and the baby.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Daniel Spade
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Brown University

Dr. Spade is honored and grateful to receive the Edward W. Carney Trainee Award. The award will support hyis travel to the 2018 SOT Annual Meeting to present his research done over the last several years as a postdoc. He is honored to be recognized for his work and also pleased to receive an award with an emphasis on education and training, as he is currently pursuing a career in academia.

He is interested in mechanisms of male reproductive toxicity, specifically the mechanisms by which phthalates, a class of chemicals used as plasticizers, disrupt fetal testis development. In this project, he investigated the effects of phthalates and retinoic acid on the development of fetal rat testes in culture. He found that phthalates and retinoic acid interact to disrupt the sex determination signaling processes required for maintenance of testicular cell fate and the structure of seminiferous cords in the fetal testis.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: John Szilagyi
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS Chemistry
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Mr. Szilagyi feels this award is a great honor, and is proud to receive it. This generous gift will help to supplement his efforts in completing this project and, ultimately, his doctoral thesis.

His work seeks to understand what environmental and genetic factors influence how toxicants cross the placenta during pregnancy.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Edith Marie McKenzie
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Georgia
Ms. McKenzie was honored and excited to receive the Edward W Carney Trainee Award. It provides an opportunity to attend and share at both the Society of Toxicology and Teratology Society 2017 Annual Meetings. The state of the art research presentations are an unparalleled learning experience. In addition, the prospect of networking with leading researchers and students, while receiving specific, on point feedback about her project is a fantastic opportunity. She looks forward to increasing her knowledge and building on developmental/reproductive toxicology concepts. After a career of working with children with birth defects, her greatest accomplishment will be contributing to the science of prevention. The ultimate goal of her research is to create an alternative cell based model which predicts toxicity to the developing human brain. She is utilizing a systems approach to evaluate nerve cell responses to pesticides. The study objectives were 1) to compare the metabolomic profile of three pesticide groups; aldicarb (a carbamate), chlorpyrifos (an organophosphate) and lindane (an organochloride) in neural progenitor (hN2) cells, and 2) to determine whether the biological impact in hN2 cells would be affected by first exposing pesticides to C3A cells, an immortal liver cell line derived from hepG2 cells, and subsequently exposing the pre-conditioned media to hN2 cells. C3A cells were added to our model to mimic in vivo liver biotransformation of chemical exposures. To biotransform the pesticides, C3A cells were grown to confluency and treated with the same concentrations of pesticide in hN2 media for two hours. This pre-conditioned media was removed and added to hN2 cells. Afterwards, the media was analyzed by GC/MS. This study confirmed hN2 cells are responsive to pesticide exposure at doses less than 30uM, and pre-conditioning media results in biotransformation (i.e. chlorpyrifos forms chlorpyrifos-oxon). For parent pesticides, fluxes in the metabolomic profile increased with increasing doses and various metabolomic pathways were affected following exposure to biotransformed products. Independent of which pesticide was used in hN2 cells, some overlap occurred in metabolomic profiles; within each pesticide different profiles were observed for each dose. The introduction of the C3A pre-conditioned media affected the quantity of metabolites and biochemical pathways. In conclusion, addition of a metabolic component changed the metabolites affected and may be a better model for assessing risk.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Karilyn Sant
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: PhD, MPH
Institution/Affiliation: University of Massachusetts
Dr. Sant is incredibly grateful for this award, and hopes to serve the developmental toxicology community throughout her career according to Dr. Carney's lead. This award will not only allow her to share her current work with the toxicology community, but will also give her opportunities to establish lasting professional relationships with the many excellent developmental toxicologists in RDTSS. Her research investigates the consequences of embryonic exposures to endocrine disruptors, namely those which predispose to metabolic dysfunction later in the lifecourse. She and her colleagues are working to understand how these exposures influence embryonic nutrition, pancreas development, and glucoregulatory function. This project specifically probes the role of the Nrf2 antioxidant pathway in the response to perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), a persistent compound previously used as a surfactant in products such as Teflon and Scotchgard.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Kristin Bircsak
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Bircsak's PhD research focuses on characterizing the regulation of a feto-protective protein and placental xenobiotic transporter, the breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP/ABCG2). The data presented in her 2016 SOT abstract describes transcription factor expression and genetic variants as contributors to the up to 6-fold variation in the BCRP mRNA expression between 109 ethnically-diverse placentas. Importantly, an exonic SNP was associated with reduced BCRP protein expression, but not mRNA of individuals that expressed one or two of the variant alleles. By understanding the factors that govern placental BCRP function, the hope is to identify at risk populations that require individualized prescribing of drugs during pregnancy. Submerging herself in the research and literature of her doctoral thesis project served as inspiration to seek a career in the field of reproductive and developmental toxicology. Ultimately, Ms. Bircsak aspires for a research career in which she will help expand the limited safety data available for drugs used in pregnancy, thereby ensuring the safety of future generations.

Edward W. Carney Trainee Award Fund

Recipient: Deirdre Tucker
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: UNC Chapel Hill
Overall, Ms. Tucker's research focuses on the effects of early life exposures to chemicals that have the potential to alter the developing mammary gland in a rodent model system. Her chemicals of interest include Bisphenol A and other analogues including BPAF and BPS. The goal is to determine if these chemicals may play a role in changing key morphological and cellular processes that are responsible for normal development. In turn she is also trying to determine if these chemicals have long term consequences that may increase the likelihood of developing later life diseases, including mammary carcinogenesis. The work for this award determined that following an in utero exposure to BPA, BPAF and BPS female CD-1 offspring developed multiple mammary phenotypes that included inflammation, hyperplasia, and adenocarcinoma that were present as early as 8-11 months of age. The severity of these phenotypes increased with age (14 mos.), especially in BPAF 5 mg/kg and BPS 0.5 mg/kg treated animals. Interestingly, estrogen receptor alpha and progesterone receptor mRNA expression were unchanged which may point to other mechanisms of action for these chemicals.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Zakiyah Henry
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University The State University of New Jersey- New Brunswick

Ms. Henry was ecstatic upon hearing that she was a recipient of the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund. She is grateful to use this award towards any unmet needs pertaining to her training as a toxicologist. This will award will allow Ms. Henry to focus on completing her research and answering unanswered questions by reducing financial barriers that would otherwise alter the amount of time she can focus on her research.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is an increasingly common chronic condition that has harmful effects on the liver. Furthermore, NASH-induced scarring of the liver is the leading indication for liver transplantation in the US. There are no FDA-approved drugs for NASH treatment; however, the Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR) has proven to be beneficial in the treatment of this disorder. Ms. Henry is specifically interested in how FXR functions in a tissue and cell-specific manner to reduce adverse effects of drugs for NASH patients, and to support the development of novel and safe therapeutics for the treatment of NASH. She is using various mouse models to discover underlying mechanisms contributing to FXR functionality differences between various cell and tissue types. In the future, she is hopeful that she will identify altered genes and pathways as a result of FXR tissue-specific modifications that can be targeted for drug development. 

 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Danielle Kozlosky
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Ms. Kozlosky was ecstatic upon seeing the news awarding her this prestigious honor. She dreams of entering the field of drug discovery in the near future, so having this achievement is excellent motivation for her to achieve her career goal. The monetary value of this award will help Ms. Kozlosky finish the final experiments remaining for her dissertation work.

Ms. Kozlosky's work examines mechanisms of placental dysfunction resulting in poor fetal growth and nutrition. This specific work investigates the protection conferred by a single efflux transporter against placental heavy metal accumulation and toxicity. Her future goals include entering the field of drug discovery, particularly with a focus on developmental and reproductive toxicology. 

 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Piyush Padhi
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Georgia

Mr. Padhi felt honored and extremely pleased to be recognized for the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund. This award further cements his interest in developing and assessing novel eLBP that address critical unmet needs for other neurological and non-neurological disorders. By attending SOT, this award will help Mr. Padhi maximize his research goals, which includes building and fostering new and old collaborations that will enable the additional discoveries to drive this novel drug modality to patients.

Mr. Padhi's research and work involves the development and pre-clinical assessments of a novel genetically engineered microbial live-biotherapeutic that continuously produces a mainstay drug for Parkinson's Disease L-DOPA. He used various models to assess the feasibility of his programmable microbe for future NHP and human trials. Findings from his studies enable a completely novel paradigm of drug delivery mechanism using safe, host-residing microbes.

 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Dinesh Babu
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Alberta

Dr. Babu was pleasantly excited and honored to receive the Drug Discovery Toxicology Specialty Section (DDTSS) Postdoctoral Poster Competition Award, as it truly marks a milestone achievement in his research career. Winning this award gives him great motivation and boosts his confidence to continue his passionate research in toxicological sciences. He expresses his sincere thanks to the DDTSS award selection committee for recognizing the value of his research work and selecting him for this award. Many thanks to Dr. Arno Siraki, his postdoc mentor, for his “radical” thoughts behind this innovative research study and for humbly providing him with an opportunity to pursue this work. Having been recognized with the DDTSS award, Dr. Babu firmly believes his poster will gain significant attention from an increased number of the diverse audience attending the 2022 SOT Annual Meeting, which will allow him to discuss the science and receive their constructive feedback to help improve his research work and prospectively disseminate it as a publication in the future. He also hopes the DDTSS award will help to highlight his research work and attract researchers for any future collaborations for this clinically related study.

Many drugs currently on the market are associated with toxicity, and their side effects have huge implications on our healthcare system. Dr. Babu's research interest essentially focuses on understanding the different ways by which drugs cause “unexpected” side effects (commonly known as “adverse drug reactions”). He has been actively participating in all the projects of Dr. Arno Siraki’s laboratory investigating this aspect of drug toxicology. His long-term career goal is to become an independent academic investigator and establish a laboratory to perform cutting-edge research on drug toxicology to investigate the ways to reduce the adverse reactions of the drug used in clinical practice. The research topic he will present at the 2022 SOT Annual Meeting, for which he was awarded the DDTSS Postdoctoral Poster Competition Award, involves the side effect of a drug (clozapine) used to treat patients with schizophrenia. Clozapine (Clozaril®) is the only drug approved to treat a significant fraction of those patients, referred to as “treatment-resistant schizophrenics,” who do not respond to treatment with other conventional medications. However, clozapine is associated with severe potential side effects like lowered white blood cell count (agranulocytosis). Edaravone (Radicava®) is the only drug that is believed to function through its antioxidant activity and is presently approved in the USA and Canada to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease. Thus, for the first time, this research study investigates the usefulness of cotreating edaravone with clozapine in a cell model to prevent the initial reactions considered to cause clozapine's adverse drug reactions.

 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Shreyas Gaikwad
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Science Center

Mr. Gaikwad was extremely delighted to receive this award, which provided him encouragement to work harder towards understanding the mechanisms of repurposed drugs.

His research focuses on repurposing FDA-approved compounds for their anti-cancer activity in pancreatic cancer (PDAC). Currently, he is working on establishing the anti-cancer activity of an anti-parasitic compound (MBO) in pancreatic cancer. He has established the immunomodulatory role of MBO in PDAC. Since immune checkpoint inhibitors have largely failed in PDAC, Mr. Gaikwad's future goal is to use MBO for potentiating the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors in PDAC.

 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Raymond Hau
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Mr. Hau was pleasantly surprised when he was notified that he had received this award and was excited to share some of the work that he has done throughout his graduate school career. There are always many strong candidates that submit applications and he was very happy to find that his work appealed to the experts in the Drug Discovery Toxicology Specialty Section. He is proud of the work that he has accomplished, although he knows there are still a lot of avenues to investigate. This award reinforces the passion that Mr. Hau has for his research and will allow him to continue working on various spin-off projects that ultimately achieve the same end goal: understanding and predicting drug disposition across the blood-testis barrier.

Mr. Hau's research focuses on how certain chemicals such as contraceptives, antivirals, cancer chemotherapeutics, pesticides, and many others are able to circumvent the blood-testis barrier (a semi-selective cell membrane barrier) through transport proteins to disrupt male reproductive activity. The work that is described in his abstract is centered around a reversible, non-hormonal male contraceptive called H2-gamendazole, where a single oral dose of H2-gamendazole has been shown to cause reversible infertility in rodents, rabbits, and non-human primates. Although this effect suggests H2-gamendazole crosses the blood-testis barrier, the exact mechanism(s) are unknown. His work characterized the process(es) in which this drug crosses; however, additional work is necessary to directly identify the transporter(s) that are involved. In the future, Mr. Hau hopes to finally identify the transporter(s) that are involved with H2-gamendazole transport as well as to identify and characterize other transport pathways that permit other drugs such as antivirals and cancer chemotherapeutics to cross the blood-testis barrier for the treatment of viral infections (HIV, Zika viruses, etc.) or certain cancers.

 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Kumaravel Mohankumar
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Dr. Mohankumar was surprised to get the email and was so glad to receive this award. The value of the abstract was confirmed and this 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 C-DIMs 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 enhance his transition into a career of drug research and clinical applications. Dr. Mohankumar thanks SOT for its support, which is much appreciated.

Dr. Mohankumar's overall interest in the field of molecular toxicology has been focused on development of a highly potent NR4A1 ligands that are relatively non-toxic alternatives to current therapies and their potential clinical applications for treating cancer. Globally, their group 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 pro-oncogenic target in several cancers. Dr. Mohankumar is currently studying the effect and molecular mechanisms of a series of potent ligands against this NR4A1. Their second and third generation analogs have KD values as low as 1nM for this receptor. His future goal is to get into a drug discovery research area. His specific research for this award is focused on investigating T-cell exhaustion in a syngeneic mouse model of colon cancer and the effects of CDIM/NR4A1 antagonists to reverse T-cell exhaustion and enhance immune surveillance. Their results demonstrate that NR4A1 antagonists inhibit many of these dysfunctional NR4A1-dependent effects in T-cells and this includes reversal of several markers of T-cell exhaustion and activation of cytokines. The combined effects of NR4A1 antagonists in both tumors and T-cells result in potent inhibition of colon tumorigenesis by targeting pathways/genes including PD-L1 in tumor cells and by enhancing immune surveillance through inhibition of NR4A1-dependent T-cell dysfunction. The results from this study formed the basis of a recently submitted R01 grant. This study represents the first report of a mechanism-based drug that can be used for anti-cancer immunotherapy. 

 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Souvarish Sarkar
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Brigham & Women's Hospital

Dr. Sarkar was pleasantly surprised to receive the Drug Discovery Postdoctoral Award. This award validates some of the work that he has done and provides inspiration to continue his work in the field of drug discovery. 

Dr. Sarkar is currently building a model system to understand gene-environment interactions in Parkinson's disease (PD). Using a combination of scalable techniques, he has built a model that can identify novel polygenic interactions with environmental factors. Using this system, they are trying to identify druggable targets for those specific interactions, which will be a first step towards personalized medicine in PD. Dr. Sarkar aims to use this work to secure future NIH grants and transition to an independent position in the near future. 

 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Muthanna Sultan
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of South Carolina School of Medicine

Dr. Sultan was super happy and excited upon receiving the email confirming that he was the recipient of the Drug Discovery Toxicology Postdoctoral Endowment Award. It is such an honor for him to receive this award and he is looking forward to the future and being more involved in the Drug Discovery Specialty Section activities.

The rationale for the study: Endocannabinoids are lipid molecules produced endogenously by host cells and bind to cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. N-Arachidonoylethanolamine or anandamide (AEA) is an endocannabinoid that has been shown to have immunomodulatory effects by their lab and others. In the current study, they have tested the hypothesis that AEA with a triple dose of 40 mg/kg I.P ameliorates Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) induced by Staphylococcus Enterotoxin B (SEB-50ug /mice) through modulating the expression profile of Micro-RNAs of the mononuclear cells that were isolated from the lungs, which these micro-RNAs have been shown triggering the proapoptotic cascades at the level of the genes. Specifically, they have addressed the role of AEA treatment which leads to downregulation of miR-125b-5p, and 16-5p targeting caspase 3, which may be responsible and involved in the induction and increasing the population of the apoptotic cells in the mononuclear cells significantly of the lung of SEB+AEA compared to SEB+VEH. Also, note that both the micro-RNA array and pro-apoptotic genes were confirmed by RT- qPCR. At the protein level, they isolated mononuclear cells from the mononuclear cells of the lungs and they run the western blot. Their results indicated that the expression of cleaved caspase 3 was significantly increased in the SEB+AEA compared to SEB+VEH. In addition, they have found in this study that SEB was able to induce proliferation in the T cells while AEA was able to suppress the proliferation significantly after administration of the treatment (AEA). 

Significance: In summary, their studies may lead to the use of specific miRNAs as biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of SEB-induced Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. In addition, the data generated provides insights into the development of preventive and therapeutic strategies against Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and other inflammatory diseases. 

Future Goals: Since this study has been shown so far that AEA ameliorating ARDS through modulation of Micro-RNAs of the mononuclear cells in the lung, then their next step is to confirm the microRNAs are targeting the specific genes, thus they are going to use the specific mimic and Inhibitor for both miRNA 125b-5p and 16-5p separately with a specific concentration for each one of them then followed by validation by RT-qPCR. Furthermore. To know more about gene expression across different cell phenotypes of the lung, they are going to use single-cell RNA sequencing to determine the level of caspase family gene expression, especially caspase 3. 

The role of the researcher in the work: The entire of this work was done by Dr. Sultan as a part of his research project as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of South Carolina, School of Medicine, with supervision and fund support provided by both of his mentors, Dr. Mitzi Nagarkatti and Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti.

 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Rulaiha Taylor
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Upon receiving this award, Ms. Taylor felt grateful and overwhelmed with joy. She expressed that it is so rewarding to be recognized as a trainee for hard work and research, especially through a global pandemic. This award will help her continue to pursue her research utilizing a novel double knockout mouse model to investigate the effect of individual bile acids on bile acid signaling and homeostasis, as well as their impact on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease/ non-alcoholic steatohepatitis development.

Ms. Taylor's research focuses on the molecular mechanisms and pathophysiology of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) caused by bile acid (BA) dysregulation. NASH is a more severe form in the spectrum of the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), characterized by steatosis, inflammation and fibrosis, which affects at least a quarter of Americans. NASH is a silent disease with few symptoms and its diagnosis requires invasive liver biopsy. Unfortunately, there are no current FDA approved drugs for NASH treatment. In the liver, BAs are synthesized from cholesterol and function as signaling molecules that suppress their own synthesis, regulate lipid and glucose homeostasis, and aid in the biliary secretion of lipids, toxic metabolites and xenobiotics. Individual BAs selectively activate nuclear or membrane receptors, e.g. chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) is the most potent endogenous ligand of farnesoid X receptor (FXR). BAs mediate gut-liver crosstalk. Activation of FXR in the gut upregulates fibroblast growth factor 19 in humans (FGF15/19) (FGF15 in mice), FGF15 circulates back to the liver to activate signaling pathways to repress the expression of BA synthesis genes, Cyp7a1 and Cyp8b1, halting BA synthesis. BA mimetics are currently in development for the treatment of NASH utilizing the FXR-FGF19 negative feedback loop as molecular target because overwhelming evidence support FXR regulates the expression of genes involved in lipid and glucose metabolism, liver generation and inflammation. However, the full functions of individual BAs in vivo remain unclear. Ms. Taylor's current research is focused on investigating the full functions of BAs, including deoxycholic acid (DCA) it is currently approved as therapeutic although its mechanism of action are to be elucidated. Her future goal is to discover novel underlying molecular mechanisms to prevent and treat human fatty liver diseases.

 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Lei Zhang
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Ms. Zhang is a graduate research assistant in the laboratory of Stephen Safe, where she conducts research on the molecular oncology and potential clinical applications of a series phytochemical derived natural products that are ligands for the orphan nuclear receptor 4A1 (NR4A1, TR3, NUR77). Globally, their 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. Ms. Zhang's specific project is focused on the resveratrol, a NR41A ligands that are relatively non-toxic and can be used as adjuncts along with current therapies. Ms. Zhang will use this award to support the purchase of scientific analysis software. Her long-term goal is investigating the mechanism of receptors in cancer and developing/optimizing anti-cancer drugs based for the clinic therapies. 

 

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.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Alkeiver Cannon
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of South Carolina - School of Medicine

Upon receiving notification that she had been awarded this award, Ms. Cannon was very surprised and extremely grateful. She feels this award will highlight her productivity and assist in securing additional funding to continue pursuing her research.

Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic, inflammatory disease that is a growing health concern in the United States. Currently, treatment is accomplished by administration of broad immunosuppressive drugs which often lead to serious side effects, thus emphasizing the need for a more specific approach. Ms. Cannon's studies focus on determining the effects of activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) in the amelioration of this disease. Though genetic factors have been implicated in autoimmune diseases, they have found that elements outside of the genes known as the epigenome, specifically microRNAs such as miR-374, play a role in modulating this disease and may serve as preventive or therapeutic targets. In the future, her goals include broadening her knowledge of the epigenome, further exploring the effects of activating AhR by plant products.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Sarah Carratt
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Knight Cancer Institute, Oregon Health & Science University

In many ways, the choice to use postdoctoral time to gain expertise in biomedical research has required Dr. Carratt to take a step away from toxicology. However, she feels that a part of her identity is deeply rooted in toxicology, which is why she has continued to be involved through SOT committees and the Postdoctoral Assembly. It makes her proud to receive an award from the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund in recognition of her work at the intersection of toxicology and cancer biology. It gives her hope that she will be able to find her niche in the next stage of her career.

Dr. Carratt believes the key to creating more efficacious and tolerable therapies for patients is finding more specific targets, and her postdoctoral research aims to turn markers of poor prognosis into opportunities for targeted therapy. Her research largely centers on SETBP1 mutations, which are associated with poor prognosis and relapse in a number of leukemias. She is actively investigating how SETBP1 drives gene expression changes, histone modification, cell cycle dysfunction, and alters of the hematopoietic differentiation hierarchy. Dr. Carratt's current, short-term goal is to gain expertise in molecular biology and oncology. She is particularly interested in mechanistic investigations of oncogene cooperation, which she believes is the key to creating more efficacious and tolerable therapies for patients with aggressive, heterogeneous disease. Her long-term goal is to be a leader at the intersection of cancer biology, pharmacology, and toxicology.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Siennah Miller
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Ms. Miller was very excited to learn that she received the Emil Pfitzer Drug Discovery Toxicology Endowment Fund student award. The award will help her pursue her research by providing funding for publication fees, membership fees for professional societies like SOT, and traveling to scientific meetings where she can share her exciting research with others. 

Ms. Miller's graduate research focuses on drug transport across the blood-testis barrier (BTB). The male genital tract is a sanctuary site for diseases such as viral infections and cancer. When drugs are able to circumvent this barrier, diseases can be treated more effectively without the need for orchiectomy or radiation therapy for cancer or the risk of sexual transmission of viruses. Drug transporters are required for many drugs and toxicants to enter the testis. Drugs that are substrates transporters can effectively cross this barrier to provide therapeutic benefit. Her research focuses specifically on the equilibrative nucleoside transporters (ENTs). These transporters provide endogenous nucleosides essential for nucleic acid synthesis. Drugs that have analogous structures to endogenous nucleosides, such as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), are thought to be substrates for the ENTs. Identifying substrates and further developing our understanding of the substrate selectivity of the ENTs could provide insight on the most effective treatment options for patients with cancer or viral infections. 

To study these transporters, Ms. Miller developed CRISPR/Cas9 functional knockouts of ENT1 and ENT2. These cell lines allow her to examine the function of each ENT individually. She has characterized uridine transport in these cells and the effects of NRTIs and various nucleoside and heterocyclic analogs on uridine transport.  This work showed the interactions of several clinically relevant compounds with ENT1 and ENT2 including abacavir. Ms. Miller plans on determining whether or not these compounds are inhibitors and/or substrates of ENT1 and ENT2 and hopes to develop a pharmacophore that will help predict the ability of currently available drugs to cross the BTB and guide future drug development. After she earns her PhD, she wants to work in the pharmaceutical industry in a drug metabolism and disposition group. 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Leah Norona
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Genentech, Inc.

Dr. Norona was greatly honored to receive this award. She relayed it is gratifying to know that their hard work and efforts have been noticed and appreciated even during these challenging times. This award will help her pursue her research by increasing visibility among colleagues and facilitate important scientific discussions and collaborations.

Dr. Norona has always been intrigued by the cellular mechanisms underlying adverse health effects resulting from compound exposure. Her future goal is to become a more well-rounded toxicologist and a leader in the strategic implementation of new de-risking strategies to help get novel, safer drugs to patients. The main goal of her research is to make scientific contributions to the optimization/development of novel in vitro models to capture and understand complex mechanisms of drug-induced liver injury (DILI). In particular, the role that that drug-induced antagonism of the nuclear hormone receptor farnesoid X receptor (FXR) plays in a sub-type of DILI that results in an increase in intracellular bile acids that can lead to hepatocellular injury. FXR is the master regulator of bile acid homeostasis and there is a prevailing assumption in the DILI field that FXR antagonism is an important mechanism of DILI. However, there has not been an exhaustive look at both the prevalence of this phenomenon broadly, nor a true assessment of the predictivity of FXR antagonism to identify clinically relevant hepatotoxicants. The work described in this poster abstract addresses these areas by employing two complementary experimental approaches to assess FXR antagonism for a large and balanced test set of clinically relevant hepatotoxicants and drugs not associated with DILI. After careful consideration for cytotoxicity to reduce potential for false-positive signals, which previous reports have failed to do, the findings support relatively low overall prevalence of FXR antagonism across the test set and minimal to moderate predictive value to identify known hepatotoxicants retrospectively. Taken together, this work represents an important addition to the DILI field and outlines novel approaches that can be employed in drug discovery to address this phenotype for mechanistic studies, risk assessment or issue mitigation.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Sharavan  Ramachandran
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Dr. Ramachandran was really excited to hear that he was selected as a recipient for the prestigious Emil Pfizer Drug Discovery Toxicology Student Endowment Award. It is a great honor and acknowledgement of his research findings. This award will invigorate his career prospects by providing a global platform to present his research.  

Dr. Ramachandran's doctoral thesis project is focused on re-purposing Pimavanserin for brain tumors and pancreatic cancer. This approach will pave way for novel treatment options for cancer patients. His short term goal is to decipher the mechanism of action behind the anticancer effects of PVT. His long term goal is to conduct clinical studies on pimavanserin and develop pimavanserin as a novel therapeutic agent for cancer. 

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Souvarish Sarkar
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Harvard Medical School

Dr. Sarkar was thrilled to receive the award. He received the award as a graduate student and is now in his first year of postdoc. Receiving this award means a lot to him and it will help him pursue his career in translational science. 

Dr. Sarkar's research revolves around the role of environmental factors in neurodegeneration and how they interact with genetic factors. His goal is to have an independent lab focusing on gene-environment interaction in Parkinson's disease. Currently, he is working on developing a multiplex model which can be used to study the interactions in a high-throughput manner using alternative models like Drosophila.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Paige Glumac
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Minnesota

Ms. Glumac was honored to be selected for this award. Since she came to the conference independently, this award helped to defray the costs of her attendance and allowed her to obtain valuable feedback about her research prior to publication.

Ms. Glumac's research focuses on developing novel antibodies which are selective for prostate cancer. The research for which she won this award was based solely on her identification of CD133 as a targetable biomarker in a particular subset of prostate cancer patients and the development of a novel antibody which can target CD133. In this research, she also used this antibody as an imaging agent to identify CD133-positive prostate cancer tumors using mouse models. Due to the specificity of her novel antibody, she hopes to use it as a therapeutic agent moving forward in the form of an antibody-drug conjugate or radioimmunotherapy.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Monica Langley
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Mayo Clinic

Dr. Langley was very excited and honored to be selected as the first place winner for this award. Being recognized for successfully presenting drug discovery research will help build her credibility as a researcher and highlight additional skill sets on her CV to potential future employers.

Dr. Langley's work aims to better understand the underlying mechanisms of chronic high fat diet induced oligodendrocyte loss in animal models and connect this to epidemiological studies which show metabolic syndrome as a risk factor for multiple sclerosis (MS) development and disease progression. In cell culture and ex vivo models, she has shown efficacy of a newly identified target for demyelination and high fat co-exposure, and are planning new studies in translational models of MS to better characterize the efficacy and safety of this target.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Lauren Lewis
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Ms. Lewis was very excited to receive the 2nd place poster presentation award. This award helped her with her travel expenses for the SOT 58th Annual Meeting.

Ms. Lewis's research investigates epigenetic effects and their role in chemical-induced carcinogenesis. Her poster highlighted the tissue-specific epigenetic effects in a population-based mouse model. She hopes to work in the pharmaceutical industry as a toxicologist.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Lutz Mueller
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: MSc, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: F. Hoffmann-La Roche

Dr. Mueller was pleasantly surprised to receive this award.

Dr. Mueller received his award for the discovery, selection and safety testing of a SMN2 small molecule RNA splice modifier. RNA splice modification is a new category of small molecule targets, which present large hurdles for specificity and safety. This will spur new research into this direction. RNA splice modification is a new field in safety and specificity testing and disease interference for small molecules. The design of safe such small molecules will advance knowledge in toxicology.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Souvarish Sarkar
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Sarkar won this award as a graduate student, but was not expecting to win this prestigious award as a first year postdoc. He was pleasantly surprised. Being acknowledged by experts in the field will help him in his career and in his ultimate goal of becoming an independent PI.

Dr. Sarkar's goal is to identify drug targets for Parkinson's disease patients using Drosophila as a high-throughput screening model. Here he showed that he can use this model to identify targets in PD subsets. If we can better understand the complex nature of gene-environment crosstalk we can go towards personalized medicine in neurodegnerative diseases instead of generic approach.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Melanie Abongwa
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BSc, MSc, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University

Dr. Abongwa would like to thank the DDTSS for selecting her as one of the recipients of the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Postdoctoral Award this year. She is greatly honored by this award but will also like to thank all the people she worked with and wants them to see this award as theirs also. This award has helped to boost her self-confidence as well as the relevance of her research. More importantly, this award will push her further towards working to become a successful postdoc.

Research focus: Functional expression and pharmacological characterization of parasitic nematode ion channels in Xenopus laevis oocytes as potential targets for anthelmintic drugs. Future goals: Successful toxicology career in academia or industry with the ultimate goal of investigating the molecular nature of drug interactions with their targets and assessing the efficacy and safety of new drugs. Details on the specific research for which she won this award: Zolvix® is a recently introduced anthelmintic drench containing monepantel as the active ingredient. Monepantel is a positive allosteric modulator of DEG-3/DES-2 type nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in several nematode species. The drug has been reported to produce hypercontraction of Caenorhabditis elegans and Haemonchus contortus somatic muscle. She and her team investigated the effects of monepantel on nAChRs from Ascaris suum and Oesophagostomum dentatum heterologously expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes. Using two-electrode voltage-clamp electrophysiology, they studied the effects of monepantel on a nicotine preferring homomeric nAChR subtype from A. suum comprising of ACR-16; a pyrantel/tribendimidine preferring heteromeric subtype from O. dentatum comprising UNC-29, UNC-38 and UNC-63 subunits; and a levamisole preferring subtype (O. dentatum) comprising UNC-29, UNC-38, UNC-63 and ACR-8 subunits. For each subtype tested, monepantel applied in isolation produced no measurable currents thereby ruling out an agonist action. When monepantel was continuously applied, it reduced the amplitude of acetylcholine induced currents in a concentration-dependent manner. In all three subtypes, monepantel acted as a non-competitive antagonist on the expressed receptors. ACR-16 from A. suum was particularly sensitive to monepantel inhibition (IC50 values: 1.6?±?3.1?nM and 0.2?±?2.3?μM). She and her team also investigated the effects of monepantel on muscle flaps isolated from adult A. suum. The drug did not significantly increase baseline tension when applied on its own. As with acetylcholine induced currents in the heterologously expressed receptors, contractions induced by acetylcholine were antagonized by monepantel. Further investigation revealed that the inhibition was a mixture of competitive and non-competitive antagonism. Their findings suggest that monepantel is active on multiple nAChR subtypes.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Takumi Kagawa
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Nagoya university

Mr. Kagawa is honored to be selected as one of the best candidates in Drug Discovery Toxicology Specialty Section Student Poster Competition. This will be one of his best moments in his life as a researcher. He would like to thank everyone who provided him with this great opportunity, and greatly appreciates the support of his coworkers in the laboratory. He is going to use the grant for participation in academic conferences to broaden his horizon. Moreover, this award will be his motivation to keep on research.

The goal of his research is to identify novel biomarkers that can detect different types of drug-induced liver injury (DILI) earlier than traditional biomarkers, such as ALT and AST. In the present study, he and his team focused on microRNA (miRNA) as a potential biomarker for drug-induced liver injury. MiRNA is a class of small non-coding RNA that plays important roles in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. MiRNA is released from injured cells and can stably exist in the blood, so it has received increasing attention as a non-invasive biomarker for organ injuries, including DILI. In this study, they established different types of DILI model in rats (hepatocellular injury, cholestasis, and steatosis models, and two drugs were used to establish each model), and identified time-dependent changes in the plasma miRNA profile with next-generation sequencer. Through comparing the miRNA profiles between different types of the DILI model, they identified specific miRNAs that characterized each type of DILI, and RT-PCR study revealed that several miRNAs were up-regulated earlier than traditional biomarkers. The present results suggested the utility of specific miRNAs for the prediction of DILI in type-specific manners. Their next step is to further validate the specific miRNA biomarker candidates by using multiple DILI models other than used in this study, and inter-species differences should also be studied.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Xi Li
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Dr. Li was very excited to receive this award. It is a great encouragement for his research and scientific career. He is very thankful to the Drug Discovery Toxicology Specialty Section.

He and his team have developed a new class of small molecules, namely diindolylmethane analogs, for treating solid tumors. These analogs are specific ligands that target nuclear receptor 4A members including NR4A1, NR4A2 and NR4A3, resulting in ligand-induced anticancer effects in our in vitro models. They also investigated the potency of these NR4A-active small molecules in xenograft mouse models and they exhibited excellent antitumor activity with no observable toxicity to the mice. Currently, they are developing a "second generation" of bis-indole compounds using the structure-activity relationship that they observed in previous studies and they expect these new analogs will have increased potency. In addition, recent studies show that NR4A nuclear receptors play an important role in other diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's Disease. Therefore, they plan to expand our research and use our NR4A ligands in other disease models. They hope that their mechanism-based studies on bis-indole analogs will become options for treating NR4A-dependent solid tumors and other diseases.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Maria Beatriz Monteiro
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: MSc, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Harvard Medical School

Dr. Monteiro is truly honored to receive the Drug Discovery Specialty Section's Emil A Pfitzer Endowment Award. This was the first time she was working on drug discovery and feels it has been a wonderful opportunity to do something very exciting and so meaningful for the progress of kidney disease research. This award encouraged her to continue her work on kidney disease, trying to contribute for a better outcome for the patients.

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. Currently there is no effective treatment for AKI and the kidney's mechanisms of repair are not completely understood. Her research project took an approach commonly used in drug discovery with the main goal to identify new compounds that could promote kidney cell proliferation after acute damage. As a result she and her team identified ID-8 as a novel compound that stimulates kidney cells proliferation after different types of acute damage. They demonstrated the superior ability of ID-8 to promote proliferation of human kidney cells compared to other compounds from the same family of drugs in different in vitro models. As a future goal they aim to perform pre-clinical studies that may provide more evidence for the use of ID-8 as a new potential therapy for AKI.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Kyle Saitta
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: MS, BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Mr. Saitta was absolutely surprised when his name was called for 3rd place of the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Toxicology Graduate Student Poster Competition Award . However, he is honored to receive this award and is glad to see that others appreciate the research he is conducting, especially in the field of drug discovery. It is his lab's hope that the research he presented will contribute to the understanding of how to enhance oligodendrocyte regeneration and provide a critical first step towards identifying one potential therapeutic strategy for treating demyelinating diseases. It is also his hope that just by presenting his work to others during the poster competition that other scientists across academia, government, and industry become aware of his work. Further he believes that this could lead to critical discussions to improve his research as well as the research of others.

Demyelinating diseases or demyelination in response to toxic agents is debilitating and can greatly impair the quality of life of affected patients. A better understanding of the mechanisms involved in repair of the lesion sites will aid in developing new treatments that target cells involved in the disease process. His research aims to define the effects of a small molecule, metabotropic glutamate receptor agonist, in a cuprizone toxicity model of demyelination in mice. He will study the mechanisms involved in demyelinating diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and identify potential pharmacological targets to treat affected patients. His future goal is to become an expert in neuropharmacology and neurotoxicology as an independent research scientist.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Souvarish Sarkar
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees:
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University

Mr. Sarkar was not expecting to receive the award and hence missed the reception. But it was a pleasant surprise and will help him with his professional goals.

His current focus of work is to elucidate the role of microglial ion channels in neuroinflammation in Parkinson’s disease (PD) models. Recently, he found that one particular channel is highly upregulated in PD animal models as well as postmortem PD brains. He has further showed that in animal models of PD and in primary culture blocking this channel has an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effect. He has utilized both genetic knockdown and PAP-1, a pharmacological inhibitor of Kv1.3 in clinical trial, to show the anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effect.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Xi Li
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Dr. Li felt it was a great pleasure to participate in the Drug Discovery Toxicology Specialty Section's poster competition and receiving the award is a great encouragement to pursue his research and career in drug discovery. His work is focused on cancer biology, specially antitumor drugs. He and colleagues have synthesized and identified several diindolylmethane analogs including the hydroxyphenyl-bisindole isomers that target NR4A nuclear receptors in several solid tumor cell lines. These bisindole compounds also exhibit low cytotoxicity in animal xenograft studies while exhibiting potent antitumor effects. They will continue to identify chemical structural features that are important for ligand-dependent antitumor effects in order to develop compounds that could be used for cancer chemotherapy.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Sarah Thacker
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Dr. Thacker was thrilled to receive this award. She said it feels great to have others excited about her research as well and have the support from the specialty section. Her research is focused on exploring the biomarker potential of hepatocyte-derived exosomes to predict intrinsic and idiosyncratic drug-induced liver injury (DILI). Specifically, these studies aimed to optimize methods for hepatocyte-derived exosome enrichment as well as hepatocyte cell culture; methods that hadn't previously been optimized. They can now utilize these approaches to identify novel biomarkers for DILI and IDILI. A future goal is to use these biomarkers in the development of an in vitro screen of lead compounds to predict their DILI and IDILI potential.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Priyanka Trivedi
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Harvard Medical School

Dr. Trivedi was really excited and pleased when she received this award. She immediately went to her advisor’s office to share this good news with him and also to thank him for all his support and encouragement. She is clearly committed to a career in toxicology research and this award will provide recognition to her work and complement her research in the field of toxicology. She will use this award as a springboard for her career in which she will make important contributions to advancing our understanding of toxicology research. Kidney fibrosis, the hallmark of the chronic kidney disease, is an irreversible process leading to the life threatening end-stage renal failure. Unfortunately there is no effective therapeutic cure for this serious condition. Her research focuses on identifying and validating druggable targets for kidney fibrosis. Using RNA sequencing, she identified phospholipase D4 (PLD4) as one of the targets for the treatment of kidney fibrosis. Proposed project for this award was to decipher a mechanistic role of PLD4 in the regulation of fibrosis. Mechanistically, they show that PLD4 facilitates fibrogenesis by modulating innate and adaptive immune responses thereby promoting a TGF-ß signaling pathway. Moreover, PLD4 induced the expression of a1-antitrypsin protein (a serine protease inhibitor) that resulted in subsequent down-regulation of a protease neutrophil elastase (NE) expression, thereby leading to the accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins. Further, PLD4 induced tyrosine receptor kinase A (TrkA)-mediated MAPK signaling. Interestingly, therapeutic targeting of PLD4 using specific siRNA also protected the mice from FA-induced kidney fibrosis by inhibiting TGF-ß signaling and activating NE. In conclusion, their findings identified PLD4 as a novel therapeutic target for kidney fibrosis - an unmet medical need.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Wenyi Wang
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University
Dr. Wang is very excited and thankful. She feels this is an acknowledgement of her work by SOT and is encouraged to work harder through the end. Constructed computational methods to precisely predict properties of nanoparticles, in purpose of prioritizing nanoparticle drugs with wanted properties and unwanted toxicities.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Elijah Weber
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Washington
Mr. Weber was ecstatic when he received the award! He felt honored with the opportunity to be a selected finalist in the poster competition and had a wonderful time presenting his work alongside such amazing work in the scientific community. This award will help him to pursue research greatly by now enabling him to fund scientific and technical training courses. His work involves modeling the kidney, in particular the segment of the kidney most prone to injury, using an "organ-on-a-chip" system that cultures kidney cells in a three dimensional orientation. Using a system that best reflects the human kidney microenvironment, he and colleagues can model toxicity of known toxic compounds and assess safety of novel compounds to advance drug discovery and development. Accurate safety assessments can be achieved in a system without the use of preclinical animal models thus reducing, refining, and eventually replacing animal use. Future goals of this work include integration of organ types to understand organ-organ interactions which may play key roles in underlying mechanisms of toxicity. He has used this system to assess a classical nephrotoxin, Polymyxin B, as well as structural analogues observed to have improved safety profiles. Using a drug discovery toxicological approach, he has generated results that parallel preclinical findings of safety for novel compounds using a novel organ-on-a-chip 3D kidney system.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Melanie Abongwa
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BSc, MSc
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University
Melanie Abongwa is a graduate student at Iowa State University and received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award for her work entitled, "In vitro filaricidal activity, cytotoxicity and phytochemical analysis of crude extracts of Daniellia oliveri and Psorospermum febrifugum." research involves identifying natural plants with anthelmintic properties based on ethnopharmacological information, testing the efficacy of extracts from these plants on nematode parasites, identifying the chemical compounds that account for activity, determining the mode of action of these compounds, and assessing their toxicity using mammalian cells and/or animal models. The overall goal of this research is to isolate non-toxic chemical compounds with anthelmintic properties from medicinal plants which could be donated to philanthropic agencies or pharmaceutical companies for the development of the much needed drugs for treatment of nematode parasite infections. She hopes that her studies will identify compounds from medicinal plants that alone or in combination could have enhanced selective activity against nematode parasites compared to existing anthelmintics, inform on the mode of action and toxicity of the compounds, and as well identify new targets for anthelmintic drugs. These findings will go a long way to contribute towards anthelmintic therapeutic drug discovery, as there are currently a limited number of anthelmintics, and for which concerns of resistance development is on the rise.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Amrendra Ajay
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: 1980

Amrendra Ajay is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Medical School and received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Postdoctoral Award for his work entitled, "SMOC2 mediates kidney fibrosis via activating fibroblasts." Kidney toxicity is a major problem worldwide causing high mortality every year. Due to lack of therapeutic targets and early and sensitive biomarker it is impossible to detect and treat chronic kidney diseases. His team employed RNA sequencing approach to find out the early and sensitive biomarker and therapeutic target for chronic kidney injury. Secreted Modular Calcium Binding protein 2 (SMOC2) is one of the potential early and sensitive biomarker as well as therapeutic target for chronic kidney disease. SMOC2 is expressed by kidney fibroblasts that cause fibrosis. Using transgenic mice they show that SMOC2 causes kidney fibrosis. Thus his team proposes that inhibition of SMOC2 may be of therapeutic importance for kidney fibrosis. He would like to focus his research in finding the mechanisms of toxicity based molecular signaling. Finding new molecular signatures and signaling cascade may provide better understanding of the toxicity at cellular level and its translation in the animal models or in humans.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Monica Langley
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University
Monica Langely is a graduate student at Iowa State University and received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award for her work entitled, "Preclinical Efficacy Testing of the Mitochondria Targeted Antioxidant Mito-apocynin in the Transgenic MitoPark Mouse Model of Chronic Dopaminergic Neurodegeneration." In this study, she evaluated the neuroprotective efficacy of an orally active apocynin derivative with increased mitochondrial bioavailability in the MitoPark model. Her team discovered that mito-apocynin was able to improve locomotor deficits, neuronal loss and dopamine levels in these mice and additionally identified markers of oxidative stress and inflammation that are increased in MitoPark mice at 24wks. Mito-apocynin was able to attenuate levels of oxidative stress markers and almost completely inhibit reactive microgliosis in MitoPark mice. These findings indicate a neuroprotective role of mito-apocynin that should be considered for further clinical development of the compound for the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Chelsea Snyder
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: UC-Davis
Chelsea Snyder is a graduate student at University of California Davis and received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award for her work entitled, "Human iPSC Neurons: in vitro Models to Predict Clinical Neurotoxicity." Neurotoxicity is a major cause of new drugs being pulled from clinical trials. This is due, in part, to a lack in ability of current preclinical animal models to predict these adverse effects. She feels there is strong need for a model more relevant to humans. Primary human neurons are not readily renewable resource, and immortalized human neuronal cell lines are of cancer origins. Thus, her project sought to establish a more relevant model, in human induced pluripotent stem cells, to attempt to bridge this gap between species differences. Using test compounds, she has developed a platform that assesses neurotoxicity through multiple functional endpoints and has the potential to provide early predictive utility in the drug development process. Ultimately, her research helps us grasp a drug candidate’s neurotoxic liabilities before investing in nonclinical and clinical evaluation. This helps streamline the drug development process, so that cutting edge, novel therapeutics can become available to the public in a faster, safer way.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Tamara Tal
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Tamara Tal is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Postdoctoral Award for her work entitled, "Leveraging an integrative predictive toxicity model and zebrafish and in vitro angiogenesis assays to identify chemical vascular disruptors during development." Her research centers on evaluating and improving a computational model of developmental vascular toxicity using a combination of alternative models including zebrafish. The computational model was built to predict whether over one thousand environmental chemicals disrupt blood vessel development. The predictions are based on a series of 109 surrogate cell and biochemical assays. In the absence of in vivo data, the model ranks chemicals based on their putative ability to cause blood vessel toxicity during development. her research, in collaboration with several other groups, tested the computational model’s predictions on vessel development in a genetically modified zebrafish embryo. The findings from this work show that zebrafish detect certain types of vascular disruptors and that data collected in zebrafish can be used to improve model predictions.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Muhammet Ay
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University
Muhammet Ay is a graduate student at Iowa State University and received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award for his work entitled, “Quercetin Treatment Protects Progressive Nigral Dopaminergic Neuronal Degeneration in Cell Culture and MitoPark Animal Models of Parkinson’s Disease by Activating PKD1 Signaling.” His study used a natural herbal compound quercetin as a potential neuroprotective agent for Parkinson's disease. They used in vitro and in vivo tools to evaluate the neuroprotective effect of this compound. First, they tested if this compound has any effect on mitochondrial function and neuroprotective signaling pathways. After finding that this compound can improve mitochondrial function, they tested this compound in a new transgenic mouse model of Parkinson's disease and found that quercetin can reverse the behavioral deficits and dopaminergic neuronal cell loss in this mouse model. Their results suggest that quercetin can activate the neuroprotective signaling pathways and is a promising neuroprotective drug candidate for the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Rachel Church
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences

Rachel Church is a Postdoctoral Fellow at The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences and received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Postdoc Award for her work entitled, “Doxorubicin-Induced Glomerular Injury is Associated with Urinary MicroRNA Alterations in the Rat.” Traditional biomarkers (such as alanine aminotransferase, blood urea nitrogen, and serum creatinine) utilized for monitoring organ injury are often non-specific and insensitive. These biomarkers can often become elevated for multiple reasons, not necessarily reflecting organ injury. Additionally, they may not become elevated until a significant degree of damage has already occurred. MicroRNAs have potential to outperform current biomarkers. MicroRNAs are relatively stable in biofluids, show high species conservation and can be organ-specific. They have been identified in multiple biofluids including blood and urine. An example of a sensitive microRNA biomarker is miR-122. This species is highly enriched in the liver and is released into circulation following hepatocellular injury. Data shows that miR-122 is more sensitive for detection of hepatic injury than alanine aminotransferase. Identification of microRNA biomarkers for use in nonclinical drug development may result in early detection compounds with a liability to cause organ damage. These compounds can be removed from development and can be replaced by safer alternatives. Additionally, because microRNAs show high species conservation, they may have translatable value. Drug induced organ injury is a serious complication that arises in the clinic. Finally, these biomarkers may be useful in identifying potential toxicities resulting from any toxic exposure, including environmental or occupational exposures. Dr. Church believes her research will promote a safer and healthier world by reducing drug-induced organ injury.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Rachel Goldsmith
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: National Toxicology Program

Rachel Goldsmith is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Toxicology Program and won the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Postdoc Award for her work entitled, “Analysis of High-Throughput, High-Content Data in a C. elegans-Based Toxicity Assay.” Her research focused on developing a rapid, inexpensive method for testing toxicity of a wide range of compounds. She used a small nematode (C. elegans) that activates genes in response to many toxins similar to how those genes are activated by humans when exposed to toxins. This nematode is small and very easy to work with, but is a whole animal with separate organ systems, just like mammals used in more traditional toxicity testing. The nematodes used had genes added to them so that when the gene of interest turned on, they would fluoresce red. After treating the nematodes with a toxin, pictures were taken using a high-content imager, a microscope designed to rapidly acquire high-resolution images. Once she had pictures of the nematodes, Rachel used software to digitally measure how much of each nematode was fluorescing red. Since the amount of red fluorescence was directly related to the gene being turned on, she compared how six different genes responded to five different compounds. The results showed that when a gene was related to the way that a toxin causes damage (for example, a metal responsive gene and a heavy metal toxin), the gene increased. She was able to successfully measure the gene increase in a rapid, easy and inexpensive manner. This method could be used for genes of particular interest to drug discovery or drug toxicity, particularly if the biology of the drug is well understood. It is her hope that this assay, and others like it, will contribute to a safer and healthier world.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Kazuhisa Miyakawa
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: BVSc
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University
Kazuhisa Miyakawa is a graduate student at the Michigan State University and received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award for his work entitled, “Contribution of Par-4 and Thrombin to Acetaminophen Hepatotoxicity in Mice.” His work focused on evaluating the contribution of one of the thrombin receptors known to exist on mouse platelets using genetic modification (ie, deleting the receptor in mice) and further evaluating the contribution of thrombin using a direct thrombin inhibitor. Both of these modifications resulted in decreased liver injury from acetaminophen. Furthermore, both caused a decrease in thrombin activation and platelet accumulation in the liver, further supporting the importance of thrombin and platelets in APAP hepatotoxicity in mice. The results presented at 2014 SOT indicate that platelets and protease-activated receptor-4 (PAR-4) contribute to amplification of thrombin generation and to the progression of liver injury from APAP overdose. The results raise the possibility that platelet-directed intervention might provide adjunctive therapy in APAP poisoning cases. Also, many of the drugs that cause drug-induced liver injury (including idiosyncratic drug-induced liver injury) seem to involve a progression events similar to APAP hepatotoxicity. The contributions of thrombin and platelets to these other drug toxicities have not been evaluated yet, and such evaluation might lead to adjunctive therapies for other drugs that cause liver injury.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Roshni Rao
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of South Carolina
Roshni Rao is a graduate student at the University of South Carolina and received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award for her work entitled, “Δ9Tetrahydrocannabinol prevents mice from Staphylococcal enterotoxin B-induced toxic death by the modulation of the miR-17-92 cluster and de novo induction of T-regulatory cells.” Her work focuses on the therapeutic application of Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a marijuana derived compound in the treatment against Staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB)induced lung toxicity. While we find that the toxin, a potent inflammatory agent causes the death of mice, THC, a known anti-inflammatory compound protects mice. We show that a novel mechanism behind THC's activity could possibly be it's ability to modulate microRNA (miRNA),recently discovered regulators of gene expression. Since basic research has only recently begun to highlight the myriad anti-inflammatory properties of THC, this award encourages us to continue studying the compound in the context of severe toxicity. By carefully dissecting its efficacy and immunological activity, we hope our research will result in its use as a potential therapeutic drug.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Hua Shen
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: UC Berkeley

Hua Shen is a Postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Berkeley and received the Emil A Pfitzer Drug Discovery Postdoc Award for her work entitled, “Functional Genetic Screen in Human Haploid Cells to Identify Genes Involved in Susceptibility to Chemical Exposure.” Her work focused on developing a novel genetic screening platform using human haploid cells for chemical and drug gene susceptibility. This semi-solid medium based screening strategy, which simultaneously screens and generates colonies from cells resistant to the test compounds, shortens the entire screening process by approximately two to three weeks. Using this promising and efficient genetic screening platform, we are able to broadly probe genomic responses of chemicals, identify novel susceptibility genes, and gain insight into potential mechanisms of toxicity from chemical exposure.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Rachel Church
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: The Hamner Institutes of Health Sciences

Rachel Church is a postdoctoral fellow of The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences and she received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Award for her work entitled, “Identification of Genomic Regions Linked to Epigallochatechin Gallate Induced Liver Toxicity Using the Diversity Outbred Stock.” Epigallochatechin gallate (EGCG) is a major component found in green tea and is thought to be responsible for all the positive health benefits associated with the consumption of green tea. Because of these health benefits, EGCG is sold as an herbal supplement. However, following ingestion of EGCG in its supplement form, patients are showing up in the clinic with cases of liver toxicity thought to result from EGCG. In an attempt to identify genetic regions linked to EGCG-induced hepatic injury, Dr. Church and her colleagues used a diverse mouse population, the Diversity Outbred stock, to perform genome wide association mapping linked to EGCG-induced changes in ALT. This mapping identified a region of variation on Chromosome 4, specific to the NOD mouse strain, which seems to confer resistance to EGCG-induced ALT changes on animals that carry it. This award will help Dr. Church pursue her research by generating interest in the project.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Monica Langley
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University

Monica Langley is a graduate student of Iowa State University and she received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Award for her worked entitled, “Behavioral, Neurochemical, and Histological Characterization of a Novel MitoPark Mouse Model.” Her research involved MitoPark mice, which were (and necessary parental colonies) genotyped, cared for, and behaviorally analyzed. Additionally, the mice were treated daily for one month with manganese for one study, and mito-apocyanin for another. At sacrifice, she and her colleagues did a perfusion and a dissection of the tissues. Later, they were used for techniques such as immunohistochemistry, western blot, and HPLC.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Mili Mandal
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Mili Mandal is a postdoctoral fellow of Rutgers University and she received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Award for her work entitled, “Spleen as a Source of Inflammatory Macrophages: Role in Acetaminophen-induced Hepatotoxicity.” Acetaminophen (APAP) is a widely used over the counter pain-killer and fever reducer. At therapeutic doses, it is considered safe and effective; however, toxic doses leads to hepatotoxicity, which is by far the most common cause of acute liver failure in US and UK. Monocytes/macrophages, cells of innate immune system have been shown to play an important role in APAP-induced hepatotoxicity. However, the origin of these cells has not been established. Splenic monocytes/macrophages have been shown to accumulate at inflammatory sites following tissue injury. In the present studies, she and her colleagues analyzed the contribution of splenic monocytes/macrophages to liver inflammation and injury induced by APAP. Their data demonstrate, for the first time, a role of the spleen as a reservoir for proinflammatory monocytes/macrophages in APAP-induced hepatotoxicity. Her career goal is to become an independent research scientist in the field of immuno-toxicology. Her long-term research interests involve understanding the role of Th17 cells and their interaction with other innate and adaptive immune cells as well as inflammatory mediators in liver inflammation caused by hepatitis C (HCV). Treatments for patients with HCV are suboptimal and there is no vaccine available to prevent it.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Kazuhisa Miyakawa
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: DVM
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Kazuhisa Miyakawa is a graduate student of Michigan State University and received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Award for his work entitled, “Platelet Depletion Reduces Acetaminophen Hepatotoxicity in Mice.” Acetaminophen hepatotoxicity is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the US. Treatment for this toxicity is limited and there are interests in evaluating the possible progressive events that might lead to alternative treatments. He and his colleagues evaluated the contribution of platelets in this hepatotoxicity and suggested that platelets play a role in the generation of thrombin. They also evaluated the direct effect of thrombin on hepatocytes by isolating primary hepatocytes, however there was no direct effect. He wants to contribute to the research in the field of drug induced liver injury.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Arya Sobhakumari
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: DVM
Institution/Affiliation: University of Iowa

Arya Sobhakumari is a PhD candidate of the University of Iowa and she received the Emil Pfitzer Drug Discovery Award for her work entitled, “Role of NOX4 Mediated Autophagy in Reducing Cytotoxic Effects of EGFR Inhibitor Erlotinib in Head and Neck Cancer Cells.” Her research explored why head and neck cancers have become resistant to chemotherapy agent erlotinib after an initial favorable response. Her research focused on finding the mechanism that reduced the efficacy of erlotinib. The idea was that manipulating/inhibiting that specific mechanism would increase the treatment efficacy of erlotinib. She would like to play a part in the research that will find alternative methods for reducing the chemical burden on the body and find out cures for diseases that ensures that the toxicity or side effects to the patients are minimal.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Durga Tripathi
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Institute of Biosciences & Technology, Texas A&M Health Science Center

Durga Tripathi is a postdoctoral student of Texas A & M Health Science Center and he received the Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Award for his work entitled, “Reactive Nitrogen Species Regulate Autophagy through ATM-AMPK-TSC2-mediated Suppression of mTORC1.” Nitric oxide is an important signaling molecule involved in many physiological and pathological process. He identified a novel pathway by which nitrosative stress induced autophagy and killed the cancer cells. Suppression of mTORC1 induced autophagy and cell death in breast cancer cells, which are resistant towards apoptosis. As cancer cells are particularly sensitive to nitrosative stress, these data open new avenues for therapies capitalizing on the ability of RNS to induce autophagic cell death. He would like to advance the science of toxicology by delineating the role of autophagy in cancer and participate in CE courses.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Jennifer Foreman
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Pennsylvania State University

Jennifer Foreman, of Penn State University, for her work entitled, “Developmental and Species-Specific Sensitivity of PPARa Agonist-Induced Hepatic Effects.” Her work focused on the differences in liver injury in mice and humans after exposure to a drug developed to treat hypolipidemia. She and her team also investigated whether exposure during development sensitized individuals to the toxic effects of the compound. She would like to discover models that are more applicable to the human condition.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Rhiannon Hardwick
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: BS, BFA Ballet Pedagogy
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Rhiannon Hardwick, of the University of Arizona, for her work entitled, “Increased Susceptibility to Drug-Induced Toxicity in Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis.” Her project involved an investigation of susceptibility to multiorgan drug-induced toxicity in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Her dissertation work involves understanding how nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) alters drug metabolism and disposition. Co-morbibities of NAFLD include obesity and type 2 diabetes and she hopes that her research brings awareness to the healthcare community about the necessity of understanding the risk of toxicity in the patient population upon administration of pharmaceuticals.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Aik Jiang Lau
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: The University of British Columbia

Aik Jiang Lau, of the University of British Columbia, for his abstract titled, “Functional Analysis of the SV23, SV24, and SV25 Splice Variants of Human Constitutive Androstane Receptor (CAR): Comparison of Ginkgo Biloba Extract with Other Known Activators of CAR.” Constitutive androstane receptor (CAR) controls the transcription of genes involved in a broad array of biological functions, including bioactivation and detoxification of toxicants, inflammation, glucose and lipid metabolism. This receptor exists in various isoforms in the liver. The purpose of his work is to compare the functionality of four different CAR isoforms using five different chemicals/drugs/natural products (Ginkgo biloba extract). Key findings indicate that the four different CAR isoforms respond differently to different chemicals/drugs/natural products. He is passionate about research and wants to continue in scientific research. His research interest is in drug-induced toxicities and the mechanisms underlying these toxicities. In the future, he hopes to advance the science of toxicology by finding ways/in vitro methods to better predict drug-induced toxicities and to prevent the toxicities. The overall goal is to ensure the safety of drugs to patients.

Emil A. Pfitzer Drug Discovery Student Award Fund

Recipient: Michael Rouse
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of South Carolina School of Medicine

Michael Rouse, of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, for his work entitled, “Indoles Alleviate the Development of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyeltitis (EAE) by Activation of Aryl Hydrocarbon and Estrogen Receptors Leading to Altered micro-RNA Regulation and Suppression of Th17 Activation.” He and his group examined how I3C and DIM could be used as both a preventative as well as a therapeutic treatment option for an active MS disease state. He hopes to develop safer, more effective treatments for the many disabling diseases and illnesses of the world.

Environmental Carcinogenesis Research Fellowship Fund

Recipient: Aggie Williams
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD Candidate - Pharmacology and Toxicology
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

Ms. Williams declares it an absolute honor to receive this Environmental Carcinogenesis Research Fellowship Fund. This award is not only a symbol for academic excellence, but also a way for her to connect with an amazing group of scientists. 

Ms. Williams' project investigates the mechanism of Cr(VI)-induced carcinogenesis and focuses on particulate Cr(VI) compounds because they are the most potent Cr(VI) carcinogens. Cr(VI) is a metal known to cause cancer but its mechanism of action remains unknown. Her project investigates RAD51 and its paralogs, key proteins within a DNA repair pathway as a novel mechanism of Cr(VI) toxicity. Her future goal is to become an independent researcher in the field of metals, with a focus on lung cancer and mechanisms that can be applied to many other cancers. The research for which Ms. Williams won this award is looking at how Cr(VI) alters RAD51 complexes in humans and comparing outcomes to alligators for species differences.

 

Environmental Carcinogenesis Research Fellowship Fund

Recipient: Jonathan  Diedrich
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Dr. Diedrich was excited to be this year's recipient of the Carcinogenesis Specialty Section Environmental Carcinogenesis Merit Award for Postdoctoral Researchers! He would like to thank the Society of Toxicology and the donors for making this award possible. He knows this is a competitive and prestigious award and he feels incredibly honored to join the SOT's list of distinguished investigators that have also received endowment awards. Not only will the funds from the award be helpful for accommodations and travel to the 2022 SOT meeting, but the recognition will fuel networking opportunities and have an immediate positive impact on his career.

Dr. Diedrich's research focuses broadly on the role of obesity and cancer. Specifically, he is interested in how factors from fat cells promote tumor growth and multiple myeloma (MM) progression through changes in gene regulation. Understanding the epigenetic changes driving disease progression will provide therapeutic targets for prevention of this terminal disease. As a postdoctoral fellow, his goal is to expand on this work and develop strong pre-clinical and clinical collaborations to study the effects of obesity in hematological malignancies as an independent principle investigator at a research institute. 

 

Environmental Carcinogenesis Research Fellowship Fund

Recipient: Jennifer Toyoda
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MSc
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

Ms. Toyada indicated it was an honor to be selected for the Carcinogenesis Environmental Merit Award for Graduate Students. The recognition of research in metals carcinogenesis and environmental and occupational airborne carcinogens benefits the field of toxicology and particularly the fight against lung cancer. The funds from this award will support Ms. Toyoda's conference attendance where she can build on the collaborations and scientific communication that help fuel the research in her lab.

Ms. Toyoda's project investigates how one of the most widespread environmental carcinogens, hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)], causes cancer. One of the key effects of Cr(VI) is it causes cells to acquire the wrong number of chromosomes, yet nobody knows how this happens. She proposes Cr(VI) disrupts proteins that control the number of centrosomes in the cell, and centrosome amplification deregulates chromosome segregation. She explores this hypothesis in four aims: 1) She has shown Cr(VI) targets a key centrosome regulator, securin, causing it to decrease by disruption of gene expression; 2) She is investigating the cause of gene expression disruption through either transcriptional defects or miRNA deregulation they have found via RNA sequencing; 3) She is translating these endpoints to Cr(VI)-exposed rats and to human lung tumors derived from Cr(VI)-exposed workers; 4) As Cr(VI) is a common toxicant to humans and wildlife including whales, yet whale cells escape the carcinogenic outcomes on centrosomes and chromosomes, she is investigating the species-specific differences in Cr(VI) effects. The results of this project will illuminate the mechanism of Cr(VI) carcinogenesis, inform risk assessment, and potentially identify targets that are key to metal-induced lung cancer.

 

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. 

Environmental Carcinogenesis Research Fellowship Fund

Recipient: Tasha Thong
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Michigan

Ms. Thong was excited and encouraged to know that the work she finds interesting and meaningful is also of interest to other top scientists in her field. This award will help to support her travel to SOT where she will be able to share the work she is passionate about with others.

Ms. Thong's research project is focused on uncovering the biological basis for racial disparities in breast cancer between African American (AA) and European American (EA) women. At every age, African American women have worse breast cancer outcomes, yet the biological basis for this is still unknown. Ms. Thong believes that stem cells play a crucial role in carcinogenesis, and she cultured normal breast tissue from healthy volunteers in order to characterize differences between mammary stem cells between AA and EA women. Thus far she has used single-cell RNA sequencing to characterize the transcriptomic profiles of her samples, and her future work will involve epigenetic profiling as well as challenging the samples with exposure to environmental toxicants.

Environmental Carcinogenesis Research Fellowship Fund

Recipient: Eric Uwimana
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Dr. Uwimana was thrilled and humbled to receive the first Environmental Carcinogenesis Award. This is an encouragement in his research and will contribute to his travel to the SOT meeting where he will share his research and exchange ideas with fellow researchers in the field.

Naphthalene (NA) is a ubiquitous pollutant to which humans are widely exposed. NA causes nasal and lung tumors in adult rats and mice and it has been classified as a possible human carcinogen. The mechanism of NA carcinogenicity, which may involve both genotoxic and non-genotoxic events, is not clear. A prerequisite for NA’s toxicity in the respiratory tract is bioactivation by cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes. Dr. Uwimana's research focuses on identifying liver-generated Naphthalene metabolites that may contribute to lung toxicity and carcinogenicity in vivo and characterize lung NA-DNA adducts formed in vitro and in vivo in NA-exposed mice and human lung cells. The long-term goal is to define the metabolic mechanisms that influence NA-mediated lung carcinogenesis in experimental animals and humans. The outcome of these studies is expected to improve assessment of human lung cancer risks from exposures to NA and other related chemicals and facilitate cancer prevention.

Founders Award

Recipient: Jon C.  Cook
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD, DABT, ATS
Institution/Affiliation: Pfizer Inc.

Jon C. Cook, PhD, DABT, ATS, is the recipient of the 2023 SOT Founders Award (for Outstanding Leadership in Toxicology) in recognition of his career in industry that has focused on human health and risk assessment supported by state-of-the-science research.

Dr. Cook earned his PhD in toxicology from North Carolina State University, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology (CIIT) in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. At CIIT, he began work on the toxic mechanisms of dioxin that would directly inform dioxin’s human health risk assessment. He then spent 11 years as a Research Toxicologist with DuPont-Haskell Laboratory for Toxicology and Industrial Medicine, starting his research on endocrine-related issues and carcinogenicity of chemicals. Dr. Cook, his laboratory, and his collaborators made several important contributions to the development of screening batteries and risk assessment methods for endocrine-disrupting chemicals at a period in the history of toxicology when the science was just evolving. He also was one of the first to identify mechanisms of carcinogenicity of peroxisome-proliferating chemicals and drugs and for perfluorinated chemicals, which remains a major issue in public health to this day.

Since 1998, Dr. Cook has been with Pfizer Inc. where he is Vice President of Scientific Research and Chief Toxicology Scientist. At Pfizer, Dr. Cook has extended his expertise in mechanisms of carcinogenicity to the study of hemangiosarcomas. He collaborated with major researchers in the field to develop a body of work that showed the lack of relevance of rodent hemangiosarcomas to human health and allowed rational regulation and use of drugs that caused rodent hemangiosarcomas. Dr. Cook also continued research in developmental and reproductive toxicology, contributing to several publications on this topic, particularly on COX inhibitors and their developmental toxicity. He continues to be active in the developmental and reproductive toxicology area with endocrine-related research publications and a recent book chapter.

Regarding his scientific leadership, Dr. Cook has both a broad and deep understanding of toxicological sciences ranging from traditional histopathology to state-of-the-art approaches such as microphysiological systems and machine learning. He has a compelling interest in novel science and has always been very supportive of new approaches even if their use is not immediately apparent. For example, Dr. Cook was a strong advocate of introducing what were once considered new molecular biology techniques, such as cloning and polymerase chain reaction, to help elucidate the mode of action for peroxisome proliferators. Dr. Cook, among others, used his considerable expertise and inclusive style to bring in a new way of thinking which led to an international consensus on mode of action and the associated species differences in the response to peroxisome proliferators and implementation of risk assessment guidelines to ensure safe levels of exposure. Dr. Cook has published his research extensively from 1983 through 2022 in leading journals, the most recent on drug-induced liver injury that utilized machine learning to compare the predictive performance of in vitro assays versus physicochemical parameters.

Dr. Cook has contributed his expertise to SOT in numerous roles, including SOT 2011–2012 President, SOT Carcinogenesis Specialty Section President, SOT Workshop Session Co-Chair, and SOT Committee roles. He is Past President of HESI. He also has been active in the International Life Sciences Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Founders Award

Recipient: Leigh Ann  Burns Naas
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD, DABT, ATS, ERT
Institution/Affiliation: Magnolia Toxicology Consulting LLC

Leigh Ann Burns Naas, PhD, DABT, ATS, ERT, has been awarded the 2022 SOT Founders Award (for Outstanding Leadership in Toxicology) in recognition of her substantial, seminal, and multifaceted contributions to the science of toxicology and especially in fostering data-based decision-making in drug safety. Dr. Burns Naas received her PhD in pharmacology and toxicology from the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University in 1992, after which she enhanced her study of the immune system by training at the Mayo Clinic in T cell signal transduction. She went on to apply her knowledge of toxicology and the immune system in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, where her work has focused on the strategic aspects and the design of safety programs to support chemical product development and registration, as well as the clinical development and licensure for small molecules and biotherapeutics, including vaccines. Over the course of her career, Dr. Burns Naas has worked to bring regulators and industry together to start a dialogue on the state-of-the-science and best practices to help develop a testing framework for developmental immunotoxicology and conduct risk assessments for pharmaceuticals. The impact she has made in moving this area forward cannot be understated. Over the past two decades, Dr. Burns Naas has contributed to numerous drug registrations, either serving as the project toxicologist and lead regulatory submission author or providing strategic oversight for the development of the drugs and mentoring project toxicologists. In addition to these roles, she has contributed as a reviewer and editor of various regulatory dossiers, from initial first-in-human trials to registration and query responses. The list of drugs and potential new drugs to which she has contributed in one or more of these capacities is extensive. Beyond her proprietary work in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Burns Naas has made significant contributions to the scientific literature and discourse through 50-plus publications, 23 book chapters, and many abstracts. She also serves as a member of the Editorial Boards of the International Journal of Toxicology and Journal of Immunotoxicology and was the Editor of two volumes (the immune system and the hematopoietic system) of Comprehensive Toxicology, 3rd Edition and of Encyclopedic Reference of Immunotoxicology, 2nd Edition. These accomplishments highlight her passion for ensuring that scientific insights of high quality are shared with the scientific community to help advance the field of toxicology. Her efforts in safety testing to support pharmaceutical development also have included active engagement in endeavors to promote the reduction, refinement, and replacement of animals in research. In 2019, Dr. Burns Naas retired from the pharmaceutical industry and started her own consulting company, Magnolia Toxicology Consulting LLC, where she continues to contribute to the field. As an independent consultant, Dr. Burns Naas provides advice in the areas of nonclinical safety and strategic planning for drug development as well as technical due diligence for in-licensing business development opportunities. Dr. Burns Naas has contributed her expertise to many scientific societies, including through service on the Boards of Directors of the American Board of Toxicology, the Academy of Toxicological Sciences, and the International Consortium for Innovation and Quality in Pharmaceutical Drug Development. She has been an SOT member since 1995 and has served on the Scientific Program Committee, Continuing Education Committee, and Endowment Fund Board. She also served as Secretary of the Society and President of the Immunotoxicology Specialty Section and is a Charter member of the Biotechnology Specialty Section. Dr. Burns Naas is the only individual ever to have served as President of both SOT and the American College of Toxicology.

 

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.

Founders Award

Recipient: Sidney Green
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD, ATS
Institution/Affiliation: Howard University

Through his more than 50 years as a practicing toxicologist, Dr. Green has made major contributions to academia, industry, and government for which he has earned the 2020 SOT Founders Award (for Outstanding Leadership in Toxicology).

Dr. Green joined the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) as a pharmacologist in 1965, after spending several years in industry. He received his PhD in biochemical pharmacology from Howard University in 1972. Through various roles at US FDA—most recently as Director of the Division of Toxicological Research—Dr. Green contributed to safety decision-making by ensuring appropriate research information was available to facilitate the development of regulatory guidelines used to establish safe versus unsafe exposure levels for chemical and physical agents that humans encounter daily. His efforts as the Agency’s chief spokesperson in the area of alternative tests contributed significantly to the establishment of the Interagency Regulatory Alternatives Group, which set the stage for the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods.

Dr. Green’s contributions to safety decision-making continued through his role at the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), where he served as Chief of the Toxic Effects Branch, Health Review Division, in the Office of Toxic Substances. In this role, he and other members of the branch represented US EPA on many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) scientific panels responsible for developing toxicological guidelines for the testing of materials by OECD members. He also chaired the US EPA GeneTox Committee, the charge of which was to review the status of most of the methods used in genetic toxicology.

Joining Covance Inc. as Director of the Department of Toxicology in 1995, Dr. Green was charged with ensuring the appropriateness of studies in multispecies for generating data to support safety-of-use requirements for designated products as part of the premarket approval process. Then, in 1998, Dr. Green joined Howard University College of Medicine as an Adjunct Associate Professor of pharmacology, a position he continues to hold.

Dr. Green also served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Toxicity Testing. He was a member of the committee, the efforts of which resulted in the 2007 publication of Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy, which has been instrumental in changing how toxicologists think about the approach to safety evaluation. In addition, Dr. Green has authored more than 70 publications, primarily on topics involving genetic toxicology, short-term test methodology, and policy issues associated with alternatives to animal testing.

Dr. Green has been actively involved in SOT since 1974 in appointed, elected, and volunteer capacities. His service includes positions on Council, as Chair of the Membership Committee, and as President of several Component Groups. In addition to service to SOT, Dr. Green is a Past President of the American College of Toxicology, Association of Government Toxicologists, and Academy of Toxicological Sciences.

Founders Fund

Recipient: Lois D. Lehman-McKeeman
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: PhD, ATS
Institution/Affiliation: Bristol-Myers Squibb

For her dedication to and record of working to enhance human health and influence decision-making and for her service within SOT, Dr. Lehman-McKeeman has been awarded the 2019 Founders Award (for Outstanding Leadership in Toxicology). Dr. Lehman-McKeeman earned her PhD in toxicology from the University of Kansas Medical Center. Through her current position as vice president of Pharmaceutical Candidate Optimization at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dr. Lehman-McKeeman leads a group that integrates toxicology, drug metabolism, pharmacokinetics, pharmaceutics, and analytical sciences to support the discovery of high-quality drug candidates. At Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dr. Lehman-McKeeman has conducted and led basic research that supported advancement of new drug candidates, including significant mechanistic work to establish the human safety of Baraclude (an antiviral drug). Additionally, her research efforts to elucidate the mechanism of α2u-globulin nephropathy in inducing male rat renal cell cancer established a mechanism of rodent carcinogenesis that was not human relevant. As a result of this work by Dr. Lehman-McKeeman, many chemicals that induce male rat kidney cancer are now understood not to represent cancer risks in humans. Outside of the laboratory, Dr. Lehman-McKeeman has played a pivotal role in SOT through her dedication to Toxicological Sciences. She was named as an associate editor when the journal launched and served as Editor-in-Chief from 2002–2011. Dr. Lehman-McKeeman’s contributions to SOT also are exemplified in her service as the 2013–2014 SOT President and her positions on several SOT committees.

Founders Fund

Recipient: Ruth A. Roberts
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD, ATS, FBTS, ERT, FRSB, FRCPath
Institution/Affiliation: ApconiX

Dr. Roberts is chair and director of drug discovery at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, and director and co-founder of ApconiX, a provider of nonclinical safety expertise. Previously, she worked in senior roles in regulatory safety globally, drug discovery and development, and scientific strategy for companies such as AstraZeneca, ICI, Syngenta, and Aventis. In a career spanning 30 years, Dr. Roberts is an expert multidisciplinary and influential scientist working at the intersection where industry meets academia. A graduate of the University of Manchester, she received her PhD in 1987. She was bestowed the SOT Achievement Award in 2002 for her contributions to the molecular understanding of toxicity and received the EUROTOX Bo Holmstedt Award in 2008 in recognition of scientific excellence in the area of drug and chemical safety. Dr. Roberts has authored more than 140 peer-reviewed publications. Her reputation as a world-class investigator in drug and chemical safety is evidenced by more than 30 invitations to speak about her research from all over the world within the last 10 years. She is a highly-sought-after expert in drug discovery and development problem solving and scientific strategy. More recently, Dr. Roberts’ focus has been on translational research in the understanding of the influence of ion channel research on development of new therapeutics. Her current strategies rely on the synthesis of basic research and clinical application to gain further, more in-depth understanding with a goal of improving human health. Dr. Roberts’ dedication to leadership within the field of toxicology is clearly demonstrated, such as her service as chair for the ILSI Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI) Emerging Issues Committee, which helps to determine the next level for research topics for a global organization to improve approaches to risk assessment and safety. Furthermore, she has been elected to the presidential chain of societies such as The British Toxicology Society, EUROTOX, and the Academy of Toxicological Sciences and currently is serving as SOT secretary.

 

Founders Fund

Recipient: Meryl Karol
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: PhD, ATS
Institution/Affiliation:

Dr. Karol received her PhD in immunochemistry from Columbia University, and she completed her postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Biochemistry at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In 1974, she joined the faculty of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health as a research associate. She became a tenured professor in 1985 and served in other capacities until her retirement in 2006, when she was associate dean for academic affairs and research. She is currently a professor emerita for the University of Pittsburgh. In a career spanning almost four decades, Dr. Karol has been actively engaged in research that has advanced the role of toxicology in safety decision making. She has published extensively on chemically induced allergy and asthma and individual susceptibility to allergic diseases (holding patents related to this research) and is published widely on improving indoor air quality to sustain public health. Dr. Karol gained international renown for her work in environmental epidemiology and immunotoxicology, particularly on the mechanisms of chemical toxicity. In 1984, Dr. Karol was sent by the US State Department to Bhopal, India, to investigate the thousands of deaths associated with methyl isocyanate and similar chemicals used in the production of polyurethane foams, paints, lacquer, and electrical insulation. In conjunction with laboratories in India, she worked to assess the immunologic effects of the chemicals by using serum samples. Her worked prepared her to consult with multinational companies on ways to safely handle the chemicals to protect employees and the public health. She later developed a method to detect isocyanates and a test procedure to detect the development of adverse immune hypersensitivity response to isocyanates. Dr. Karol’s research on isocyanates was instrumental in the establishment of safe occupational exposure levels that are cited by many international regulators. Another area of Dr. Karol’s expertise is allergic sensitization from skin and pulmonary exposure to formaldehyde. Her research in this area resulted in the development of an animal model of formaldehyde sensitization. A recognized expert in this field, she provided testimony before the US Congress on formaldehyde levels in US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers. Dr. Karol has published more than 177 publications in peer-reviewed journals and 22 book chapters. She has mentored 28 graduate students who have completed master’s degrees or theses, in addition to six doctoral students. Highly respected in her field, Dr. Karol has served on several important national scientific advisory committees and panels and worked with many government agencies, including the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment, National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Toxicology, US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), and US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). Dr. Karol has been an SOT member since 1981. In addition to serving on all of the major SOT Committees, she holds the distinction of being the first woman to be elected president of the Society (1994?1995). Additionally, she was the first woman to serve as secretary-general for the International Union of Toxicology (IUTOX) and served with distinction on the board of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences (ATS).

Founders Fund

Recipient: Richard Adamson
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation:

Dr. Richard Adamson, Ph.D., is the recipient of the 2016 SOT Founders Award. During his distinguished career spanning over four decades, Dr. Adamson has used state-of-the art approaches to distinguish between safe and unsafe doses for humans in many ways. For newborns Dr. Adamson demonstrated that not only weight was a factor in administration of a dose to infants but , allowing for the development of drug metabolizing enzymes in the infant was also a major factor to reduce sensitivity to drugs. In the use of antibiotics in surgical procedures and myasthenia gravis, he and his colleagues demonstrated the synergy between some antibiotics and neuromuscular blocking agents as very important interactions between muscle relaxants. In studying absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of folic acid antagonists, he found dichloromethotrexate (DCM) was metabolized by liver enzymes and Methotrexate (MTX) was generally excreted by the kidneys. This suggested that DCM was the better folic acid antagonist for use when renal function is impaired, or in the case of immunosuppression such as cases of kidney transplantation. In working with the National Research Council, Dr. Adamson was invited to a committee to investigate the safety of platinum catalytic converters in cars. The Committee concluded that the platinum and palladium emitted from automobiles was small and the chemical form and lack of methylation by microorganisms posed no known threat to the environment or individuals. His work with a Department of Health and Human Services committee reviewed the benefit and risks of fluoride in the use for prevention of dental cavities. The committee supported the use of fluoride in drinking water, toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride dietary supplements at optimal levels. Dr. Adamson also investigated the carcinogenic potential of food additives, food contaminants, and pesticides. His long-term study of the use of saccharin without toxic effects led in part to various regulatory agencies to remove saccharin from their lists of carcinogens. He helped determine that MOPP combination chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s disease caused toxicity due partly to the use of procarbazine which led to the development by oncologists of other first line therapies for Hodgkin’s disease. Working with Japanese investigators he found that heterocyclic amines resulting from cooking meat were carcinogenic, and determined that certain methods of cooking could reduce their formation. More recently, he has spoken out about the safety and benefits of caffeine consumption. Dr. Adamson has been a steadfast member of the Society having joined in 1973. He served as the Society of Toxicology liaison to the American Association for Cancer Research. Among the many Awards and Honors he has received, in 1989 he was presented with the SOT Arnold J. Lehman Award.

Founders Fund

Recipient: John Thomas
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees:
Institution/Affiliation:

Dr. John A. Thomas, PhD, DATS, FACT, is awarded the 2014 SOT Founders Award. Dr. Thomas received his PhD from the University of Iowa in 1961. Currently he a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Texas Health Science Center - San Antonio, in Texas; as well as an Adjunct Professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indiana. Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Thomas’s contributions to toxicological sciences in many different areas ranging from the safety of nutrients and food ingredients, to pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, health promoting agents and environmental chemicals have been highly recognized by his peers and the scientific community. He continues to be an educator and a scientist, and the discipline of toxicology will continue to benefit from his vision and leadership. During his years in academia, he mentored undergraduate and graduate students, post doctoral fellows and numerous colleagues. In addition to his several decades as an educator in the United States and internationally, Dr. Thomas has volunteered his expertise as a member of various governmental science boards and advisory committees, on various editorial boards, and has provided his expertise as a consultant to the FDA, National Academy of Sciences and the Department of Defense. Dr. Thomas is a past-President of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences and also the American College of Toxicology. He is a Fellow in the American College of Toxicology and also the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences As a member of SOT since 1971, Dr. Thomas has served as an SOT Continuing Education Lecturer (1983, 1985, and 1988); SOT Councilor (1985-1987); President of two Regional Chapter Executive Committees: Midwest Chapter (1988) and Gulf Coast Chapter (now Lone Star Chapter- 1998); and as the SOT Education Committee Chair (2000). He is the recipient of multiple prestigious awards including the SOT Merit Award (1998) and both the Commissioner’s and Distinguished Service Awards from the FDA.

Founders Fund

Recipient: William Suk
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: BS, MS, PhD, MPH
Institution/Affiliation: NIEHS-NIH

William Alfred Suk, PhD, MPH, is the 2013 SOT Founders Award recipient. Dr. Suk has served as director of the Superfund Hazardous Substances Basic Research and Training Program (Superfund Research Program) since its inception. He is also director of the Center for Risk & Integrated Sciences (CRIS) at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). His affiliation with a number of organizations and committees include: Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences; International Advisory Board of the Chulabhorn Research Institute, Bangkok, Thailand; and World Health Organization Consultation on Scientific Principles and Methodologies for Assessing Health Risks in Children Associated with Chemical Exposures. He is also a member of a number of trans-NIH committees. Dr. Suk received his PhD in microbiology from the George Washington University and his Masters in Public Health in health policy from the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He sits on the editorial boards of a number of international journals, including Environmental Health, Toxicology and Environmental Chemistry, International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, and the Central European Journal of Public Health. Dr. Suk has been a National Science Foundation Fellow. The NIH has honored him for his many efforts and he has received the HHS Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service. He is a recipient of the Roy E. Albert Memorial Award for Translational Research in Environmental Health from the University of Cincinnati; the Child Health Advocacy Award from the Children’s Environmental Health Network; the John P. Wyatt Lecture Award in Environmental Health and Disease from the University of Kentucky; and the Adel F. Sarofim Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement in Championing Research on the Origin, Fate and Health Effects of Combustion Emissions. In addition to these many honors, he is a Fellow of the Collegium Ramazzini. The Society is pleased to present Dr. Suk with the 2013 SOT Founders Award, sponsored by the SOT Endowment Fund.

Founders Fund

Recipient: John A. Moore
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: DVM, DABT
Institution/Affiliation: Hollyhouse Inc

John A. Moore, DVM, DABT, is presented the 2012 SOT Founders Award in recognition of his outstanding leadership in fostering the role of toxicological sciences in safety decision-making through the development and application of state-of-the-art approaches that elucidate, with a high degree of confidence, the distinctions for humans between safe and unsafe exposures to chemical and physical agents. Dr. Moore has distinguished himself in various governmental and private positions, holding a number of senior positions in the US government, including Deputy Administrator and Assistant Administrator for Pesticides and Toxic Substances of the US EPA, Deputy Director of the National Toxicology Program (NTP), and Director of Toxicology Research and Testing at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). He served for ten years as founder and President and CEO of the not-for-profit Institute for Evaluating Health Risks (IEHR) and recently completed a five-year term as principal scientist at the NTP Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction. Dr. Moore has served on several National Research Council committees, including being chair of the Subcommittee on the Toxicity of Diisopropyl Methylphosphonate and a member of the Subcommittee on Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology. Dr. Moore has also served as the President of the Toxicology Education Foundation. He also reviewed new scientific data and advised the manufacturer on additional studies that characterized the toxicity profile of perfluorinated chemicals such as PFOS. This work led to the quick withdrawal of such compounds from commercial use in an expedient and orderly manner. At IEHR and later for NTP’s Center for Evaluating Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR), he designed and implemented a program to comprehensively review toxicology and exposure data on reproductive and developmental toxicology. This resulted in the strongest documents on this important area of chemical safety. Although retired, Dr. Moore has continued to serve on various panels and boards. For his contributions to toxicology and to the safety assessment and regulation of chemicals, the Society recognizes Dr. John A. Moore as the 2012 SOT Founders Award recipient.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Lei Zhang
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Ms. Zhang was so excited when she received this award as it will help her to build up her confidence in this field. 

Ms. Zhang will keep exploring the natural products as an anti-cancer drug with targeting on NR4A1. She is currently interested in flavonoid groups. Some of these compounds have very good anti-cancer effects but the mechanisms are still unknown. They are promising compounds for anti-cancer drug development and Ms. Zhang will investigate flavonoids as NR4A1 ligands and involve in NR4A1 downstream prooncogenic gene expression. 

 

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Lauren Heine
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Ms. Heine was extremely honored to have been awarded this year’s Food Safety Specialty Section (FSSS) Frank C. Lu Graduate Student Award. She remarked it is a privilege to be recognized by leaders in the field not only as an awardee, but also for the work carried out in the laboratory, which they are equally passionate about. This award will help further her research by providing her with the opportunity to form a long-term relationship with the FSSS and discuss her findings with world-class toxicologists at their annual reception.

The overall goal of Ms. Heine's thesis work is to evaluate steroid-sparing interventions that can provide protection against inhaled toxicant-induced autoimmunity. More specifically, her project focuses on how dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., those found in fish oil supplements) can be used to reduce the amount of steroid required to improve disease symptoms in lupus patients. To address this, she has used a preclinical murine model to determine the efficacy of the omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), in reducing autoimmunity triggered by inhaled toxicants such as crystalline silica. In previous studies, their lab has shown that dietary supplementation with a human equivalent dose (HED) of DHA is effective in significantly reducing autoimmunity in juvenile lupus-prone mice. Considering these findings, they aimed to determine if this same HED of DHA would be efficacious in blunting silica-induced autoimmunity in adult lupus-prone mice that more appropriately models the age of silica-exposed workers. Similar to juvenile mice, dietary supplementation with DHA reduced the same endpoints of autoimmunity in adult lupus-prone mice. This specific work was recognized under the Frank C. Lu Graduate Student Award. Ms. Heine's long-term career goal is to study therapeutics aimed at the maintenance and restoration of the immune system following exposure to environmental toxicants. This work has provided her with important training in evaluating cost-effective dietary interventions to prevent or resolve autoimmune flaring resulting from exposure to environmental triggers, and thus improving the quality of life in lupus patients. 

 

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.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Robert Freeborn
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Mr. Freeborn was ecstatic upon notification of the award. He is a fifth-year PhD student and his abstract was the culmination of his thesis project. It was an honor to receive the Frank C. Lu award in recognition of his work. This award helped him establish a functional workspace in his home to continue remotely working electronically on his project efficiently.

The research of Mr. Freeborn's lab focuses on various food additives and metals and how they adversely affect adaptive immune responses. The work for this award focuses on the food additive, tBHQ, and how it impairs the T cell response to influenza virus infection. He generated a line of mice lacking the transcription factor, Nrf2, in T cells. Nrf2 is activated by tBHQ, so by eliminating it he can determine if tBHQ suppressed the immune response to influenza through activation of Nrf2. His future goals are to lead immunology discovery projects in a large biotech company, working closely with various departments to help get new products to patients with unmet needs.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Madelyn Huang
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Dr. Huang is very honored to receive this award and is grateful to the Food Safety Specialty Section as she is passionate about food safety and toxicology. It is encouraging to see that her research is of interest to a broad audience. This award will facilitate her travel to the next SOT meeting to share her ongoing work and to identify next steps for her career.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the National Toxicology Program, their group has the opportunity to be study scientists for a variety of environmental chemicals of interest to the Program. It has been a valuable experience learning about and designing toxicity studies to evaluate safety, exposing her to a variety of sub-disciplines of toxicology. Dr. Huang's portfolio includes a number of consumer-product-related chemicals, such as dietary supplements, mycotoxins, and phthalates. The research for which she won the award is an investigation of how the chemical structure of perfluorinated compounds alters their toxicity. This kind of research is important for evaluating risk and/or predicting toxicity of other perfluorinated chemicals for which she does not have safety data. Her long-term career goal is to be a toxicologist advocating for public health, particularly as it relates to food safety and nutrition.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Jeremy Gingrich
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

When Mr. Gingrich first heard that he received this award he was incredibly happy and proud of himself. The experiment from which his abstract was drawn took a lot of time and hard work, and such positive peer recognition of that is incredibly meaningful to Mr. Gingrich. This award will aid in funding his participation in a continuing education course, as well as provide some additional travel support to the 2020 SOT annual meeting.

Mr. Gingrich's research primarily investigates the impact of chemical exposures during pregnancy, mainly through diet or the environment, on the development of the placenta. In the future, he would like to make a career out of this interest, and pursue a position working in the field of experimental toxicology or risk assessment.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Sumira Phatak
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: Baccalaureate Degree
Institution/Affiliation: Utah State University

Ms. Phatak is both honored and humbled to be selected for such a prestigious award that greatly facilitates her attendance at the upcoming SOT meeting. She looks forward to meeting other members of the Food Safety Specialty Section, allowing her to network with leaders in her field and enhance her skill set. She beleives this opportunity will lead to the opening of doors in the next chapter of her career.

As a graduate student in the Benninghoff Laboratory, her innovative work explores the connection between nutrition, colon cancer, and epigenetic modifications. Immediately after arriving at Utah State, she began a multi-generational rodent study; having completed the preclinical portion, she recently moved on to a molecular investigation of mechanisms. The findings from this project will answer her questions about how the standard American diet influences the health outcome of grand-offspring, despite never being directly exposed themselves. Ultimately, she sees herself running her own research program that answers essential questions about how diet impacts disease states while optimizing lifestyle intervention strategies.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Blake Rushing
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: BS Chemistry
Institution/Affiliation: East Carolina University

When Mr. Rushing found out that he received the Frank C. Lu student award, he was absolutely ecstatic. He fels it is such a tremendous honor to be a recipient of this award and he is very grateful to be recognized for the work he put towards his dissertation research. Receiving such an award increases the attention that his lab receives which goes a long way towards improving the ability to share research with the rest of the world. His plan is to use the funds included in the award to support his travel to the SOT Annual Meeting where he can share my findings with other brilliant minds in the field and gain their feedback to bolster the quality of his work. His research is focused on detoxifying foods that are contaminated with a particular food toxin, aflatoxin B1. This toxin occurs naturally on foods worldwide due to production of a very common fungus that grows on crops. Aflatoxin B1 is also highly linked with the development of liver cancer, making exposure to this toxin highly concerning. The research that won this award was his development of a novel treatment method that can potentially be used on contaminated foods to deactivate the toxin. He and colleagues found that after processing foods with our method, the toxin is completely transformed into a new chemical form which no longer damages DNA, preventing the initiation of cancer. This finding can be used as a basis to make aflatoxin B1-contaminated food safe to eat again and hopefully reduce the occurrence of liver cancer worldwide. Firstly, his future goals include graduating with his PhD in Pharmacology & Toxicology in approximately a year from now. Afterwards, he hopes to stay in academia where he can continue to work on issues in food safety. His home state, North Carolina, is highly involved in agriculture making food toxicology a top priority for where he lives. It is his hope to learn as much as possible about the problems faced in food safety and use his research abilities to find solutions to provide safer and cleaner foods to people around the world.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Gopi Gadupudi
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Iowa

Mr. Gadupudi's research involves understanding the toxicity of food-borne chemicals such as PCB126. Specifically, this work involves characterizing the dose and time dependent toxicity of PCB126 in causing metabolic disorders such as diabetes, fatty liver and metabolic syndrome. Moving forward, he and his colleagues would like to understand the mechanisms involved in the PCB or POP induced metabolic disruption. Understanding these mechanisms would definitely aid in identifying adverse effects on human health and risk characterization.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Alexandra Turley
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BS in Food Science from the University of Delaware, PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology from Michigan State University (in progress)
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University
Alexandra Turley is a Graduate Student at Michigan State University and received the Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award for her work entitled, "The Food Additive tBHQ Inhibits Activation of Primary Human CD4 T Cells." Her research investigates the effects of a food preservative that activates a ubiquitous cell stress response pathway on the immune system, specifically T cells. This work adds to both work done on understating T cell function and work on safety of food ingredients. The immune system mediates host defense, and also is involved in the pathology of a number of diseases such as autoimmunity and allergy. Understanding the effects of xenobiotics, both from foods and other sources, on the immune system is needed to ensure that these compounds do not have negative health effects.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Mansi Krishan
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University fo Cincinnati

Mansi Krishan is a PhD candidate at the University of Cincinnati and she received the Frank C. Lu Food Safety Students Award for her work entitled, “Toxicology and Risk Assessment of Chemical Mixtures.” The purpose of her project is to research the state of science of the toxicology and risk assessment methodologies for chemical mixtures and to gather perspectives from regulatory agencies, scientific community and independent organizations regarding the on-going research on safety evaluation of chemical mixtures with a focus on food related chemical mixtures. Considering the current challenges in food mixtures such as heavy metals, pesticides and migrants from packaging, a case study was done to compare different methodologies and their applicability to food mixtures. Her research will help in understanding the landscape of toxicology and risk assessment of chemical mixtures. It will also help in identification and selection of most appropriate risk assessment methods for safety evaluation of chemical mixtures especially food related mixtures and contribute towards public health. She would like to create more awareness among students about the science of toxicology and how it relates to improving real life problems such as food safety and public health.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Brenna Flannery
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: Bachelor of Science
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University
Brenna Flannery is a graduate student of Michigan State University and she was the recipient of the Frank C. Lu for her work entitled, “Evaluation of Insulin-Like Growth Factor Acid-Labile Subunit as a Novel Biomarker of Effect to the Mycotoxin Deoxynivalenol.” The goal of her project was to evaluate insulin-like growth factor as a potential biomarker of effect for the mycotoxin Deoxynivalenol (DON). In humans, DON is reported to cause symptoms of acute gastroenteritis such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever upon acute high dose exposure. Low dose chronic DON exposure in humans has been frequently assessed using the biomarker of exposure DON-glucuronide; however, long-term effects of low dose DON exposure have been impossible to assess due to lack of biomarker of effect. One potential biomarker of effect for DON is plasma IGFALS. She is hopeful the outcomes of this project will advance the field of food safety because the results will help us to understand and predict adverse effects of an adulterant in our food. The award helped her attend the 2013 Society of Toxicology Meeting, where she formed relationships with new colleagues, acquired new ideas for her research and she also learned about potential opportunities for her future in science.

Frank C. Lu Food Safety Student Award Fund

Recipient: Amanda Smolarek
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University
Amanda Smolarek, of Rugters Unviersity, for her work entitled, “Dietary Administration of Delta- and Gamma-Tocopherol Inhibits Mammary Carcinogenesis.” Her work is focused on estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. In the lab, she focused on the prevention of breast cancer by treatment with natural compounds. As a senior graduate student, she is planning to finish her thesis work by the summer 2012. She asserts that although one form, alpha-tocopherol, is a major antioxidant, other forms such as delta- and gamma-tocopherol have better chemo-preventive effects. She hopes that her future research is something that is practical to everyday lifestyle and will make an impact of the way we live our lives. She would love to play a role in industry or academia, teaching a new generation.

Future of Regulatory and Safety Evaluation Endowment Fund

Recipient: Emily Golden
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS, MFS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Johns Hopkins University - Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing

Dr. Golden was honored and very excited to receive this award.  The funds from this award helped cover the expenses to the annual SOT meeting.  Attendance at this meeting is critical for professional networking and feedback on her research.

Dr. Golden's work focuses on evaluating the performance of computational models to evaluate chemical toxicity.  Her future goals include helping the for-profit sector use alternatives to animal tests, such as computational models, to evaluate chemical toxicity and identify safer chemicals.  She also wants to develop and lead courses on using computational tools to evaluate chemical hazard and identify safer chemicals.  

The research Dr. Golden focused on for which she won this award involved exploring how to improve computational approaches to predict skin allergy induced by chemicals (i.e., skin sensitization).  Computational tools make a prediction for a chemical with unknown hazard by using existing toxicity data for structurally similar chemicals.  Structural similarity is traditionally defined using a 2-D definition; however, this is not reflective of the true shape of a chemical.  In this research, Dr. Golden used a 3-D definition of chemical structural similarity to determine whether that improved predictive accuracy.  Overall, the assessment was limited by the small data set; however, there were some areas of the chemical space where a 3-D definition of structural similarity did improve predictive accuracy.  Dr. Golden will continue to explore the usefulness of 3-D structural similarity definitions in future work. 

Future of Regulatory and Safety Evaluation Endowment Fund

Recipient: Tim Leach
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (Wake Forest Baptist Health)

When Mr. Leach received this award, he was extremely excited and appreciative to the committee for choosing his abstract. Receiving this award provides validation for all of the hard work that he has put into developing this model and transitioning it for work in the field of toxicology. Only recently did Mr. Leach switch the focus of his research to using this 3D in vitro model for toxicology work. This award helps support his travel to not only the SOT conference, but also his continued professional development in the field of toxicology. Beyond the financial support it provides, receiving this award provides a significant confidence boost in not only this research, but also in himself.

Mr. Leach's research involves the development of an advanced cell culture model of the human airways using multiple primary cell types. With this model, he is investigating the toxicology of novel tobacco products and noxious gases, such as chlorine gas. With the FDA Modernization Act, there is the need to develop more advanced cell culture-based models and the goal is to examine the benefits of this model compared to current models available. Specifically for this award, Mr. Leach has been investigating novel tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products, using the human airway cell culture model to determine acute inflammatory effects and cytotoxicity. With the drastic changes in the tobacco and e-cigarette market in the past decade, there is a need for models to evaluate their safety and toxicity. Only recently has there been a shift in regulation of these products. Mr. Leach's future goal, after he successfully defends his PhD dissertation, is to transition into industry. He hopes to leverage his knowledge of advanced cell culture models and toxicology to help improve our understanding of airway toxicology. He believes that the FDA Modernization Act is a defining moment in the regulatory field and he hopes to become a leader in his field to help determine the best models for analyzing drugs, products, etc.

 

Future of Regulatory and Safety Evaluation Endowment Fund

Recipient: Alicia Lim
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BA, BS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Ms. Lim was extremely excited and honored to learn that she had received the RSESS Graduate Student Excellence Award. This award reaffirms the importance of her research in the field of regulatory and safety evaluation, and will help her further her research and professional career by encouraging her to attend additional conferences and trainings that she would have otherwise not gone to. 

Over the past couple of decades, there has been an ongoing push towards reducing the use of animal testing. In response, many New Approach Methods, or NAMs, have been developed as alternatives. There is a wide variety of NAMs, ranging from in vitro assays using animal or human cells to in silico methods using computational models. One such NAM are microphysiological systems, or MPS. MPS strive to bridge the gap between traditional 2D in vitro assays and humans by adding physiological parameters such as barrier or flow. While MPS are now commercially available, there is still a need for independent testing and validation of these models to generate trust in their robustness and reproducibility. There is also a need to determine the context of use for each MPS, as they are all unique. To fill in these gaps, Ms. Lim's research focuses on testing the reproducibility and robustness of a particular liver MPS under varying culture conditions and cell type combinations. Through these methods of validation, her research shows how to use MPS effectively, and improves confidence while contributing to a greater level of trust in MPS, which will help facilitate the regulatory use of MPS in the safety assessment of chemicals and drugs.

Future of Regulatory and Safety Evaluation Endowment Fund

Recipient: Frederic Lu
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MD, MPH
Institution/Affiliation: Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology (JGPT), Rutgers University

Dr. Lu did not expect to win anything for his first SOT conference, so he was thrilled to get the good news. The sweet sense of validation for all his hard work was most gratifying, especially because his decision to enter the research world meant branching outside his skillset and comfort zone as a clinician. Dr. Lu's award will go to much-needed study supplies that will greatly help him complete the next portion of his current project and bring him a few steps closer to becoming an independent investigator.

Dr. Lu's research focuses on air quality because many of his patients are veterans with unexplained illnesses that may be related to exposures to airborne hazards during their military service. He firmly believes that physicians should strive to also be clinical investigators to further the field of medicine. To that end, Dr. Lu aims to become a subject matter expert and an independent investigator. For the project honored by this SOT award, he is using a chamber study to investigate the hypothesis that carbon dioxide (CO2) inhalation causes cognitive dysfunction in humans. The proposed model features leukocyte activation and vascular inflammation. His data thus far is supportive of this model and underscores the urgent need for further studies of CO2 toxicity and reassessment of occupational exposure limits for CO2, especially in safety-sensitive settings.

 

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Jephte Akakpo
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center

Dr. Akakpo was very excited and thankful to receive this award. 

Drug-induced liver injury (DILI) is a prominent health concern as well as a major challenge for drug development worldwide. One of the most common causes of DILI in the western world is acetaminophen (APAP) overdose. In addition to liver injury, patients with APAP overdose also develop acute kidney injury, which is a syndrome that has progressively been recognized as a major cause of worsening patient prognosis after toxic APAP ingestion. Thus, Dr. Akakpo's current research focuses on conducting translational studies to decipher the unclear renal mechanisms of injury after an APAP overdose. This work may reveal new biological targets exploitable in novel drug development to prevent renal complications after APAP overdose.

 

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Zachery Jarrell
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BSA, MAT, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Emory University

Dr. Jarrell was elated to receive this award. This is his first time being recognized for his postdoctoral work with any award, and it is incredibly validating. For one, Dr. Jarrell hopes that having this award on his CV will speak volumes as he begins planning the next steps of his career. Aside from that, he really needs a new computer as he's working on a 6-year old laptop that he uses for the majority of his writing and data analysis. It sounds like a jet engine whenever he tries to run any advanced scripts, and the number of restarts needed each day keeps increasing. The money from this award is going to enable Dr. Jarrell to make a much needed upgrade and keep him doing his work with far fewer hiccups.

Dr. Jarrell's work involves studying a class of plant-derived metal chelators called phytochelatins. These chemicals are present in all human diets, but their activity in humans is not described. He is working to build out science's understanding in that area. These phytochelatins are capable of impacting mineral and heavy metal distribution in the body. Dr. Jarrell is pursuing a career in academia, and he wants his program to continue this type of work with more dietary constituents. He thinks there is a lot to learn about how bioactive compounds in the human diet influence the burden of dietary exposures. Dr. Jarrell's specific research submitted for this award involved characterization of metabolism of phytochelatins in humans and their associations and interactions with Cd in renal reuptake of Cd.

 

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Isha Mhatre-Winters
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Florida International University

Dr. Mhatre-Winters is honored and humbled to have been awarded the Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award. She was thrilled to share this news with her mentors who are outstanding role models and show relentless support in her endeavors. Receiving this award early in her career will be an unique opportunity to propel her career as an academic researcher in neurotoxicology, and broaden her network within the SOT community.

Dr. Mhatre-Winters' current research is focused on studying the gene-by-environment interactions in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), specifically the novel hypothesis that APOE genotype and sex modify the response to DDT in humanized targeted replacement APOE3 and APOE4 mice. Although APOE4 is the strongest genetic risk factor, it is not entirely predictive of late-onset AD, and emerging evidence points to environmental factors in the etiology of the disease. She recently reported novel and significant translational evidence of the pesticide DDT on AD pathology (PMCID: PMC9364816), which was abolished by pretreatment with tetrodotoxin, a sodium channel blocker, in vitro. She has also previously shown that APOE4 individuals with increased levels of DDT’s primary metabolite DDE performed worse on a cognitive function task than APOE3 individuals (PMCID: PMC4132934). With minimal success in identifying patients earlier in the progression of AD, it has become evermore evident that there is an urgent need to identify predictive risk factors, including environmental factors, along with genetic risk factors such as APOE4. To provide a more personalized therapeutic option for patients, understanding the converging pathways of disease would greatly aid in better understanding and allow patients to receive drugs with a specific mode of action, which may be more efficacious.

 

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: David Leuthold
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BSc, MSc, Dr rer nat
Institution/Affiliation: Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ

Dr. Leuthold's first reaction was to find it unbelievable to receive this award. He felt honored and was happy about this kind of appreciation. It does not only account for his own effort but also recognizes the contributions of his whole research group. This includes several aspects, like practical support and valuable feedback, but also ongoing motivation throughout the course of such an intense project. He is grateful to be part of such an outstanding team. This award helps to pursue his research and provide even more motivation to continue and further develop his approach and to share his current knowledge with the next generation of scientists. The fact that this approach is recognized as useful for environmental research at this stage of development is highly encouraging.

What Dr. Leuthold likes most about his work are the diverse challenges that require new ideas and approaches every day. In other words, to apply creativity to critical aspects of societal development feels very satisfactory. His work is diverse and includes steps from hypothesis development, experimental design, conduction of experiments, supervision of trainees/ PhD students, exchange of ideas with colleagues, data management, establishment of data analysis pipelines, presentations and finally, of course, paper writing. He never gets bored of optimization – he is a perfectionist. In practical terms, he is mainly working with early developmental stages of zebrafish – an alternative model that provides seemingly endless options to study many critical aspects of environmental and human health. Thus, his future goals include to further develop whole-organism and molecular methods in zebrafish that allow them to better understand the underlying mechanisms of toxicity and diseases. The research conducted for the received award focuses on the development and application of a behavior assay battery in larval zebrafish in order to determine effects of chemicals on neurodevelopment and neuronal function. The initial idea was to extend the commonly applied but limited light-dark-transition assay and to assess chemical-induced alterations in behavior in a more comprehensive way to account for the complexity of the developing nervous system and its diverse chemical targets. One of the first steps was the establishment and optimization of acoustic tests to measure acoustic sensitivity to low- and high-volume tones of a certain frequency. Additionally, a sequence of acoustic stimuli was optimized for inter stimulus intervals in order to provoke habituation behavior – a non-associate form of learning that is also conserved in humans. After optimization of the various parameters, the assay battery was evaluated against a set of known pharmacological modulators with distinct neuromolecular targets such as NMDA receptor, GABA receptor and acetylcholinesterase. With the confirmation that the combination of the multiple behavior assays has the diagnostic capacity to differentiate these mechanisms, the battery was further evaluated against a set of chemicals that were previously shown to target the NMDA receptor in vitro – an ionotropic receptor known to play a major role in learning and memory processes. The underlying question here was, whether such compounds that induce a lack in learning and memory through interference with NMDA receptors can also be confirmed in zebrafish. The current findings confirm that the embryo-larval zebrafish model recapitulates exposure-induced learning deficit phenotypes observed in rodent models, thereby highlighting its potential as an alternative method. Finally, they could identify an environmental chemical which is used as a biocidal ingredient in cosmetic products to reduce habituation learning behavior, a fact that has not been shown before and that highlights the previously unknown neuroactive properties of this chemical. Dr. Leuthold had great support from a former trainee, who has now become a PhD student in their Molecular Toxicology group. She made great progress within just one year transitioning from a plant physiologist into a environmental toxicologist with impressive skills in the lab. He says that it was and still is a pleasure to train her and to collaborate.

 

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Souvarish  Sarkar
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Sarkar was pleasantly surprised to receive the Gabriel Plaa Education Award. This award validates some of the work that he has done and provides inspiration to continue his work in the field of drug discovery. Further, it will keep him motivated to be a good mentor for future generations of toxicologists. 

Dr. Sarkar is currently building a model system to understand gene-environment interactions in Parkinson's disease (PD). Using a combination of scalable techniques, he has built a model that can identify novel polygenic interactions with environmental factors. Using this system, they are trying to identify druggable targets for those specific interactions, which will be a first step towards personalized medicine in PD. He aims to use this work to secure future NIH grants and transition to an independent position in the near future.

 

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Hao Wang
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Washington

Dr. Wang was thrilled to be receiving this award. This generous award will help him attend international toxicology conferences to learn more from the other fantastic researchers.

Dr. Wang's research focuses on the investigation of neurotoxicity and the potential mechanisms of heavy metals and other environmental toxicants. He is currently trying to elucidate the role the gut-brain axis plays in the neurotoxicity of Cadmium, which helped win the award. In the future, Dr. Wang will try to find if there is any remediation to mitigate the neurotoxicity of environmental toxicants.

 

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. 

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Avinash Kumar
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Kumar was extremely delighted and proud upon receiving this award. He was humbled that his research has been acknowledged and receiving this award would certainly provide him recognition in the Society of Toxicology and further motivate him to progress his career in the field of toxicology to become an independent scientist. He developed interest in the field of liver pathobiology uopn graduation and has been doing research in this area. He wants to progress his career in the field of hepatotoxicology to become an independent scientist and provide mentoring afterwards.

Dr. Kumar's specific research for which this award is based relates to studying the effect of environmental toxicant vinyl chloride  (VC) exposure in the context of underlying liver disease. Vinyl chloride monomer is a gaseous organochloride which after polymerization forms the plastic, polyvinyl chloride (PVC). VC monomer at high concentration causes hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and its carcinogenic properties were mainly mitigated by lowering the daily exposure limits by OSHA. However, they have recently shown that sub OSHA exposure levels of VC can also exacerbate liver injury caused by high fat diet (HFD). A critical concern therefore is the potential for overlap between diets rich in fatty acid and exposure to VC, because both the factors tend to be higher in the areas of lower socioeconomic status. Importantly the mechanism by which lower concentration of VC sensitizes the liver to other stressors (e.g., HFD) is not completely known. Therefore, the goal of the current project is to shed new light on the mechanism by which VC exacerbates high fat diet-induced hepatic injury and tumor formation and also potential mechanisms to alleviate these risks.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Lauren Poole
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

When it was announced that Dr. Poole had won the Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award, she was shocked and overwhelmed with gratitude. Knowing how competitive this award is, she could not believe she was selected from such a strong pool of applicants. Dr. Poole feels extremely fortunate to have had amazing mentors throughout her education and through her membership in the Society of Toxicology. She constantly seeks to emulate her mentors by doing the best science she can and sharing her enthusiasm for her work with every trainee she mentors in any capacity. To be recognized for both of these qualities by the Mechanisms Specialty Section is truly an honor. Her ultimate career goal is to have her own research lab at an academic institution and to serve as a PhD mentor to graduate students of her own. This prestigious and generous award from the Society of Toxicology will certainly make her more confident in her upcoming search for a junior faculty position, and will attract enthusiastic students to her research program. 

Dr. Poole is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. James Luyendyk at Michigan State University. Her research interests seek to understand how blood clotting proteins contribute to the progression of chronic liver disease. Chronic liver disease affects millions of Americans each year, and can develop as a result of exposure to environmental contaminants, consumption of a high-fat diet or excessive alcohol, or viral or autoimmune hepatitis. The end stage of chronic liver disease, liver fibrosis, is characterized by excessive accumulation of collagen, or scar tissue, in the liver which ultimately prevents normal liver function. One specific liver cell type, the hepatic stellate cell, is the primary producer of this scar tissue in the injured liver. The research presented in her 2020 SOT Annual Meeting abstract identified that a receptor expressed by hepatic stellate cells, protease-activated receptor-1, plays an important role in the progression of hepatic fibrosis. Protease-activated receptor-1 is a receptor for certain clotting proteins, such as thrombin. These findings were made possible by the development of a new mouse in which protease-activated receptor-1 is deleted only in hepatic stellate cells, and not other liver cell types. They found that when stellate cell protease-activated receptor-1 was deleted, mice developed significantly less liver fibrosis in response to chronic chemical-induced liver injury. This research provides an important capstone to decades of scientific research investigating the role of the blood clotting cascade in liver disease and identifies a novel druggable target for liver disease treatment.  

Dr. Poole's primary career goal is to become an independent investigator at an academic institution. It is extremely important to her to continue her research program focusing on the connections between exposure to toxicants, activation of the blood clotting cascade, and tissue injury and to share her passion and enthusiasm for this work with students. She strives to continue to grow her involvement in the Society of Toxicology, particularly by acting as a mentor to new students, who are the future of our discipline. 

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Souvarish Sarkar
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: MA
Institution/Affiliation: Harvard Medical School

Mr. Sarkar was thrilled to receive the award. This award meant a little more than all the other awards he has received because it not only valued his work on mechanistic toxicology but also recognized his contribution in educating and helping graduate and undergraduate students. 

Mr. Sarkar's research revolves around the role of environmental factors in neurodegeneration and how they interact with genetic factors. His goal is to have an independent lab focusing on gene-environment interaction in Parkinson's disease. Currently, he is working on developing a multiplex model which can be used to study the interactions in a high-throughput manner using alternative models like Drosophila. 

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Matthew Dodson
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BS, MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Dr. Dodson was very surprised and excited to learn that he was a finalist for the Gabriel L Plaa Education award. Dr. Plaa was a well known and respected member of the toxicology field for many years, so Dr. Dodson considers placing for an award in his name a great honor. Receipt of this award will help him in pursuing his goal of becoming an assistant professor, and hopefully achieving the same level of mentorship and academic pedigree that Dr. Plaa did in his time as part of the SOT.

The research for which Dr. Dodson won this award is centered upon determining the mechanisms that underly arsenic promotion of type II diabetes. While millions of people worldwide are exposed to unsafe levels of arsenic, resulting in an enhanced risk of numerous diseases, there are still a great deal of questions regarding the mechanisms that actually drive arsenic pathogenesis. For his studies, he has found that arsenic inhibits the autophagy lysosome pathway via altering global protein O-GlcNAcylation, resulting in the prolonged activation of the Nrf2 signaling cascade. Importantly, Nrf2 regulates a number of downstream transcriptional responses, thus determining what downstream signaling pathways are affected by chronic arsenic induction of Nrf2 will provide a great deal of insight that can be used to generate better therapies to treat arsenic exposed populations. The core of this work was recently used as preliminary data for Dr. Dodson's K99/R00 submission, which coupled with receipt of this award, would be a significant step towards his goal of becoming an independent academic researcher a top tier university.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Aseel Eid
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Florida International University

Dr. Eid was honored to receive this award, which she feels underscores the importance of her research. Dr. Eid's future goal is to be an independent academic investigator. Her research focuses on different pesticides and how they may contribute to diseases such as Alzheimer's. In the abstract which she presented, she was investigating the role of DDT on specialized cells in the brain that promote inflammation. The award will aid her research in elucidating and understanding the mechanisms by which DDT is contributing to increasing neuroinflammation in microglia. This award also aids her career development as an academic researcher in the field of neurotoxicology. The work presented in this abstract present a new novel role of DDT and is important in advancing our understanding of the mechanisms of this pesticide in neurotoxicology. The work presented in her abstract considered the mechanistic role that of known pesticide, DDT on primary microglia. From these data, DDT is able to directly activate microglia and increase neuroinflammatory factors. This presents a potential new adverse effect of this pesticide.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Asmita Pant
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Laura Armstrong
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Dr. Armstrong feels extremely privileged to be have been considered for the award and asked to interview for the award, and even more privileged to have received the award recognizing her current contributions and future goals of being a mentor and educator in the field of toxicology, especially by receiving an award in the recognition of Gabriel L. Plaa.

Her current research focuses on the prevalent disease-state of Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, with focus on the inflammatory response. With her studies she hopes to contribute to a field of pharmacological development to understand the role of the nuclear receptor Farnesoid X receptor in the disease pathology, this is a receptor that many pharmaceutical companies are currently utilizing as a drug target within the drug pipeline. Her research for this conference specifically focused on discerning the role of this nuclear receptor, FXR in the hepatic acute response -- an initial response to an inflammatory stimuli. Her future goals are to understand mechanistic pathways of disease pathologies related to obesity, and study environmental toxicants or obesogen effect either contributing or worsening these disease pathways.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Matthew Dodson
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

Dr. Dodson was very excited to learn he was a finalist for the Gabriel L Plaa award this year. Dr. Plaa played an important role in the Society of Toxicology, as well as in mentoring future generations of toxicologists. This award is another key step towards his eventual goal of attaining an independent academic position. It is his hope that some day he can play a role similar to Dr. Plaa and make important contributions in the field of toxicology and mentor his own generation of future scientists.

His work centers on the role of arsenic in the progression of disease, specifically type II diabetes and cancer. The work for which he won this award centered on determining the mechanism by which arsenic blocks the autophagy pathway, which is a critical pathway for recycling damaged cellular components for re-use in the cell. His future goals include expanding on this work to determine how arsenic effects on autophagy contribute to the metabolic reprogramming that occurs during diabetes. He hopes that this work will also serve as the foundation for a K99 award, which he plans to submit this summer, with the eventual goal of attaining an assistant professorship in the future.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Jessica Hartman
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Duke University

Dr. Hartman was delighted and honored to be selected as a recipient of the Gabriel Plaa Award through the Mechanisms Specialty Section at this year's SOT Annual Meeting. She feels that it is humbling to consider the legacy of Dr. Plaa's contributions to mechanistic toxicology in haloalkane-induced hepatotoxicity and, equally impressive, his visionary dedication to the future of the field through mentoring trainees. In her future career, she plans to continue in academic research and hopes to make her own contributions to mechanistic toxicology through a better understanding of how differences in metabolism drive individual exposure risk. She has already had the pleasure of serving as a mentor to many undergraduate students and have thoroughly enjoyed helping them grow in their scientific research. She eagerly looks forward to serving as a mentor to the next generation of mechanistic toxicologists in her own lab. This award will help her to achieve that goal, and she is very grateful to have been selected.

Her research focuses on Precision Toxicology: the concept that inter-individual differences in metabolism can drive individualized exposure risk. This broad interest has so far given rise to two major projects, both of which are carried out in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. First, her research for which this award was given focuses on how location of the human metabolic enzyme CYP2E1 in different parts of the cell, mitochondria or endoplasmic reticulum, can drive differences in toxicity. Because there is large inter-individual variability in how much CYP2E1 goes to each location, this may change how individuals respond to a chemical metabolized by CYP2E1 (including acetaminophen and ethanol). To study this, she has expressed human CYP2E1 targeted specifically to each location in C. elegans (which lack basal expression of the enzyme) and showed that it is active and sensitizes the animals to acetaminophen toxicity. Her second project examines how differences in dietary intake and exercise drive changes to energy metabolism that sensitize or protect from environmental exposures. Overall, both projects aim to link metabolism differences with sensitivity to toxicants. After finishing her postdoctoral fellowship, she hopes to continue this line of research in an academic faculty position while mentoring students and other trainees.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Joseph Cichocki
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Dr. Cichocki is honored to be a finalist for the Plaa award. This is one of the most highly-regarded awards that are offered to postdoc members of SOT. Being a finalist for this award has made him realize that the work that he is doing is recognized as being important for the field of Mechanistic Toxicology. He will definitely apply his knowledge in mechanistic toxicology as he pursues a career in the Pharmaceutical Industry. As he begins the next step in his career, he will be handing off some of this research to undergraduate and graduate students in the lab and will provide them guidance during their research so that they can continue to study the interaction between diet, disease, and genetics on chemical metabolism and target organ toxicity. His research is broadly focused on investigating inter-individual variability in susceptibility to chemical-induced toxicity. The project which has lead him to being a finalist for the Plaa award is focused on the effect of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease on tetrachloroethylene disposition, metabolism, and toxicity. His future goals for this project will be to train graduate and undergraduate trainees in the lab so that they will be able to take the project over once he transitions into a career in Pharma. He feels there is always more mechanistic work to be done on a project, and while he has made considerable strides to understanding the contribution of this disease on tetrachloroethylene toxicity, the work is not completely finished. Since he had an excellent career opportunity to join a really exciting company, he had to make the decision to hand of this project to others in the lab. He anticipates that they will be able to continue to investigate molecular mechanisms and the contribution of genetics, disease, and diet to inter-individual variability in tetrachloroethylene toxicity.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Matthew Dodson
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona College of Pharmacy

Dr. Dodson was very pleased to find out that he was a finalist for the Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award for this year’s annual Society of Toxicology meeting. He is a second year postdoctoral researcher new to the toxicology field, and this is his first time attending the Society of Toxicology meeting, so being nominated for this award is a great honor. His goal is to become the head of his own research laboratory at an academic institution, where he will mentor students and postdocs, receiving an award named after someone who made such significant contributions towards the education and mentoring of future toxicologists is another big step towards achieving this goal. Receiving this award, and having the opportunity to present research at the SOT conference will significantly further his training, and help ensure that he makes significant contributions to the toxicology field. His current research project focuses on the impact of chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic on health and disease. Specifically, he is investigating the mechanisms by which arsenic inhibits the autophagy-lysosome pathway resulting in prolonged activation of the key antioxidant transcription factor NRF2. He is also interested in how arsenic and prolonged NRF2 activation affect long-term mitochondrial structure and function to contribute to the progression of metabolic syndrome. The goal of his research is to better understand specific targets affected by chronic arsenic exposure, as well as the mechanisms that contribute to the different pathologies associated with exposure to environmental toxicants. By better understanding how arsenic affects cellular function, we can begin to create more targeted therapies for the treatment of arsenic and other toxic metal-associated diseases. The research that he presented at this year’s meeting that was part of the consideration for an award focuses on the impact of arsenic on the mitochondrial network, and how NRF2 may regulate these changes.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Gregory Smith
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina

Dr. Smith was beyond excited! The Gabriel L. Plaa award is the most important award that he has received thus far in his career. Additionally, it has validated a switch that he made from more descriptive to mechanism-heavy studies. It has also emphasized his desire to continue to mentor new trainees in toxicology. It will undoubtedly boost his motivation to keep on the career path that he has been clearing for himself. His present and future work has been aimed at generating useful data that further our understanding of the mechanisms of environmentally-related disease. The research for which he won the Gabriel Plaa award investigated the role of a specific drug transport protein in the process of liver regeneration following injury using a knockout mouse model. Although the work did not rely on a specific toxicant, it has implications in our understanding of how the liver recovers from injury of all types. He is developing a research career that will continue to investigate the mechanisms of adverse health effects of chemicals, especially air pollutants. In the future he plans to investigate mechanisms of susceptibility to ozone and asthma.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Sridhar Jaligama
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Dr. Jaligama's research is focused on understanding the mechanism of pulmonary immunosuppression during early-life exposure to radical containing ultrafine particulate matter (PM) and how such exposure during early stages of life would affect the infant pulmonary host response to lower respiratory tract infections such as influenza virus. His research findings reported the role of regulatory T cells and IL10 in mediating the immunosuppressive effects of PM and exacerbation of influenza disease severity. He and his colleagues observed a significant increase in regulatory T cells and IL10 in PM exposed mice. Specific depletion of Tregs in PM-exposed mice enhanced protection against influenza virus. Further, IL10 deficiency protected the mice by decreasing the morbidity and pulmonary viral load. Together, these findings demonstrated the role of Tregs and IL10 in mediating PM-induced exacerbation of morbidity and mortality associated with acute influenza infection. These finding were based on our earlier observations of pulmonary immunosuppression in neonatal mice after acute inhalation exposure to PM. A number of epidemiological studies indicate relation between exposure to elevated levels of PM and an increased rate of hospitalization of children with adverse pulmonary events. The research outcomes from my studies would provide valuable insights into understanding the underlying mechanism of these PM-induced adverse pulmonary events. Also, these studies would contribute to general understanding of infant immune responses to such similar PM. It is his belief that a deeper understanding of the mechanism of PM-induced adverse events is critical to protecting susceptible infant populations. He hopes his studies will provide important insights that are valuable for understanding the public health risks of exposure to PM and aid in developing therapeutic interventions for PM-induced respiratory illnesses.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Nicole Olgun
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BS, MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: CDC/NIOSH

Dr. Olgun's research has always focused on preterm birth, and various methods of prevention. She has worked with cells, pregnant mice, and human placental explants to study inflammation in pregnancy and cytokine expression and production. Upon becoming a post doc at NIOSH, she joined a lab that focuses on metal toxicity and free radicals. The abstract for which she won an award this year, looked at the toxicity that exists between sintered and unsintered indium tin oxide, and how these particles are cause damage to cells. Workers that are exposed to indium tin oxide in the occupational setting experience pulmonary problems, so it is important that these workers be properly protected.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Karilyn Sant
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: PhD, MPH
Institution/Affiliation: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Dr. Sant is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Alicia Timme-Laragy's laboratory at the University of Massachusetts. The lab uses a zebrafish model to better understand the effects of endocrine disrupting compounds on pancreatic organogenesis, and seeks to identify mechanisms by which these developmental exposures may lead to metabolic dysfunction throughout the lifecourse. Her current work used two transgenic zebrafish models to visualize dysmorphogenesis of the pancreas following exposure to perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), characterized changes in the gene expression of pancreas hormones at several developmental time points, and identified perturbations of embryonic redox state following exposure.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Eric Beier
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Eric Beier is a postdoctoral fellow at Rutgers University and received the Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award for his work entitled, "Farnesiod x Receptor enhances the neuroinflammatory response to MPTP." His work focused on the study pathways that mediate neuroinflammation in the dopaminergic centers of the brain that contribute to Parkinson's Disease. He would like to connect different systems of study - brain, bone - and investigate how the interplay between these areas contribute to complex diseases on which our knowledge is limited. He hopes his preclinical research will provide new therapeutic targets that may help to lessen the neuroinflammation that contributes to Parkinson's Disease, a disease that currently has limited treatment options and has a large environmental component to its etiology.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Anna Kopec
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University

Anna Kopec is a postdoctoral fellow at Michigan State University and received the Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award for her work entitled, "Role of fibrin(ogen) in hepatocyte proliferation after acetaminophen overdose." Her research focuses on understanding the role of fibrinogen in liver repair and regeneration following acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose. Liver toxicity after an overdose of this common pain medication is the number one cause of drug-induced liver damage in the United States. In a small fraction of patients, the acute toxicity is irreversible leading to permanent liver damage which requires a liver transplant. Given the limited number of available donor livers, understanding the mechanisms of liver repair and liver regeneration is crucial to help to better allocate the organs to the patients where liver regeneration is not possible. She believes that the number one role in advancing the science of toxicology in the 21st century should be the education of the non-scientific audience. Lack of proper information portrayed by the media mostly instills fear about environmental contamination in food and water, having detrimental effect on people's lives. Educating people and introducing the concept of "dose making the poison" should be the priority of toxicologists.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Shaun McCullough
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Shaun McCullough is a postdoctoral fellow at the US Environmental Protection Agency and received the Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award for his work entitled, "Exposure to Ozone Prior to Acrolein Primes Markers of Oxidative, but not Pro-inflammatory, Stress in a GSTM1-dependent Manner." His work focused on the mechanisms underlying the response of the airway to air pollutant exposure. This work involved characterizing the mechanistic response to both sing and multi-pollutant exposures in vitro and a clinical study examining the physiological effects of sequential pollutant exposure. Understanding the mechanisms underlying the effects of and susceptibility to toxicant exposure is critical to protecting susceptible populations and reducing the health impacts of toxicant exposure. The continual advancement of mechanistic models will generate information that can be used to develop better models for predictive toxicology. Ultimately, the development of these models will improve the accuracy of toxicology testing while reducing the need for controlled human and animal exposure studies. Further, by bettering our understanding of how toxicants exert their effects on individuals we can ultimately practice toxicology more efficiently, protect susceptible populations, and develop strategies to ameliorate the effects of toxicant exposure.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Jaime Mirowsky
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina

Jaime Mirowsky is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of North Carolina and received the Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award for her work entitled, "Expression of proinflammatory and oxidative stress mediators induced by nitrogen dioxide and ozone in primary human bronchial epithelial cells." Her research compared the toxic response of two common air pollutants, ozone and nitrogen dioxide, which had previously been thought to elicit a harmful respiratory response in the same manner. Her work demonstrated suggestive evidence that these pollutants do not cause a harmful response in the same manner, opening up the door for future work on the mechanisms underlying these responses. Her research provides an interesting stepping stone for creating a safer and healthier world by challenging a long-established hypothesis about the toxic effects of nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide is a toxicant found in the ambient air but also in high concentrations indoors and in occupational settings. It has previously been compared to ozone, a very well studied toxicant, and thought to elicit toxic responses via the same mechanism.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: John Clarke
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona

John Clarke is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Arizona and received the Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award for his work entitled, “Synergistic Interaction between Genetics and Disease on Pravastatin Disposition.” Adverse drug reactions are a major challenge in the management of medications in the clinic. Millions of people worldwide take the cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins. Pravastatin is one widely prescribed statin that is associated with a dose-dependent adverse drug reaction known as myopathy. Myopathy is known to contribute to cessation of therapy or may require additional visits to the clinic for dose adjustment and/or a change in statin prescription. Understanding the factors that contribute to the occurrence of these adverse drug reactions will help minimize the occurrence of these and other reactions. An increasingly prevalent liver disease known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) has been shown to slow the clearance of certain drugs from the body. This has major implications for drugs that have either a narrow therapeutic window or have dose-dependent adverse drug reactions. In the context of precision medicine, our data indicate that clinicians should be cognizant of the presence of underlying liver disease (i.e. NASH) when prescribing certain drugs. By accounting for this variable some of the adverse drug reactions that occur on a regular basis may be avoided. This will increase the safety of drug therapies and, in the case of statins, avoid costly medication changes and encourage more people to maintain their therapy rather than stop due to the uncomfortable side effect of myopathy. Collectively, this research illuminates an additional factor in inter-individual variability for drug response that previously has not been appreciated and accepted as a risk factor and provides the foundation for many future clinical studies in this important and emerging area.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Tetyana Kobets
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: MD, MSPH
Institution/Affiliation: Division of Biochemical Toxicology, National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR)

Tetyana Kobets is a researcher with the Division of Biochemical Toxicology, National Center for Toxicological Research and received the Gabriel L. PLaa Education Award for her work entitled, “Epigenetic Alterations in the Livers of Fisher 344 Rats Exposed to Furan.” The main focus of the recognized by this award study was to investigate the role of epigenetic alterations in the mechanisms of furan hepatotoxicity and carcinogenicity. The results of the study showed that exposure of male rats to furan caused dose-and time-dependent epigenetic changes in their livers. These findings significantly contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms of furan carcinogenesis and could be helpful for the future development of prevention strategies for early hepatic adverse effects associated with the furan exposure. Advanced understanding of mechanisms involved in liver carcinogenesis, and the role of environmental and lifestyle agents in the development of liver cancer will be helpful in determination and analysis of molecular targets of potential chemopreventive agents and in uncovering of molecular biomarkers of liver injury. This will help to develop a better strategies for carcinogens risk assessment, provide us with more data needed to decrease the incidence rates of liver cancer as it will result in the development of better ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat this disease.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Kathryn Page
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: BSc, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: UC Berkeley

Kathryn Page is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of California, Berkeley and received the Gabriel L. PLaa Education Award for her work entitled, “Toxic Milk Leads to the “Mask” Phenotype in Hephaestin Knockout Mice.” Dr. Page feels especially delighted to be presented with the Plaa Award, due to the importance of the liver in iron homeostasis and metabolism, co-ordinating well with the seminal work by Dr Plaa on hepatotoxic mechanisms. Dr. Page's work focused on the mechanism behind iron deficiency hair-loss in mice. This work involves the hephaestin knockout mouse (lacking a copper-iron ferroxidase important for intestinal iron transport), which grows hair normally post birth, but cycles through a period of hair-loss at approximately 14 days, followed by regrowth around 40 days. The mechanism appears to be due to iron deficiency, and is passed on through the mother's milk, rather than by genotype. Continuation of her research will help to outline the mechanism behind iron deficiency, but also to highlight the link between human iron deficiency and hair-loss. She hopes to use this underlying mechanism to find drug targets, and develop therapeutics to reverse the toxic effects of iron dis-homeostasis. She feels her work is of interest to the general public, and hopes to highlight the toxicological community and the impact made on everyday life by working in this field.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: John Clarke
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona
John Clarke is a postdoctoral fellow of the University of Arizona who received the Molecular Biology Student Award for his work entitled, “Impaired Glycosylation and Membrane Localization of Uptake and Efflux Transporters in Human Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.” Dr. Clarke’s research examined nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is a liver disease that is increasingly prevalent in the world. This disease can change the expression and function of proteins involved in the metabolism and movement of xenobiotics, including environmental toxins, drugs, and dietary constituents. Dr. Clarke and his colleagues showed that several uptake transporters and several efflux transporters altered expression and localization in human livers with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Also, they found that these changes in localization were caused by impaired N-linked glycosylation of proteins (including transporters) in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. These data provide mechanistic information into how xenobiotics have altered disposition in fatty liver disease. Dr. Clarke hopes to better understand the toxicological mechanisms that influence the transition from steatosis to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and the transition from steatohepatitis to hepatocellular carcinoma. These diseases are a burden to patients and the health care system. By understanding how environmental factors contribute to the pathogenesis of these diseases, he can help advance of toxicology research in the 21st century.

Gabriel L. Plaa Education Award Fund

Recipient: Tao Chen
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: MD, MS
Institution/Affiliation: Pennsylvania State University
Tao Chen, of Penn State University, for his abstract, “Proteasomal Interaction Regulates the Activity of the Human Constitutive Androstane Receptor.” His research project was to explore the activation mechanism of the human constitutive androstane receptor (hCAR), a nuclear receptor that plays significant and diverse roles regulating the metabolism of xenobiotic and endogenous substances, as a regulator of glucose and lipid metabolism, and modulator of cell cycle/death pathways. Using various cell-based assays, his research demonstrated a novel proteosomal pathway involved in hCAR regulation and activation. Xenobiotic exposure from various sources is a prominent and increasing public health concern, and nuclear receptors play pivotal roles in mediating biological responses to these exposures, through their abilities to reprogram gene transcriptional regulation. His research further delineates mechanistic pathways through which these responses are modulated. Going forward, he plans to participate actively in the Society of Toxicology. His goal is to participate as a scientific researcher and to help facilitate a broader understanding of the biological and toxicological impact of chemical exposures as mediated through the xenobiotic receptor network. The functional consequences of these chemical-receptor interactions include the modulation of xenobiotic metabolism, adverse drug reactions, drug-drug interactions and influences on lipid and energy homeostasis.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Rizwana Begum
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Southern University and A&M College

This award has given Ms. Begum a significant recognition of her research abilities and potential. It has boosted her confidence and motivation and provided validation for the hard work and effort she put into the research project. In terms of pursuing research, winning this award can provide Ms. Begum access to resources such as funding, conferences, and networking opportunities. She feels that these resources are crucial for advancing research projects and connecting with other researchers in the field.

Ms. Begum's project work focuses basically on e-cigarette aerosol induced inflammation in adenocarcinoma lung epithelial cells. She has won the award for the research that determined the role of DAMPs dependent TLR-4/RAGE mediated downstream signaling during e-cig vapor exposure.

 

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Dipro Bose
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MTech
Institution/Affiliation: University of California Irvine

Mr. Bose is extremely honored and humbled to be receiving this prestigious award. He would like to thank the awards committee of the Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award and the Society of Toxicology for selecting his research work. Mr. Bose is extremely grateful to his PhD mentor, Dr. Saurabh Chatterjee, professor at University of California Irvine and a well recognized scientist in the field of toxicology for his valuable guidance and support in Mr. Bose's doctoral study research work.

Mr. Bose's research work is on Gulf War Illness, which is a chronic multisymptomatic condition that continues to persist among the aging GW Veterans to date. At present he is investigating the role of representative Gulf War chemicals in causing neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration using translatable Gulf War Illness animal models. 

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Piyush Padhi
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Georgia

Mr. Padhi is very delighted and honored to receive this award. This award will help with furthering his goal of introducing a novel neurotherapeutic modality for neurodegenerative disease. This award help help Mr. Padhi gain insight into toxicological mechanisms of his novel neurotherapeutic. 

Mr. Padhi's research involves developing novel engineered microbiome-based therapeutic for Parkinson disease. This therapeutic involves sustained and consistent delivery of the L-DOPA, a major precursor drug for PD. In developing this novel therapeutic, he utilized various models to assess its pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and efficacy. 

 

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Manasi Kotulkar
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center

Ms. Kotulkar was sincerely honored to have been selected as the recipient of the Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award offered by the Association of Scientists of Indian Origin, Society of Toxicology (ASIO-SOT). This award is very well recognized in the toxicology community. Receiving the award helped Ms. Kotulkar set up the foundations for her career path in toxicology. Ms. Kotulkar thanks SOT-ASIO for their generosity, which has allowed her an opportunity to interact, learn, and network with the researchers and scientists in the field of toxicology by attending the annual SOT conference. 

The liver has a unique ability to regenerate and repair after injury. Liver regeneration is likely to evolve due to the principal role of the liver in xenobiotic and nutrient metabolism. Ms. Kotulkar's research is focused on the mechanisms involved in cell proliferation during regeneration and cancer progression in the liver. Acetaminophen (APAP) is a widely used over-the-counter antipyretic and analgesic drug that is extremely effective at therapeutic doses. However, an overdose of APAP leads to acute liver failure. APAP overdose is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the Western world. N-acetyl cysteine, the only therapeutic option present is successful only if given within a few hours after APAP overdose. Previous studies from our laboratory and others have shown that activation of prompt liver regeneration following APAP overdose is critical for survival. Ms. Kotulkar is investigating the interaction between the orphan nuclear receptor Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4-alpha (HNF4α) and transcription factor, cMyc in liver injury and regeneration after APAP overdose. Her initial studies showed that hepatocyte-specific HNF4α knockout mice (HNF4α-KO) showed increased liver injury following APAP overdose but still recovered at the same time as the WT mice. She also observed significantly higher cMyc expression in HNF4α-KO livers after APAP treatment. Next, she dosed HNF4α and cMyc double knockout mice (DKO) with 300mg/kg of APAP and studied injury and subsequent regenerative response. Her team observed that DKO mice recover faster, despite equal initial injury, as compared to HNF4α-KO and WT mice. The faster recovery of DKO mice was accompanied by reduced JNK activation and increased proliferative response. Most importantly, DKO mice showed significantly faster glutathione replenishment following initial depletion after APAP treatment. Their data suggested that cMyc promotes the development of injury in the context of HNF4α loss by inhibiting Nrf2 activation. They have uncovered a novel and complex signaling interaction between HNF4α and cMyc during acute liver injury and regeneration. Ms. Kotulkar's goal during her PhD is to perform meaningful research to understand the mechanisms of drug-induced liver injury and liver regeneration. After her doctorate studies, she would like to continue working in the field of toxicology. Ms. Kotulkar envisages herself working as a toxicologist in the drug industry where she wants to apply her knowledge for translational toxicology studies. 

 

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Archna  Panghal
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research

Ms. Panghal was extremely delighted and honored for getting recognition on an international platform and was grateful to the ASIO and SOT for providing her an opportunity to represent her research work. It was extremely motivating for her on the research front and presenting her work to a large audience on an esteemed platform will boost her confidence and help in shaping her career as a toxicologist. It provided her an opportunity to interact with researchers around the globe and design her research projects more constructively based on scientific interactions. This award helped her to build up a wide network of researchers engaged in the diverse field of toxicology.

Her work is in the field of reproductive toxicity with prime focus on the male reproductive toxicity. Briefly, Ms. Panghal is exploring the molecular effects of chemotherapy on male gonadal functions. She won this award for the work entitled “Juvenile Exposure and Germ Cell Risk Assessment in Adults: Study on Melphalan in Male Rats.” In this particular research work, she exposed male juvenile rats with the single and intermittent cycle of melphalan and assessed the risk of gonadal damage at the adult stage. The findings suggested that time of exposure, as well as the amount of exposure (total dosage administered), determine the magnitude of the damage in germ cell risk assessment in the rats. 

 

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Punnag Saha
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MSc
Institution/Affiliation: University of South Carolina

Mr. Saha was extremely delighted when he received the award notification from ASIO. Getting an award at the annual Society of Toxicology conference is a dream for budding toxicologists. This award immensely motivated him to work hard, so that he can further achieve more recognition in the coming days and establish himself as a leading toxicologist in the future.

Mr. Saha is currently a third-year PhD student at the Dept. of Environmental Health Sciences of the University of South Carolina. His lab, directed by Dr. Saurabh Chatterjee, works on various cyanotoxins and their novel mechanisms of toxicity using both In Vivo and In Vitro approaches. They also investigate how these toxins affect various organ systems and their pathophysiology under metabolic conditions like Nonalcoholic Fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In the future, Mr. Saha wants to further explore the role of these toxins in modulating the host's gut microbiome, and how that alteration of intestinal microflora might affect the host via the gut-brain axis. Mr. Saha's current research project involves a cyanotoxin called cylindrospermopsin (CYN), which is known to be a potent protein-synthesis inhibitor. By using a murine model, they wanted to determine whether oral administration of the toxin CYN resulted in any significant alteration of the gut bacteriome pattern in mice (also known as dysbiosis) and further link this dysbiosis to CYN-dependent hepatotoxicity. Although many studies have been conducted previously to elucidate various angles of CYN-toxicity, especially hepatotoxicity, none reported the CYN-mediated altered gut microbiome pattern and a possible link to the hepatotoxicity, which further adds novelty and emphasis to this work.

 

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Chittaranjan Sahu
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education & Research (NIPER)

Dr. Sahu was excited to receive this prestigious award. This award will encourage him as well as allow him to present his research work on an international platform. This will allow him to identify the next steps. This award is a recognition of his research work in toxicology and this support will strengthen his research career in the field of toxicology.

Dr. Sahu's present research work was focused on the adverse impact of the diabetic condition on bisphenol A induced male reproduction dysfunction in animals and humans. These results explored the toxicity of bisphenol A on reproductive health in diabetic conditions. The adverse/toxic effect of bisphenol A toxicity perturbed the testis, epididymis, as well as spermatogenesis processes in diabetic rats.

 

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.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Prathyusha Bagam
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: MSc
Institution/Affiliation: Southern University A&M College

Ms. Bagam was really excited and grateful when she learned that she was the recipient of this award. It is a prestigious honor which will benefit her tremendously in her scientific pursuit. Her first reaction was to call up her mentor- Dr. Sanjay Batra- to thank him for all his support and guidance during these years. Being in the final stages of her graduate studies, attending the national meeting of 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 to a wider audience. Ms. Bagam feels it will be a great opportunity to interact with renowned scientists working in the field of toxicology and she will benefit hugely from the discussions, feedback, and new ideas. Furthermore, she will be able to incorporate these new ideas while finalizing her upcoming original research articles. Recognition from this award will further motivate Ms. Bagam to pursue with high standard of excellence in research and achieve her career goals.

Ms. Bagam works in the field of Pulmonary Immunotoxicity with focus on Inhalation Toxicology. She is interested in determining the effect of cigarette smoke (active and passive smoking) on the mechanism(s) associated with protein homeostasis. To be more specific, her project's focus is to determine the molecular mechanisms associated with the regulation of autophagy mechanism during cigarette smoke exposure using secondhand smoke exposed murine model and in vitro. Autophagy plays a critical role in maintaining cellular homeostasis under stress conditions and her goal is to unravel the critical players of this phenomenon which could be targeted for the development of better therapeutic strategies for pulmonary disorders resulting from smoke exposure. Since not much is known about the pathophysiology of COPD, this could be an interesting pursuit as it might provide answers to the regulators of inflammatory responses as well during exposure to cigarette smoke. The work which Ms. Bagam will be presenting at the SOT Annual Meeting focuses on determining the role of FOXO transcription factors in regulating cigarette smoke induced autophagy in human alveolar epithelial cells. Although the role of FOXO transcription factors in regulating autophagy has been documented earlier, their role and the detailed molecular mechanism during cigarette smoke exposure remains to be fully explored. In this regard, her results demonstrate dysregulated expression of FOXO1 and FOXO3 in response to cigarette smoke challenge. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation, gene knockdown and gene over expression techniques she has nailed down the molecular mechanism which demonstrates essential role of FOXO1 transcription factor in regulating the expression of key autophagy proteins during cigarette smoke exposure. Her results are exciting as they provide a snapshot of the molecular events that are triggered on smoke exposure and augment the autophagic flux in cigarette smoke challenged cells.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Archit Rastogi
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BTech
Institution/Affiliation: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Mr. Rastogi was thrilled to receive the award! The award will enable him to travel to the SOT Meeting, which will be invaluable at this juncture in his career.

Mr. Rastogi's doctoral thesis focuses on discerning how fetal exposures to the environmental toxicants impact health later in life. He won this award for work demonstrating how specific transcription factors are abnormally expressed in the pancreas upon toxicant exposure. This misimpression results in aberrant pancreas structure, which could predispose individuals to diabetes later in life.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Dharmin Rokad
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University

Mr. Rokad was pleased, and felt extremely honored and humbled to learn that he was receiving this award. It will help him in realizing his goals as a young researcher in the field, and will support him at various levels in his journey as a researcher.

Mr. Rokad is currently working on Manganese toxicity with regards to neurological diseases including Parkinson's Disease. He is learning and investigating how Manganese over-exposure leads to neurodegeneration and disease condition. His Ph.D. research focuses on divalent manganese (Mn) interactions with α-Synuclein protein and neurodegeneration. His current project focuses on investigating the molecular mechanisms involved in manganese-induced misfolded α-Synuclein release through exosomes and its relevance to synucleopathies. Occupational and environmental exposure through inhalation and ingestion leads to elevated doses of Mn which can lead to a neurological condition such as Parkinson’s disease and other neurological diseases. Mr. Rokad is currently evaluating the role of manganese in modulating endosomal protein trafficking mechanisms to promote the α-synuclein exosomal release and Parkinson's Disease pathogenesis. Based on these findings, he is planning to identify novel therapeutic targets for Parkinson's Disease.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Sireesha Manne
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: BVSc
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University

Ms. Manne was very glad to receive this award. This is a great opportunity to continue the research and this award will help her to pursue her passion in the toxicology field.

Her current work focuses on developing a diagnostic biomarker for manganese neurotoxicity and to other neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson's and prion diseases. In the current study, she identified exosome-based biomarkers such as aggregated alpha-synuclein and some small RNA changes as potential biomarker value for manganese neurotoxicity. They developed a Real-Time quaking-induced conversion assay to detect the aggregated alpha-synuclein protein in a group of welder's population using serum exosomes.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Sharavan Ramachandran
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Mr. Ramachandran was really overwhelmed and excited to receive this award. It is really a great honor and an acknowledgement for a graduate student like himself to receive this award. It has provided his research a recognition in the global research platform. Moreover, it will foster him to perform qualitative research in the future.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal and malignant disease in the United States with a 5 year survival rate of lower than 5%. In addition, gemcitabine which is currently prescribed for the treatment of pancreatic cancer has become ineffective due to development of gemcitabine resistance by cancer cells. Hence there is a need to design novel therapeutic agents to combat the challenges in pancreatic cancer treatment. Herein their project is focused on deciphering the anti-cancer effects of pimavanserin in pancreatic cancer.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Nehal Gupta
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: M. Pharm
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

She was very excited and enthusiastic after receiving Dr. Harihara Mehendale Graduate Student Best Abstract Award. She would like to thank SOT and ASIO for selecting her for this award. This award offers a tremendous financial support for her to attend the SOT Annual Meeting in 2018. It is an excellent opportunity to meet scientists across the globe and share her work with them, which provided novel insights to her work. Also, Recognition by award committee has boosted her morale to do better work.

Her doctoral dissertation research is focused on breast cancer which affects more than 200,000 women annually in the United States, accounting for 26% of all incident cancers among women. The primary focus of her research study is based on repurposing of an anti-protozoal, anti-malarial drug, atovaquone for the management of breast cancer. They have evaluated the anti-cancer effects of atovaquone in various breast cancer cell lines. Their results demonstrate that oral administration of atovaquone suppressed the growth of CI66 and 4T1 tumors by 70% and 60% respectively. So far, they have observed that atovaquone is efficacious in treating primary and resistant breast tumors. For future studies, they are planning to test atovaquone for its anti-metastatic potential in treating metastasis of breast cancer. Also, they will look for immune modulation by atovaquone in mice having breast cancer.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Souvarish Sarkar
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Iowa State University

He was pleasantly surprised on receiving this award. Receiving the ASIO award as a graduate student validated the importance of his research. It is also an important stepping-stone in realizing his career goal to join academia in the field of toxicology.

He has been fascinated with toxicology research and identifying novel targets for drug discovery. His current focus of work is to elucidate the role of microglial ion channels in neuroinflammation in Parkinson’s disease (PD) models. Recently, he found that one particular channel is highly upregulated in PD animal models as well as postmortem PD brains. He has further showed that in neurotoxin based-animal models of PD, as well as in transgenic mouse models of PD, and in primary cultures, blocking this channel has an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effect. He has utilized both genetic knockdown and PAP-1, a pharmacological inhibitor of Kv1.3 in clinical trial, to show the specificity of the anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effect. He has further identified the key transcriptional regulators and post-translational modifiers of this channel. He has shown that Fyn, a src family kinase directly binds to Kv1.3 modulating its activity. Further, a pharmacological inhibitor, saracatinib, reduces the expression of Kv1.3. The translational potential of this study is significant given that microglial activation has been linked to multiple neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and other protein misfolding neurodegenerative diseases. 

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Diptadip Dattaroy
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of South Carolina

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Hanumantha Rao Madala
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
It was quite a surprising announcement in the ASIO ongoing meeting. He had submitted his abstract and thought someone was awarded and had just forgotten everything but when his name was announced, he was so shocked and felt so proud of his self and the research of his lab. It gave him a lot of confidence and will help him to pursue his dream in research with same hard work and efforts in future as well. Chemo drugs in the market kill everything non-selectively and the compound, KSS72, that we designed in our lab works with selectivity. It kills the cancer cells with around 20 times more selectivity. It's an analog of FDA approved, anti-hypertensive drug, ethacrynic acid. It permeates the brain and showed anticancer efficacy in various mouse models.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Bharat Bhushan
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center
Acetaminophen (APAP) overdose is the foremost cause of acute liver failure (ALF) in the US. Despite decades of research, current treatment options after APAP-overdose are extremely limited. Liver injury after APAP-overdose is subsequently followed by compensatory liver regeneration, which promotes recovery. Preventing liver injury and stimulating liver regeneration are potential strategies to develop novel therapies for APAP-induced ALF. However, mechanisms of APAP-induced liver toxicity or subsequent liver regeneration are not completely understood.The major focus of Dr. Bhushan's research work is to study these mechanisms. In the work that will be presented at the 2016 SOT annual meeting, we investigated role of EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) signaling in APAP-induced ALF. Role of EGFR signaling in APAP-induced liver toxicity and subsequent liver regeneration is completely unknown. In this extremely novel work, we demonstrated that EGFR signaling plays a dual role in APAP overdose and is involved in both initiation of APAP-induced liver injury (via mitochondrial damage) and in stimulating subsequent liver regeneration (via controlling cell cycle). Our work revealed an extremely novel and intriguing mechanisms about how a cell membrane receptor, EGFR, can translocate to mitochondria and cause both cell death or cell proliferation signaling in hepatocytes, in a time dependent manner, during APAP-induced ALF.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Gopi Gadupudi
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Iowa
Mr. Gadupudi's research works involves understanding the toxicity of food-borne chemicals such as PCB126. Specifically, this work involves characterizing the dose and time dependent toxicity of PCB126 in causing metabolic disorders such as diabetes, fatty liver and metabolic syndrome. Moving forward, we would like to understand the mechanisms involved in the PCB or POP induced metabolic disruption. Understanding these mechanisms would definitely aid in identifying adverse effects on human health and risk characterization.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Alok Ranjan
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Mr. Ranjan started his project on brain cancer with a very rational approach. Glioblastoma (Brain cancer) is one of the most malignant and incurable brain cancers. The median survival rate of glioblastoma patients is only 12%. Although, there are several treatment options available but glioblastoma still claims thousands of lives each year. Existing obstacles with current treatment options are (a) Recurrence of tumor within six months after surgical removal (b) Development of resistance to the current chemotherapeutic options available and (c) Inability of the drugs to cross the blood brain barrier. Most of the antipsychotic drugs cross blood brain barrier and reach the brain to provide a relief to the patients with psychotic disorder. This gave us the rationale to test toxic effect of the antipsychotic drugs against glioblastoma. We examined several antipsychotic drugs for their toxic effects against glioblastoma and discovered that penfluridol had significant toxicity against brain cancer cells. His studies also established anti-metastatic potential of penfluridol in several brain metastasis of breast cancer (Alok Ranjan, Parul Gupta and Sanjay Srivastava “Penfluridol: An antipsychotic agent suppresses metastatic tumor growth in triple negative breast cancer by inhibiting integrin signaling axis” Cancer Research 2015). We also observed that chronic treatment of mice with penfluridol was not associated with any toxicity or behavioral side effect. Since penfluridol is an FDA approved drug, the pharmacology, formulation and potential toxicities are already known. Our preclinical studies can fasten the clinical trial and review by Food and Drug Administration. This could bring relief to the patients with highly lethal and resistant brain tumor He has short term and long term goals. His goals are listed below. Short term goals: 1. He wants to have in depth knowledge of cell signaling pathways involved in glioblastoma progression, in vivo models and different skills useful in the research related to glioblastoma. 2. Publish research work in high impact factor journals. Long term goal: 1.After completing his doctoral studies, he wants to establish myself as an independent cancer researcher especially in brain tumor. 2.He wants to open a cancer center where poor or needy people suffering from cancer, who cannot afford expensive bills can get counseling and care at no cost/very low cost.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Amruta Manke
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: West Virginia University
Amruta Manke is a graduate student at West Virginia University and she received the Harihara Mehendale Graduate Student Best Abstract Award for her work entitled, "Role of Stem-like Cells in Carbon Nanotube-Induced Fibrosis." Recent studies have shown that pulmonary exposure to carbon nanotubes (CNT), one of the most widely used nanomaterials in industry, results in rapid and progressive interstitial lung fibrosis in animals without causing persistent lung inflammation, which is normally associated with other known fibrogenic agents. This unusual fibrogenic effect of CNT raises important health issues since the exposure could result in deadly and incurable lung fibrosis. Through her research project which is aimed at investigating the mechanisms for nanomaterial-induced lung toxicity, her lab members hope to identify key nanoparticle characteristics and a set of in vitro screening assays for evaluation of the potential fibrogenicity of carbon nanomaterials (CNTs) in vivo. This study is important since it will enable identification of the molecular and cellular targets involved in associated with CNT induced fibrogenesis which may benefit in detection of novel biomarkers and drug targets. Moreover, the objectives laid out in this study are crucial because of the impact they will have in the area of nano-particle induced pulmonary toxicity as well as in understanding the pathogenesis of CNT induced interstitial fibrosis.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Prajakta Shimpi
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: M.Pharm
Institution/Affiliation: University of Rhode Island
Prajakta Shimpi is a graduate student is a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island and received the Harihara Mehendale Graduate Student Best Abstract Award for her work entitled, "Early Epigenetic Modulation of Nrf2 and Lipogenic Genes by PNPP Exposure of Bisphenol A is Associated with Hepatic Steatosis in Female Mice." The work she is presenting this year focuses on plastic bottle component Bisphenol A. She treats pregnant mice with this compound and studies the effect on the pups. These pups develop fatty liver, which could be a risk factor severe liver condition. She is working on detecting the detailed molecular studies on how exactly bisphenol A affects liver pathways. Interestingly, the effects observed in pups also remain persistent in adult animals, indicating the potential danger these environmental chemicals pose to human health. She wants to continue her work on environmental toxicants, and elucidate mechanistic links of how these toxicants affect liver. The liver is an important organ, which performs several crucial functions in the body. Any chemical or disease that affects liver function is imperative to be studied. In continuing her work on environmental chemicals, she would like to study more and newer chemicals that are being used in larger amounts in the manufacturing industry.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Siva Prasad Bitragunta
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: MSc
Institution/Affiliation: Birla Institute of Technology and Science, India
Siva Prasad Bitragunta is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences at Birla Institute of Technology and Science Pilani, Hyderabad Campus. The vital aspect of his research inheres in application of metabolomics to establish biomarkers of nanoparticle toxicity. He received the Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award for his work entitled “Physicochemical Characterization and Ecotoxicological Evaluation of TiO2 Nanoparticles in Earthworm Eisenia foetida”. The study revealed size dependent toxicity of titanium dioxide nanoparticle in earthworm by modified paper contact method of OECD-207 guidelines. It demonstrated the ability of titanium dioxide nanoparticles to induce oxidative stress in sentinel earthworm. It emphasized the need for review of standard guidelines to ascertain ecotoxicity of nanoparticles. Outcomes of the study will definitely assist in designing risk assessment methods to dispel adverse impacts of nanomaterials on environment. He hopes to be a part of the new dimensions of toxicology in 21st Century in assessing toxic effects of nanomaterials on living systems and environment. He aspires to advance the science of toxicology by integrating ‘omics’ approach to envision the toxicity of nanoparticles in environmental indicator species thereby delineating the impact of nanowaste on various compartments of environment.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Shirisha Chittiboyina
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: School of Public Health, Indiana University Bloomington
Shirisha Chittiboyina is a Graduate Student at the School of Public Health, Indiana University Bloomington and received the Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award for her work entitled “The Role of the Folate Pathway in Pancreatic Cancer Risk.” Her research showed that one of the risk factors for cancer as shown by recent literature is life style determinants like smoking, alcohol consumption and individuals dietary habits. Furthermore, pancreatic cancer especially has been shown to be associated with altered folate metabolism. Her research looked into the genes that are involved in folate metabolism , polymorphisms in these genes and how they affect the risk of pancreatic cancer. This award helps her move one step further towards her scientific goal to identify new therapeutic tools for pancreatic cancer and other cancers as well.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Mansi Krishan
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Cincinnati
Mansi Krishan is a PhD candidate at the University of Cincinnati. She received the Harihara Mehendale Graduate Student Best Abstract Award for her work entitled, “Enhanced Intranasal Delivery of Gemcitabine to the Central Nervous System.” In this study, she and her lab partners used a permeableizer Papaverine to enhance the paracellualr permeability through nasal epithelial tight junctions and delivered significant amount of Gemcitabine to the brain through the nasal route. Receiving this ward will help her pursue her interests in the field of toxicology.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Tejas Lahoti
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: The Pennsylvania State University
Tejas Lahoti is a PhD candidate at Pennsylvania State University and received the Harihara Mehendale Graduate Student Best Abstract Award for his work titled, “Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AHR) Regulates Growth Factor Expression, Proliferation, Protease-dependent Invasion, and Migration in Primary Fibroblast-like Synoviocytes from Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients.” He would like to pursue a postdoctoral position after completing his PhD with a career goal of working in academia to inspire more students to go into research.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Murli Mishra
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Graduate Center for Toxicology, University of Kentucky
Murli Mishra, of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, for his work entitled, “In Silico Methods of Genotoxicity Prediction: Can it be Used Reliably for Prediction of In Vitro/In Vivo Genotoxicity?” His work involves the development of a QSAR model that is able to predict in vivo genotoxicity of compounds. There were a number of models that can predict in vitro genotoxicity, but none of existing model could predict, in vivo genotoxicity. He has joined the PhD program in toxicology at University of Kentucky now and wants to work to increase the reliability of existing computational models, and also would like to work later to develop some computational models of toxicity prediction that are having concordance comparable to existing in vitro and in vivo models of toxicity testing.

Harihara Mehendale Association of Scientists of Indian Origin Student Award Fund

Recipient: Ashwini Phadnis
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: BS, MS
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University
Ashwini Phadnis, of Michigan State University, for his abstract entitled, “Suppression of Activation and Altered BCL-6 Regulation by 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin in Human Primary B Cells.” The overall objective of his work is to determine the effects of a potent environmental contaminant 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) on primary human B cells. Monitoring the effects of this toxicant on human B cells has generalized health implications, especially in determining the sensitivity of these cells to toxicants and understanding the mechanism underlying disruption of normal immune function. He identified BCL-6 as a candidate gene that is involved in disruption activation of human B cells. Upon completion of graduate studies, he plans to pursue postdoctoral research in a field wherein he can integrate genetics and toxicology. As we move towards toxicity testing in the 21st century, He would like to work on and be a contributor to screen potential human health hazards in a high-throughput manner by utilizing in vitro cultures of primary human cells.

Harry W. Hays Memorial Fund

Recipient: SOT Undergraduate Research Awards (SURA) 
Award Year: 2023

The Society of Toxicology (SOT) Undergraduate Student Research Award recognizes outstanding undergraduates who have not yet received their bachelor's degrees and present research at the Annual Meeting. The goal of the award is to foster interest in graduate studies in the field of toxicology. Awardees are selected based on their research and other statements and the nomination of the advisor. Awardees receive national recognition, complimentary meeting registration, and travel and lodging for the SOT Annual Meeting. Each recipient is matched with a mentor for the meeting, recognized during a special event, attends the SOT Undergraduate Education Program, and participates in other meeting activities. In 2023, this program was supported in part by the Harry W. Hays Memorial FundA listing of all 2023 recipients can be located on the 2023 Honors and Awards webpage

Health and Environmental Science Institute Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Student Award Fund

Recipient: Hinaben Agraval
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: National Jewish Health

Dr. Agraval felt very humbled, incredibly thankful, and excited when she received the email confirming that she had been awarded the Health and Environmental Science Institute Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Student Award Fund. This award, the first award of her postdoctoral career, will encourage her immensely to pursue mechanistic toxicology research with a renewed rigor. This award will also provide Dr. Agraval with the opportunity to network with elite toxicologists of the field which is essential for her career growth.

Dr. Agraval's research project involves investigation of the role of electronic cigarettes and tobacco smoke in airway innate immunity and host defense against pathogens. Her current research work that got her this award has, for the very first time, revealed the direct and detrimental effect of electronic cigarette exposure on viral infections in human distal lung, a major site of tissue inflammation and destruction in patients with COPD and emphysema. In future, Dr. Agraval hopes to explore underlying detailed molecular mechanisms of electronic cigarette smoke induced dysfunction of host defense against airborne pathogens.

 

Health and Environmental Science Institute Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Student Award Fund

Recipient: Brandon Lewis
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Dr. Lewis was very thankful to receive this award as it will help propel his scientific career. He would like to thank the SOT Immunotoxicology Specialty Section for this generous award. 

Dr. Lewis utilizes both animal and human primary cell models of severe allergic airway inflammation in order to elucidate possible mechanisms of corticosteroid sensitivity. In the current project, the active metabolite of vitamin D 3 was used to enhance corticosteroid sensitivity. His future goals are to lead an independent research program. 

 

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.

Health and Environmental Science Institute Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Student Award Fund

Recipient: Thea Golden
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: PharmD, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Golden is very grateful to be the recipient of this award. She is excited to present her work at SOT and receive valuable feedback from experts in the field of immunotoxicology. Her research is beginning to focus on environmental causes of in-utero alterations and it is ideal timing to speak with toxicologists.

Recently it has become evident that alterations during fetal development can have lasting effects on offspring health. In Dr. Golden's laboratory, she focuses on intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) leading to development of type 2 diabetes and obesity in the adult. The research she will present at SOT identifies immune populations altered in the pancreas following IUGR and suggests their direct involvement in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. Having identified critical windows of susceptibility and populations deleterious to the pancreas, she now is exploring various environmental insults during fetal development that also result in pancreatic inflammation and subsequent development of type 2 diabetes.

Health and Environmental Science Institute Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Student Award Fund

Recipient: Alessandro Venosa
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PharmD, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Pennsylvania

Considering the high quality work presented by trainees every year, receiving such a prestigious award from SOT makes Dr. Venosa feel no less than electrified. It is an honor to be recognized for the quality of his work. In honesty, this award has an extra special meaning because it acknowledges the progress of his postdoctoral training. The positive feedback from leading experts in the field fuels his motivations to move forward in his path to independence and be the best scientist he can be.

His research explores new mechanisms regulating pulmonary fibrogenesis using a model of surfactant protein-C dysfunction (I73T). The main goals of his studies, described in his SOT abstract, are 1) to describe their new transgenic model of surfactant dysfunction; 2) to characterize the role of resident and infiltrating immune cells in the injury; 3) establish the presence of an immune-epithelial cell crosstalk in the pathogenesis of disease. The ultimate goal of this project is to temporally and spatially characterize these cellular subsets, and aid the development of a targeted therapy to delay/reverse the progression of this condition.

Health and Environmental Science Institute Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Student Award Fund

Recipient: Anthony Franchini
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Rochester

Dr. Franchini's initial reaction to receiving the HESI Young Investigator award was glee mixed with disbelief. As a recent convert to the field of immunotoxicology, and while he has great respect for the field, he did not expect to be lauded with such an honor. Last year was his first chance to attend an SOT Annual Meeting and he was not disappointed. His greatest takeaway from that meeting was whom he met and conversations sparked during the poster sessions and the effect it had on the direction of his project. Building his professional network is a major priority at this time in his career, and the assemblage of scientists at SOT each year represents the best opportunity to do just that. It is his hope to continue to build on those relationships this year and start new ones. Receiving the award presented the greatest opportunity to better his understanding of the field of immunotoxicology and keep abreast of advancement in the field that will directly influence his work and thinking now and in the near future. The focus of his current project is to better understand how pollutants affect the ability of our immune system and its ability to response to viral infection. Specifically, the focus is on the role of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) within dendritic cells, a critical cell type that binds viral antigens and are required for initiating adaptive immune responses which ultimately control and clear the infection. His group had previously shown that exposure to chemicals that bind the AHR dampen the immune response, and this was traced back to the AHR's activity within the dendritic cell population. His research has built on this to investigate the exact mechanism by which this occurs. He's found that AHR activation lessens the ability of dendritic cells to attract T cells to them, via a protein called CCL17, a necessary step in presenting these immune cells with antigen and activating them to clear the infection. He also has uncovered evidence that lung dendritic cells less well equipped to pick up viral antigens because AHR activation reduces expression of a receptor called DC-SIGN. Furthermore, his work has expanded to work with human dendritic cells, where he has shown that similar changes derived from the mouse model are also seen in human dendritic cells after AHR activation.

Health and Environmental Science Institute Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Student Award Fund

Recipient: Edmund O'Brien
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: L'Oreal

Edmund O'Brien is a Postdoctoral Fellow with L'Oreal and received the HESI Young Investigator Endowment Award for his work entitled, "Inhalation of the Reactive Aldehyde Acrolein Promotes Antigen Sensitization and Enhances Allergic Responses to Ovalbumin." His work dealt with asthma development and asthma severity following inhalation of acrolein, an aldehyde present in tobacco smoke. This research demonstrated that acrolein modestly enhances asthma development and neutrophilia in the lung. He believes his research, when combined with previous studies from his lab, determined that acrolein exposure can have dramatically different effects on pulmonary inflammation associated with asthma depending on when acrolein exposure takes place during disease development. When applying this research to human exposures, the data suggest that the initial stages of asthma development are more affected by acrolein exposure. By applying this research to human health, limiting acrolein or tobacco smoke exposure during early postnatal development may aid it preventing pulmonary diseases like asthma, thus making a healthier world.

Health and Environmental Science Institute Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Student Award Fund

Recipient: Fenna Sille
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of California Berkeley

Fenna Sille is a Postdoctoral Scholar at University of California Berkeley and received the HESI Young Investigator Endowment Award for her work entitled, "Arsenic and innate immunity: macrophage function upon arsenic exposure." She and her team hypothesized that arsenic ingestion permanently impacts the development of the immune system and increases the risks of cancer and TB later in life. They focused on the effects of arsenic on macrophages, immune cells known to influence tumor and TB progression and analyzed the secretion of various signaling molecules including cytokines, chemokines and lipids, as well as the capacity to control an M. tuberculosis infection. She says that her long-term research goal is to clarify the immunological mechanisms underlying chronic diseases and global infectious diseases caused by early-life environmental exposures. With her research, she aims to identify potential targets for intervention to reduce the burden of disease in exposed communities. Ultimately, she hopes her research will provide critical insights into desperately needed prevention strategies in order to create a safer and healthier world, right from the start of life.

Health and Environmental Science Institute Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Student Award Fund

Recipient: Mili Mandal
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University
Mili Mandal is a postdoctoral candidate at Rutgers University and she received the Health and Environmental Science Institute Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Travel Award for her work entitled, “Spleen as a Source of Inflammatory Macrophages: Role in Acetaminophen-induced Hepatotoxicity.” Her work involved Acetaminophen (APAP), a widely used over the counter pain-killer and fever reducer. At therapeutic doses, it is considered safe and effective; however, toxic doses leads to hepatotoxicity, which is by far the most common cause of acute liver failure in the US and the UK. Monocytes/macrophages, cells of innate immune system have been shown to play an important role in APAP-induced hepatotoxicity. However, the origin of these cells has not been established. Splenic monocytes/macrophages have been shown to accumulate at inflammatory sites following tissue injury. In the present studies, Dr. Mandal and her colleagues analyzed the contribution of splenic monocytes/macrophages to liver inflammation and injury induced by APAP. Her data demonstrate, for the first time, a role of the spleen as a reservoir for proinflammatory monocytes/macrophages in APAP-induced hepatotoxicity. Moreover, in the absence of these splenic inflammatory monocyte/macrophage populations, liver injury is reduced. These findings are novel and expand our knowledge of monocytes/macrophages function, fate, and influx to liver in acute inflammation during APAP-induced hepatotoxicity, which can have significant therapeutic implications. Her ultimate career goal is to become an independent scientist in the field of immuno-toxicology working in a university environment. Her long-term research interests involve understanding the role of Th17 cells and their interaction with other innate and adaptive immune cells as well as inflammatory mediators in chronic liver inflammation.

Health and Environmental Science Institute Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Student Award Fund

Recipient: David Blake
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Fort Lewis College
David Blake, of Fort Lewis College, for his work entitled, “Sulforaphane Restores Histone Deacetylase Activity in Human Epithelial Cells Exposed to Cigarette Smoke Resulting in Decreased Cytokine Production.” His research project focused on the inflammatory effects of cigarette smoke on human cells. He characterized a compound, sulforaphane, which is found in broccoli that has anti-inflammatory effects in vitro. He hopes to identify how this compound works at the cellular level. He hopes to go on to graduate school next year with the goal of creating an environmental health program in the Four Corners region by teaching toxicology and immunology to undergraduate students in the program.

Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists Award Fund

Recipient: Catalina Cobos-Uribe
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ms. Cobos-Uribe was very excited to receive this award. This was the first time she has received an award from the Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists. She will use this travel award to cover the travel expenses for SOT 2023.

The project with which Ms. Cobos-Uribe won this award has to do with the complex chemical mixtures that e-cigarette users are continuously inhaling. With this pipeline she was able to identify various exogenous compounds (in addition to nicotine) in the upper airways of e-cigarette users. Her future research will focus on establishing the biological effects of these chemicals.

 

Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists Award Fund

Recipient: Natalia Pascuali
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois-Chicago

Dr. Pascuali was delighted to receive this recognition of her work. This award has encouraged her to continue working hard and also has made her feel valued and included in this wonderful society. Coming from a developing country like Argentina, this award is huge for Dr. Pascuali. The award has allowed her to travel to SOT 2023 and present her work in front of many colleagues from all over the world. Their feedback and career advice will prove instrumental to Dr. Pascuali in the years to follow.

Dr. Pascuali's work focuses on describing the alterations that the compound tributyltin causes in ovarian cells. This is important because tributyltin can be found anywhere (including food and human tissues) and it affects lipid metabolism. Characterizing the way tributyltin dysregulates ovarian lipids (which are key to producing hormones) can help understand possible damaging effects to fertility. In this study, Dr. Pascuali analyzed mouse ovaries exposed to tributyltin using a state-of-the-art approach called MALDI-TOF MSI that allowed her to visualize different lipids and how abundant they were in different ovarian compartments. She found several lipid dysregulations caused by this chemical. Dr. Pascuali's results will pave the way to identify the mechanisms by which tributyltin affects ovarian function. 

 

Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists Award Fund

Recipient: Christian Zamora Gonzalez
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Cinvestav

This is Mr. Zamora Gonzalez's very first SOT Meeting ever, and he was so happy to receive this award. Currently in Mexico, people are living through some huge economic issues, so this award means a huge monetary help for him to have this amazing experience. He hopes to compete in the future for additional funding, and thanks SOT for creating this opportunity.

Temephos is a chemical compound which is highly recommended by some public institutions, like WHO and EPA, for larvae mosquito elimination. At lower concentrations than they recommend, they observed some toxic effects in the female reproductive system, more specifically in both embryo development and implantation, as well as fetal development. In summary, their results suggest that a chemical compound considered safe may impair some reproductive outcomes, as well as some newborn detrimental effects, due to the intrauterine growth restriction (related with too many developmental effects in children). His future goals in this work are to complete the "story" of the Temephos toxicity: he would love to learn how to work with embryos, do some in vitro research, as well as to learn and apply modern reproductive research techniques that in Mexico they do not have. Additionally, an important researcher from the University of Illinois invited Christian to her university to learn some of the techniques that they are lacking in Mexico. This might mean that he could do hist postdoc with her or her colleagues. However, step by step... Christian's specific research is Female Research and Embryo Development in the Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists (HOT) Special Interest Group. 

 

James A. Swenberg Carcinogenesis Merit Award Fund

Recipient: Wentao Li
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Georgia

Dr. Li is deeply pleased and honored to receive this prestigious award. He is grateful for the recognition and support from the James A. Swenberg Carcinogenesis Merit Award Fund. The financial assistance that this award provides will enable him to learn about the latest and most relevant environmental health science by attending the annual SOT meeting, and that will be very helpful for conducting his research. 

The research in Dr. Li's laboratory focuses on the role of DNA damage and repair in mutagenesis and carcinogenesis caused by environmental carcinogens such as UV, cigarette smoke, and mycotoxin. His contributions to the field of carcinogenesis lie in the development of a method that can be used for mapping all DNA damages processed by nucleotide excision repair and his research work on the mechanism of this repair pathway. Dr. Lis has a long-standing desire to understand the mechanisms of DNA damage and repair, and, particularly, the role of DNA damage and repair in mutagenesis and carcinogenesis. He will use the newly developed method to identify the precise locations of DNA damage and to measure the repair efficiencies at those DNA damage locations. He would like to determine how factors influence both the induction of DNA damage formation and the efficiency of repair. Findings from these studies may improve the prevention strategies for environmental carcinogenesis and contribute to the development of new tools for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

 

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.

James Bond-Michele Medinsky Graduate Student Development Temporary Fund

Recipient: Graduate Internship Fellowship in Toxicology Program  
Award Year: 2023

Description: Immersion in internships provides students with a unique appreciation of the day-to-day activities of toxicologists and paths for career success in industry, government, and nonprofit organizations. Such opportunities can help students establish their professional network, build confidence in career choices, and ultimately better prepare to transition into these employment sectors upon graduation.

In 2023, the James Bond-Michele Medinsky Graduate Student Development Temporary Fund supported an internship award through the Graduate Intern Fellowship in Toxicology (GIFT) program.  The GIFT program offers graduate students funding to engage in internships within industry, government, and nonprofit organizations. This program enables outstanding doctoral students to pursue an internship in toxicology that advances their professional and scientific development.

James Bond-Michele Medinsky Graduate Student Development Temporary Fund

Recipient: Graduate Intern Fellowship in Toxicology Program 
Award Year: 2022

Immersion in internships provides students with a unique appreciation of the day-to-day activities of toxicologists and paths for career success in industry, government, and nonprofit organizations. Such opportunities can help students establish their professional network, build confidence in career choices, and ultimately better prepare to transition into these employment sectors upon graduation.

In 2022, the James Bond-Michele Medinsky Graduate Student Development Temporary Fund supported an internship award through the Graduate Intern Fellowship in Toxicology (GIFT) program, which was chronicled in a Communiqué Blog.  The GIFT program offers graduate students funding to engage in internships within industry, government, and nonprofit organizations. This program enables outstanding doctoral students to pursue an internship in toxicology that advances their professional and scientific development. 

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Yunqi An
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers University

Dr. An was clueless about winning this prize and it came as complete amazement. The only thing she can express is her sincere gratitude. Dr. An believes this is one of the most important honors of her professional career and she is grateful to all the people who helped her. This award will encourage her to continue working on her thesis project and present her research to other scientists. 

Dr. An's research focuses on the effects and mechanisms of different xenobiotics-induced toxicity in various human cells. In the future, Dr. An would like to become a toxicologist to apply what she has learned in graduate school in the industry. The present study characterizes the DDR signaling in human keratinocytes exposed to UVB. Taken together, Dr. An has found that UVB activated DDR signaling in human keratinocytes; expression of activated DDR proteins was cell cycle-dependent and UVB-induced oxidative stress independent. Induction of the DDR response in the cells is due to double-strand DNA breaks as a consequence of the repair of DNA photoproducts. The results of these studies will identify the role of oxidative stress and DNA damage responses in UVB-induced toxicity in human keratinocytes and provide a better understanding of the mechanisms of UV light carcinogenesis. Defining mechanisms of UVB-induced DNA repair will be critical for understanding processes leading to skin tumor formation. 

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Shan Liu
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: New York University

Dr. Liu is very excited and grateful for receiving this award. It is not only financial support but also a big encouragement for her research. She will spend the award on her travel to the SOT Annual Meeting so she can share her study with other scientists.

Dr. Liu's research is focusing on investigating the underlying mechanism of heavy-metal-induced cancer. Her future goal is to be a professor at a university. The specific research for which she won this award is identifying Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) as mediators of nickel-induced cancer progression. EVs are lipid-bound vesicles released by all types of cells. They are one of the ways cells send messages (nucleus, proteins, and lipids) to each other. Under normal conditions, cells do not produce many EVs, because they don't have many "messages" to share with each other. However, when cells undergo stress or pathological changes, cells may release an increased number of EVs. In her study, Dr. Liu found that Ni-exposed cells release a significantly higher number of EVs compared to unexposed cells. Recipient cells have a preference for uptaking Ni-altered EVs, and these EVs can induce inflammation in the recipient cells. 

 

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Lei Zhang
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Ms. Zhang was so excited when she received the award notification because she won't be eligible to apply for this student award in the future as she is going to graduate this summer. She is so grateful to AACT to give her this prestigious award. Ms. Zhang hasn't yet thought about how to spend this money but is very likely to spend it on an iPad. 

Ms. Zhang's research interests have been focusing on investigating the mechanism of diseases (mainly cancer) and developing drugs, which include characterizing their toxicities and side effects. She is currently investigating piperlongumine, another well-studied natural product with anticancer activities that also may act as an NR4A1 ligand. Piperlongumine is a phytochemical produced from long pepper that was identified in a library screen of natural products as a potent inhibitor of cancer cell and tumor growth via induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Many of the responses and genes modulated by piperlongumine are similar to those reported for bis-indole-derived compounds (CDIMs) that bind nuclear receptor 4A1 (NR4A1, Nur77). Ms. Zhang is eager to combine the knowledge and research experience to contribute to drug development and investment decisions in the company and to bring truly effective cancer treatment drugs to the market and save more lives in the future. 

 

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Karen Chiu
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Chiu was really honored and grateful to be awarded AACT Jean Lu Scholarship. She thanks SOT, her PI, her labmates, and collaborators for their support and guidance. The scholarship will be used to support her tuition fees in graduate school. 

Her doctoral work examines the impact of a chemical, called di-isononyl phthalate, commonly used to make plastics soft and durable and its impact on the gut. Specifically, she examines the impact of DiNP exposure on the large intestine from an immunological, endocrine, and microbial perspective, which was be presented at SOT in San Diego. Her future goal is to bridge her toxicology expertise with patent law. 

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Hannah Xu
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: The University of Georgia

Ms. Xu was ecstatic upon receiving this award because it will help her travel to the 2022 SOT conference. Attending the conference will elevate her research by exposing her to the most cutting-edge technologies, ideas, discoveries, and critical feedback on her current work.

Ms. Xu's research includes testing potential food additives and supplements that may have adverse health effects by examining microbiome changes and determining whether these changes influence the overall health of vulnerable populations. Her future goal is to evaluate the changes in mechanisms due to chemicals of health importance. Her current project focuses on assessing the toxicity of nanocellulose on health. Microbiome analysis indicated that starch, sucrose, fructose metabolism, as well as many lipid-processing functions such as glycosphingolipid metabolism and biosynthesis might increase after nanocellulose ingestion. Changes in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism may directly impact glucose homeostasis. Additionally, changes in glycosphingolipids may alter neuron and certain immune cell functions. Therefore, the effects of nanocellulose on glucose homeostasis, immunity, and cognition were further evaluated in a type I diabetic model.

 

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.

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Liang Chi
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mr. Chi was so excited when he learned he had received the American Association of Chinese in Toxicology SIG Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award. It is a huge honor for him and an important approval for his PhD study. It will encourage him to study more in the future.

Mr. Chi's studies mainly focused on the functional interactions between gut microbiota and arsenic exposure. His study reveals that gut microbiota can modulate arsenic bioavailability and biotransformation which could protect the host against arsenic toxicity. But chronic arsenic exposure can perturb normal gut microbiota and cause community dysbiosis, which will affect host health and disease outcomes. He found that transplanting arsenic-exposed gut microbiota to healthy mice could induce glucose intolerance in mice, which is associated with the disturbed intestinal bile acid signals.

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Jun Zhou
Award Year: 2019
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Georgia

Dr. Zhou was very glad to receive this valuable award, which was originally endowed by Dr. Frank Lu and his wife Ms. Jean Lu. It will always remind him in his career path that he should work as a bridge to line-up people of different cultures, ethnic backgrounds and various fields, in order to better serve people, while pursuing his personal research.

He used high-throughput techniques and omics methods to investigate how xenobiotics and nutrients can impact on metabolisms in different aspects. In the future he will focus on high-throughput toxicology. A large number of studies have investigated the impacts of toxins, toxicants and nutrients on human metabolic and endocrine status. However, the modifying effects of various xenobiotics on gut-microbiota dependent metabolisms, as well as associated metabolic and endocrine status are less known. Dietary exposure to major food-borne mycotoxin aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) is associated with a wide range of severe health problems in human, including metabolic syndrome, liver steatosis, liver cirrhosis, and dysbiosis etc. But the alterations of gut-microbiota induced by AFB1 has never been well studied. The work to be presented in SOT 2019 would be about gut-microbiota dependent metabolisms in Aflatoxin B1-treated rat model.

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Danqi Chen
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: Ph.D.
Institution/Affiliation: NEW YORK UNIVERSITY

She was very excited to receive this award. Receiving this award means a lot to her: First, it is shown her work is recognized by many people. She made some academic achievement in the field of toxicology. Second, it offers her more opportunity to communicate with other toxicologists in SOT. Third, she can use the stipend to cover her travel expenses for attending SOT.

Formaldehyde is an environmental and occupational chemical carcinogen, which was classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as Group 1 carcinogen. Formaldehyde exposure causes human nasopharyngeal cancer and is linked to leukemia. Formation of DNA adducts has been considered a key event in formaldehyde-induced carcinogenesis. However, recent studies demonstrated that the amount of DNA adducts caused by exogenous formaldehyde exposure in rat nasal were only modestly increased compared to the level of adducts formed by endogenous formaldehyde. Moreover, the DNA adducts caused by exogenous formaldehyde were not detectable in bone marrow of animals exposed to formaldehyde. These findings have raised questions about the role of genetic damage in formaldehyde-induced carcinogenesis and prompted the possibility that epigenetic mechanisms may contribute to formaldehyde-mediated carcinogenicity. In her study, she first time demonstrates that formaldehyde readily forms adducts with histones in cells and dramatically decreases lysine acetylation of the cytosolic histones H3 and H4 at the sites critical for histone nuclear import and chromatin assembly. The assembly of histone H3 into chromatin is compromised following formaldehyde exposure, resulting in changes in chromatin accessibility and transcription. Interestingly, a number of tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes that are related to head and neck cancer and/or hematological neoplasia are identified as formaldehyde-responsive genes mediated by blocking chromatin assembly. Moreover, inhibition of chromatin assembly led to the enhanced formaldehyde-mediated anchorage-independent growth of cells. Her study reveals impaired chromatin assembly as a potential novel mechanism of formaldehyde-induced carcinogenesis. This would be the first report demonstrating an established carcinogen induces cell transformation through blocking chromatin assembly pathway. Importantly, other electrophilic carcinogens such as acetaldehyde could have similar mechanisms and effects. Her study thus has the potential to shed new light on the molecular basis of chemical carcinogenesis.

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Kathy Xue
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Georgia

She is very happy to receive this award. This is a rare opportunity to showcase her PhD research work and will have important impact on her on-going research and future career. Her research works, for which she won the award, focuses on studying toxic effects of naturally occurring foodborne contaminants (mycotoxins), especially for aflatoxins and fumonisins, on animal and human health, as well as their roles in contributing to cancer risks. Co-contamination of aflatoxins and fumonisins has been found world-wide, detectable in many food items, particularly in corn and corn products. Aflatoxins are known cancer causing agents in humans and can cause human liver cancer, while fumonisins are shown to be cancer promoting agents in animal models, and was associated with increased risk of human esophageal cancer.

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Xiao Xiao
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Massachusetts Amherst

The purpose of Mr. Xiao's research is to determine the role of permethrin, a pyrethroid insecticide, on development of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Permethrin is a structural analog of pyrethrin, a naturally occurring pyrethroid insecticide from Chrysanthemum flower heads, accounting 17% of the world insecticide uses in 2013 and more than 60% of pyrethroids. Human exposure to permethrin is very likely to occur through food chain contamination and direct application to control ectoparasites. Concurrently, the rising rate of obesity and type 2 diabetes cannot be explained fully by considering changes in diet, lifestyle or genetics of individuals, suggesting the need to investigate other factors that may be involved in this disease outbreak. An increasing number of scientific studies have suggested a potential link between insecticide exposure and the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes. His research will help to fill the current knowledge gap between insecticide exposure and alteration of glucose and lipid metabolism. The research that helped him win the Jean Lu student award was determination of the role of permethrin and its interaction with dietary fat on development of obesity and diabetes in mice. This will be the first in vivo study determining the role of permethrin and development of obesity and type 2 diabetes. We tested three doses of permethrin, between acceptable daily intake and chronic no observed effect levels, in low-fat fed and high-fat fed mice for 12 weeks. Our results showed that permethrin treatment significantly increased weight gain, fat mass, and insulin resistance in high-fat fed groups, but no significant effect were observed in low-fat fed animals. These results suggest that increased dietary fat may have contributed to effects of permethrin in altered lipid and glucose metabolism. His next goal is to investigate detailed mechanism of how permethrin exposure, interacting with dietary fat, caused weight gain and insulin resistance by using a cell culture model.

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Marlene T. Kim
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: BS Biochemistry
Institution/Affiliation: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Marlene T. Kim is a graduate student at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and received the Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award for her work entitled, "From Individual Datasets to Big Data: Developing Mechanism-Driven Predictive Liver Toxicity Models." Compounds that are both biologically and chemically similar are considered likely to have similar toxicity mechanisms/effects. By calculating the biochemical similarity between two compounds based on common in vitro response profiles and chemical features (i.e., toxicophores), the similarity value can be used to determine the potential toxicity. She developed an automated workflow for predicting and modeling animal toxicity using in vitro data and chemical descriptors. The workflow consists of three major stages: 1) Creating a biological and chemical profile. Compound identifiers (e.g., CID or CASRN) are input into an in-house automated profiling tool, which retrieves bioassays [from public big data sources] and generates chemical descriptors, and outputs the biological and chemical profile. 2) Calculating the biological and chemical similarity between each pair of compounds. A Weighted Estimate of Biological Similarity (WEBS) tool was developed to read bioassay responses and calculate the biological similarity between pairs of compounds. Compounds are grouped based on common chemical features (e.g., toxicophores and fragments). Then, the WEBS for each pair of compounds in these chemical groups are calculated. 3) Predicting the toxicity of an unknown compound. The toxicity predictions are based on the average activities (toxicity values) of the nearest neighbor(s), which are similar compounds based on the biochemical similarity found in stage 2. This project embodies the SOT’s emphasis on the 3R’s: replacing, reducing, and refining animal tests. Her study focuses on improving the in vitro and in vivo relationship between cell-based assay responses and a targeted animal toxicity endpoint to replace the use of animal tests.

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Chuanwen Lu
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University
Chuanwen Lu is a Graduate Student at Texas Tech University and received the Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award his work entitled “CRM1: A Characteristic Feature of the Transformed Phenotype in Lung Carcinogenesis and a Potential Target for Lung Cancer Treatment.” His research showed that CRM1 plays an important role in lung cancer development, and that CRM1 overexpression is cooperating with p53 phosphorylation in cell transformation, which is a crucial step in lung carcinogenesis. Along with his previous findings, hisresults suggest that CRM1 may serve as a novel target and its combination treatment with other chemotherapy drugs may provide a promising basis for clinical trials on lung cancer treatment. In the future he hopes to do more work in regard to toxicology and benefit for the people's health and the environment.

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Weimin Chen
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: PhD candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Michigan State University
Weimin Chen is a PhD candidate of Michigan State University and she received the Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award for her work entitled, “Modulation of HIVgp120-Specific T Cell Responses by Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol In Vitro and In Vivo.” Her project focuses on studying the effects of marijuana-derived compounds, known as cannabinoids, on immune responses to HIV viral antigens. 25% HIV patients use marijuana for nausea, pain and wasting syndrome associated with HIV infection; however, the effects of these cannabinoids on immune system and immune function of immunocompromised HIV patients is not well understood. Cannabinoids are known to have immunomodulatory effects. Therefore, she is establishing mouse models to induce HIV viral antigen-specific immune responses and investigating the effects of cannabinoids on the responses. This award will help further her PhD research and provide financial support for her to attend scientific meetings to present her research and meet other colleagues in the field.

Jean Lu Student Scholarship Award Fund

Recipient: Tongde Wu
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arizona
Tongde Wu, of the University of Arizona, for his work entitled, “Xbp1 and Nrf2: At the Crossroads of Endoplastic Reticulum Stress and Oxidative Stress.” His work aims to reveal the delicate molecular mechanism that underlies signaling pathways and use them as a model system to guide further medical practice and applications. Investigation of the mechanisms of coordinate regulation will not only shed light on principles of stress response, but may also lead to new approaches to the treatment of stress related diseases. He is hopeful that his understanding in molecular toxicology will eventually turn into a powerful tool, which can provide people a better way to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease.

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Lucie Ford
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Ms. Ford was very honored and excited to receive this award. She has learned a lot about risk assessment throughout her graduate career and has been implementing it into her research to provide more context for real-life applications in regulatory science. Therefore, receiving the Risk Assessment award was very exciting to know that her research is being recognized by those working in Risk Assessment. This award will help financially support Ms. Ford's future engagement with SOT at the annual meetings and she will seek other professional development opportunities to learn more about risk assessment, that can then be applied to her graduate research. She is very excited to attend and present her research at the 2023 SOT Annual Meeting. 

Ms. Ford's research as a graduate student focuses on using different in vitro models, both population-based models and various organotypic models to investigate inter-individual variability and identify potential organ-specific toxicities. She uses these different in vitro models to screen environmental chemicals and defined mixtures that model real-life exposure scenarios to identify potential effects following exposures. She plans to use the knowledge that she has gained throughout her graduate education to pursue a career in industry. Ms. Ford's goal is to apply her knowledge in assessing inter-individual variability as well as investigating mixtures, as these aspects are often overlooked in regulatory science. The specific research that she will be presenting at SOT and for which she received the John Doull Risk Assessment Endowment Award studies the potential effects of a library of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) using a compendium of human cell lines from various organs. She used the bioactivity data to help group and prioritize these chemicals, which can be used in future applications for PFAS studies. 

 

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Pavani Gonnabathula
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: NCTR-USFDA

Dr. Gonnabathula is extremely thankful and honored to be chosen for this award. As a postdoctoral fellow, she feels receiving this award brings not only a recognition but also gave more motivation for future research. She hopes this award brings an opportunity to network with an eminent researcher in the future. 

Dr. Gonnabathula's research mainly focuses on developing and applying physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) models of COVID19 relevant drugs for special population (perinatal life stages) to ensure safety and efficacious doses. Physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modeling is a computational approach that accounts for the dynamic physiological changes of the perinatal period and evaluates its impact on drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) to inform appropriate dose adjustments. The current study focused on development of Paxlovid (Nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) adult PBPK model and extrapolation to special population for modeling-based predictions.

 

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Chao Ji
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Indiana University Bloomington

Dr. Ji is honored to be a recipient of the John Doull Risk Assessment Endowment Award. This award plays a crucial role in supporting the academic pursuits of young investigators to advance the field of environmental health risk assessment. This prestigious support from John Doull Endowment Fund gives her the chance to share their innovative scientific research work on genomic dose response modeling supporting the chemical risk assessment in the upcoming SOT meeting. This also gives her a unique chance to communicate with and learn from the other experts in the environmental health risk assessment field. She would like to sincerely thank organizers for giving her the opportunity to receive this award. She looks forward to showing her gratitude by contributing to their risk assessment community in the future, to educate and nurture young researchers, and to ensure future leaders in the risk assessment are continually supported for their passion and efforts.

Chemical risk assessment is widely applied in industries and regulatory agencies as an important tool to evaluate chemical toxicity in support of chemical registration, safety evaluation, and the development of regulatory exposure limit. However, the gap between the number of existing and newly introduced chemicals and limited capacity of comprehensive safety evaluation highlights the limitation of the traditional animal based toxicological assessment. Therefore, with the purpose of prioritizing potential chemicals for further in-depth toxicological research and evaluation, the National Toxicology Program started a major initiative to develop a high throughput screening program. Following this trend, they utilized the Bayesian method to develop a web-based dose-response modeling and benchmark dose (BMD) estimation system, Bayesian BMD (BBMD) (https://benchmarkdose.com), for utilizing genomic data. Different from the algorithm of the existing software, BBMD uses Bayesian model average method to account model uncertainty, which provides reliable results. Besides, the genomic BBMD system provides a user-friendly option in data storage and data sharing, and all the analyses through BBMD are automatically stored and are accessible for future usage or sharing. The ultimate goal of this research is to fill multiple gaps that hamper the large-scale adoption of genomic BMD methodology in industry and government, and contribute a user-friendly and reliable genomic BMD estimation system, BBMD, to greatly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of toxicity evaluation of chemicals. 

 

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Kruuttika Satbhai
Award Year: 2022
Current Degrees: MS, PhD Candidate
Institution/Affiliation: Texas Tech University

Ms. Satbhai was elated upon receiving the award notification and felt incredibly grateful and honored. Her co-authors were also very happy to hear about the news. This award has provided recognition to their research and serves as a great motivation and encouragement to continue her research in Toxicology. The monetary reward will help her to cover expenses for the annual SOT conference as well as contribute towards the completion of an online course that will help to further her understanding of modelling concepts in the field of toxicology.

In the project that was selected for this award, they compared the toxicity of PFOA, and its replacement GenX using zebrafish larvae as an in vivo model. Various biological endpoints, such as survival, hatching success, swimming behavior, and uptake and elimination rates of both the chemicals were evaluated. The uptake and elimination kinetics were assessed using experimental data and modelling data, which were both found to be comparable. The findings of their study demonstrate that GenX was less toxic than PFOA according to the exposure effect concentrations. However, accounting for differences in bioconcentrations led to similar GenX and PFOA internal effect concentrations, suggesting similar toxic potencies. Further research is needed for a better understanding of the true safety of the replacement PFAS chemicals introduced as “safer alternatives.” As an immediate next step, Ms. Satbhai would like to pursue a postdoctoral degree and assess PBPK dynamics in the presence of chemical mixtures. She would also like to characterize and conduct a risk assessment of environmental-relevant chemical mixtures using aquatic ecosystems. Over the years, she would like to become a good scientist and an environmental toxicologist.

 

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.

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Sarah Burnett
Award Year: 2020
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Ms. Burnett was honored to receive the John Doull Endowment Award from the Risk Assessment Specialty Section (RASS). The award would have allowed her to travel to and present her research at the 2020 SOT Annual Meeting, but as it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she was thankful for the opportunity to instead present this work at the RASS Virtual Awards Ceremony. She was excited to share this research with the scientific community and gain feedback to advance both the research and her career. She finds it exciting and rewarding to see other scientists interested in their work, and receiving this award encourages her to continue pursuing impactful research.

The primary focus of Ms. Burnett's research is assessing the adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, a known major safety liability of pharmaceutical compounds, and the potential for cardiotoxicity during drug development. Due to the lack of routine cardiotoxicity testing of non-pharmaceutical compounds, thousands of environmental chemicals (pesticides, flame retardants, plastics, etc.) remain untested for their potential cardiovascular adverse effects. Her research aims to assess the cardiotoxicity hazard of environmental chemicals in vitro by using a population of human iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes. Their results showed that various environmental chemicals affect the beating parameters of iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes with varied potencies and degrees of population variability. This research demonstrates the feasibility of using a population-based organotypic model for high-throughput cardiotoxicity screening. Ms. Burnett's long-term research interest is in advancing human health risk assessment by utilizing and developing alternative methods for safety evaluation.

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Samantha Faber
Award Year: 2018
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Dr. Faber was ecstatic to win such a prestigious award, which will help her to pursue her career goals as a toxicologist.

Her research is focused on development and characterization of a novel in vitro model of the airway for the purpose of investigating lung physiology and disease. Her future goals are to assess the influence of the stroma in manifestation of lung disease and dysfunction. Her research into utilizing this novel transepithelial exposure model to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of inflammation and oxidative stress within airway fibroblasts was commended by receiving the John Doull Award.

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Tanzir Mortuza
Award Year: 2017
Current Degrees: BS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Georgia

Mr. Mortuza was really excited upon receiving this award. As a risk assessor, he always wanted to get his recognition in this field. This award provided the platform to highlight his research in risk assessment. His end goal is to construct a comprehensive PBPK model to evaluate human risk assessment that will eliminate the uncertainty factor associated with children’s exposure of pyrethroids. This award will facilitate to present research at SOT and meet with experts in risk assessment. Meeting with other experts in the field will enhance his understanding of risk assessment which will enhance his understanding of toxicology. Awards such as this will enable learning of toxicology and will help him to be an independent researcher. Pyrethroids are widely used insecticides. There are more than 200 different kinds of pyrethroid compounds present on the commercial market. Most of these compounds are neurotoxic and highly lipophilic. The toxicity profiles of pyrethroids are compound-specific. Permethrin is one of the major pyrethroids used in pharmaceutical and household products including, lice treatment for children, shampoo, and pet spray. More than one million pounds of permethrin are used in the domestic US market every year. Children between the ages of one and three are most likely ingest these compounds by hand to mouth contact. Despite such wide use, there are limited toxicokinetic (TK) data available for permethrin. Furthermore, there are no comprehensive studies defining the age-dependent TK of pyrethroids. Permethrin is present as a mixture of its cis and trans isomer (CIS and TRANS) in commercial products. Metabolism of these two isomers is significantly different. TRANS is hydrolyzed by carboxylesterases and oxidized by cytochrome P450s (CYPs). CIS is minimally susceptible to hydrolysis and is therefore metabolized largely by CYPs. This difference impacts the overall TK of these isomers. However, there are no studies to characterize age-dependent differences in between CIS and TRANS target organ dosimetry. In many cases, animal models are used to predict human risks associated with a specific compound. Usually, a ten-fold uncertainty factor is used in risk assessment to account for inter-species and human sub-population differences. Physiologically-based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) models are widely used in human risk assessment to reduce the uncertainties associated with interspecies and intraspecies differences. Tornero-Velez et al. (2012) constructed a PBPK model for permethrin for different exposure patterns. The investigators monitored CIS and TRANS concentrations in blood and tissues of adult rats dosed with a commercial mixture of the two isomers, in order to assess the accuracy of their simulations. Additional work is necessary to extend their model to immature subjects. Time-course plasma and tissue concentration data are needed for different immature age-groups, as well as for adults. Isomer-specific TK data are required from animals dosed with the individual isomers, in order to avoid the metabolic interactions inherent with mixtures. We addressed this research gap by determining age-dependent TK in rats for CIS and TRANS at several dose levels that will facilitate construction of a comprehensive PBPK model for each isomer of permethrin.

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Julia Tobacyk
Award Year: 2016
Current Degrees: BS Biology
Institution/Affiliation: University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

In this project, Ms. Tobacyk investigated whether gene by environment interactions could contribute to obesity in the context of tributyltin (TBT) exposure. In these studies, she and her team exposed four different strains of mice prenatally to low concentrations of TBT in drinking water, a common route of exposure in human populations. Previous research reported that prenatal TBT exposure increases adipocyte size/number and leads to liver steatosis (Chamorro-Garcia et al. 2011). Their studies showed that there are chemicals such as obesogens that may alter lipid metabolism. Her lab became interested and excited about the outcome of their study and therefore, they decided to investigate the effect of genetic background on prenatal TBT exposure. They observed no TBT-dependent changes in bone or fat formation, hepatic steatosis, or hepatic glutathione levels, suggesting that TBT-induced obesogenic outcomes may be context-dependent with modifiers unrelated to gene sequence (such as diet, epigenetics, or yet unknown environmental modifiers). These data may therefore enrich the dialogue regarding how and whether chemicals with obesogenic potential ought to be regulated to protect human populations. She has always been fascinated with the concept of individual responses to xenobiotics within the human population. As a second year pharmacology student, she would love to pursue a career in academia or in industry where to further expand and develop her research interests.

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Yongquan Lai
Award Year: 2015
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Youngquan Lai is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received the John Doull Award for his work entitled, "Formation of Endogenous and Exogenous DNA-Protein Crosslinks in Nonhuman Primates and Rats following Inhalation Exposure to [13CD2]-Formaldehyde." Formaldehyde is ubiquitous in indoor and outdoor air, and everyone is exposed to formaldehyde at some concentration daily. Formaldehyde’s well-known toxicity and carcinogenicity, coupled with widespread human exposure, has raised long-standing public health concerns. However, formaldehyde is actually produced inside our bodies as both a product of normal cellular metabolism and as an essential metabolic intermediate generated in all living cells. The challenge is to be able to differentiate whether formaldehyde found inside a person’s body come from external (exogenous) or internal (endogenous) sources, as well as which exposures are most likely to cause DNA damage that can lead to cancer. The most mutagenic form of formaldehyde-induced DNA damage comes from DNA-protein crosslinks (DPCs). We developed an ultrasensitive, specific method that is able to measure formaldehyde-induced DNA-protein crosslinks and can distinguish between those arising from exposure and those arising from inside our bodies. Our method and data provide critical evidence that inhaled formaldehyde only reached rat and monkey noses to cause DNA damage, but did not reach tissues distant to the site of initial contact. On the other hand, relatively high level of endogenous formaldehyde-induced DPCs were naturally present in all examined tissues. These data provide quantitative information on the formation of DPCs by internal and external formaldehyde as factors contributing to disease. Such new data greatly enhance the role of science over default approaches that focus on linear low-dose risk assessment and help set science-based regulatory policies for formaldehyde. Understanding the sources of mutagenic DNA damage that ultimately lead to disease lays the ground work for better disease management and risk assessment. Such data enhance the role of science over default approaches that focus on linear low-dose risk assessment, and promote science-based regulatory policies for creating a safer and healthier world.

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Melanie Adler
Award Year: 2014
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: Brigham and Women's Hospital, HIM, Renal Division

Melanie Adler is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital, HIM, Renal Division and won the John Doull Award for her work entitled, “Cell-Based Approach to Predict Kidney Toxicity.” Her research in the field of Predictive Toxicology focuses on developing new alternative methods for toxicity testing. Her project emphasizes the application of new cutting edge technologies based on high-throughput measurement methods using primary human cell culture, which enables a better translation into a clinical setting. She is interested in establishing a cell-based quantitative high-throughput screening platform to accelerate safety screening and risk assessment of potential kidney toxic compounds. She hopes to generate a predictive toxico-response signature to classify drugs and chemicals based on their mechanism of toxicity. Furthermore, the human origin of the kidney cells enables a direct exposure and dose-extrapolation to humans. This project has the potential to reduce and replace the use of animals in preclinical toxicity studies. Her future research will focus on using new approaches to get a better mechanistic understanding of the nature of toxicity in order to find new strategies for early detection of toxicity. This involves the implementation of new in vitro models such as organ-on-a-chip, co-culture, and 3D-models.

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Rachel Church
Award Year: 2013
Current Degrees: PhD
Institution/Affiliation: The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences
Rachael Church works for The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences and received the John Doull Award for her paper entitled, “Identification of Genomic Regions Linked to Epigallochatechin Gallate Induced Liver Toxicity using the Diversity Outbred Stock.” She and her lab partners hypothesized that Genome Wide Association (GWA) mapping in DO mice exposed to EGCG would allow them to identify candidate genomic regions influencing the hepatotoxicity of EGCG. Similar to humans, EGCG treatment in DO mice precipitates wide variation in hepatotoxic response, evident from both changes in ALT (terminal-dose to pre-dose) and terminal liver necrosis. In a planned follow-up study, they will genotype suspected risk alleles in DNA collected by the Drug Induced Livery Injury Network (DILIN) from patients with suspected EGCG-induced liver toxicity. They have demonstrated the first application of the DO mice to the detection of xenobiotic risk alleles of toxicity responses. While further validation is needed, and their data suggest that QTL mapping in DO mice may aid in identification of pharmacogenetic risk alleles for compounds causing liver injury. She is hopeful that receiving this award will raise awareness about the value of the DO mouse population as a novel tool for modeling idiosyncratic toxicities and performing high resolution mapping to identify translational genetic risk factors.

John Doull Student Award Fund

Recipient: Alice Crane
Award Year: 2012
Current Degrees: BA
Institution/Affiliation: University at Buffalo
Alice L. Crane, of the University of Buffalo, for her abstract entitled, “Effect of CYP2B6 Variants on Chlorpyrifos Metabolism: Implications for Human Risk.” Her work looks at human exposure and susceptibility to chlorpyrifos (CPF), an organophosphorus pesticide. CPF is in widespread use worldwide and mounting evidence is suggestive of neurobehavioral deficits in the chronically exposed. She examined the kinetics of this bioactivation reaction of CPF by common genetic variants of key enzymes involved in the metabolic pathway of CPF. Knowledge of how the genetic variation of these enzymes affect the bioactivation reaction of CPF and provides an understanding of the variability between individuals. Her current interest is in the examination of human susceptibility to environmental toxicants. She believes that there are many gaps in our current understanding of interindividual susceptibility and that this knowledge is needed to allow us to protect the most sensitive populations. She would like to contribute to risk assessment efforts by understanding the genetic basis of differences between individuals and incorporating this knowledge into models of human exposure.

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

Recipient: Manasi Kotulkar
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas Medical Center

Ms. Kotulkar is delighted to receive this award. It has provided her encouragement to work harder. Receiving this award has helped set the foundation for her career path in toxicology. She also thanks the Specialty Section for their generosity. It has allowed her an opportunity to interact, learn and network with researchers and scientists in the field of toxicology by attending the annual SOT conference. 

Hepatocyte nuclear factor 4alpha (HNF4α) is a highly conserved member of the nuclear receptor superfamily which regulates more than 60 percent of hepatic gene expression. In Ms. Kotulkar's current study, she found that HNF4α is important for the activation of other hepatic nuclear receptors such as AhR, CAR, PXR and PPARα. These receptors are called as xenosensors because they detect the exposure of xenobiotics in the system and carry out appropriate toxicological response. Previous studies have shown that progressive loss of HNF4α is associated with progression of liver diseases. With low expression of HNF4α there will be less activation of hepatic xenosensors in the disease condition. This might lead to poor ADME of pharmacological agents and poor elimination of environmental toxicants. That is why it is important to maintain HNF4α expression in disease condition. After her doctorate studies, Ms. Kotulkar would like to continue working in the field of toxicology. She envisages herself working as a toxicologist in the drug industry where she can apply her knowledge for translational toxicology. 

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

Recipient: Subhajit Roy
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of California, Irvine

First of all, Mr. Roy is more than happy and thankful to the ASIO award committee. He especially wants to thank his supervisor, Dr. Saurabh Chatterjee, without whom this research would not have been possible. Winning this award is a precious and wonderful achievement for Mr. Roy. It has emphasized the motivation and satisfaction in performing active research. This has boosted his spirits up for the efforts he has given in his work. Being a researcher in the field of toxicology, this award is not only a recognition of Mr. Roy's research, but will encourage him to continue his work in the future with similar pace. 

The specific research for which Mr. Roy won this award focused on the immunopathology and inflammatory response mechanisms in aging individuals (mice model) exposed to climate change adversity: heat stress followed by Vibrio infection. This research revealed how alterations of gut microbiome correlates with the changes in mucosal and systemic immune response providing important clues to the vulnerability of aged mice to higher Vibrio virulence. It also showed the mechanism of poor treatment outcome in Vibriosis caused by heat stress in terms of anti microbial resistance. Collectively, this work opened up a new dimension to the insights of Vibrio toxin effects and future concerns emerges from periodic heat waves.

As a doctoral student under supervision of Dr. Saurabh Chatterjee at the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the University of California, Irvine, Mr. Roy specifically worked on how climate change stressors modulate the host immunity and alters the organ specific inflammation in conjecture with changing host gut microbiome and possible dual exposures. His future goal is to delve deep into the mechanisms of immuno-modulation caused by climate changes and also to explore concomitant cellular pathways of inflammation. 

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

Recipient: Punnag Saha
Award Year: 2023
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of California Irvine

Mr. Saha was extremely honored and delighted when he received this great news. He sincerely feels that it is always extremely special to be awarded this sort of accolade from an honorary research interest group like the Association of Scientists of Indian Origin, and winning the award will surely amplify his confidence in both personal and professional levels. Additionally, it will motivate Mr. Saha to work even har