Mission & Officers

Vision

Support the inclusion, promotion, retention, and professional development of the LGBT+ community in the field of toxicology.

Goals

Provide professional and social development opportunities towards the advancement of diversity and inclusion in the toxicology workforce at all major SOT events.

Highlight the scientific achievements of LGBT+ toxicologists as well as allies who embrace diversity and promote inclusiveness within the field of toxicology each year through sponsored seminars and awards.

Serve as a leading organization for all scientific groups in support of diversity and inclusivity by building working collaborations with SOT special interest groups and external groups specifically dedicated to supporting LGBT+ individuals in scientific fields.

Mission

The Out Toxicologists and Allies (OTA) Special Interest Group is established to support and promote scientists who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and related community members (LGBT+), and expand the diversity and inclusivity initiatives of the Society of Toxicology (SOT). Membership in OTA is open to all SOT LGBT+ members as well as allies who embrace diversity and promote inclusiveness within the SOT. OTA recognizes that individuals come from diverse backgrounds and strives to be supportive of all intersecting identities.

Objectives

  1. To promote the recruitment and retention of LGBT and all related community members (LGBT+) to professions within the field of toxicology.
  2. To enhance and advance the professional development of LGBT+ toxicologists and Society of Toxicology members.
  3. To provide mentorship of early career LGBT+ scientists as well as Society of Toxicology members.
  4. To promote and recognize the scientific, mentoring, and leadership accomplishments of LGBT+ toxicologists and allies.
  5. To provide a forum for LGBT+ toxicologists and allies to share ideas and discuss issues regarding their professional development in the toxicological sciences.
  6. To engage and inform the broader community of toxicologists regarding LGBT+ inclusivity in the field of toxicology relating to the workplace, research, and policy.
  7. To serve the Society of Toxicology as a resource for initiatives regarding diversity and inclusion.

2024–2025 Board

Jess Plavicki

Jess Plavicki, PhD

President

Dr. Jess Plavicki is the Manning Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Brown University, where her lab uses the zebrafish model to study how toxicant exposures and genetic mutations disrupt the development of the brain and cardiovascular system. She received her doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (UW-Madison) in the lab of Dr. Grace Boekhoff-Falk, where she identified novel functions for the homeodomain transcription factor distal-less in brain development. Given a long standing interest in environmental health sciences, she remained at UW-Madison for her postdoctoral training in developmental cardiotoxicity with Dr. Richard Peterson. She was awarded a NIEHS K99 Pathway to Independence Award in 2014 to study the effects of embryonic dioxin exposure on neurovascular development and began her lab at Brown in 2016. Dr. Plavicki is currently supported by a NIEHS Outstanding New Environmental Scientist Award and was previously a project leader on a NIGMS Phase II COBRE. She has served as an ad hoc reviewer for NIH study sections and special emphasis panels including Systemic Injury from Environmental Exposure, The Blood-brain Barrier, Neurovascular Systems and CNS Therapeutics, and Rapid Investigation of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). In addition, she has reviewed grants and fellowships for European Science Foundation and French National Research Agency. She has been a  member of the SOT since 2010 and has served the SOT in a variety of capacities including being part of the Molecular and Systems Biology Specialty Section (MSBSS) leadership team (VP-elect, VP, President, Past-president), performing a recurring role as poster judge of the Neurotoxicology Special Section, serving as a "Paper of the Year" judge for both MSBSS and the Reproduction and Developmental Specialty Section, and chairing multiple poster sessions and symposia. At Brown, Dr. Plavicki teaches Environmental Health and Disease, a course she redesigned to include an emphasis on health disparities and environmental justice. She was the recipient of the Dean's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Advising and Mentoring in Biological Sciences in 2020 and is deeply committed to undergraduate education. If elected, Dr. Plavicki will work ardently to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the SOT. Outside of the lab, Dr. Plavicki enjoys running, weight training, gardening, photography, and cooking.

Meg Whittaker

Margaret “Meg” H. Whittaker, PhD, MPH, CBiol, FRSB, ERT, D.ABT

Vice President

Dr. Margaret “Meg” Whittaker is the Managing Director and Chief Toxicologist of ToxServices LLC. Dr. Whittaker is one of the pioneers in the field of chemicals alternatives assessments and is a key contributor to advancing these methods around the world. Dr. Whittaker performs quantitative exposure and risk assessments for projects including California Proposition 65 safe harbor assessments, medical device extractables and leachables assessments, and cosmetics/personal care product assessments, among others. Dr. Whittaker also performs chemical hazard assessments and alternatives assessments to support the selection of safer chemicals and technologies. Dr. Whittaker is a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology who earned a PhD in Toxicology from The University of Maryland, Baltimore and an MPH in Environmental Health from The University of Michigan. Dr. Whittaker is a UK/EuroTox Registered Toxicologist, as well as a Chartered Biologist and Fellow of the UK Royal Society of Biology. Dr. Whittaker has served as an officer on multiple SOT Committees, Specialty Section and Regional Chapters, including the Nominating Committee, Metals Specialty Section, Mixtures Specialty Section, Sustainable Chemicals for Contemporary Toxicology (SCCT) Specialty Section, and the National Capital Area Chapter of SOT. She has served as an SOT Roving Reporter since 2014. Dr. Whittaker is currently Vice President-Elect of OTA and is Past President of the SCCT.

Sarah Elizabeth Lacher

Sarah Elizabeth Lacher

Vice President-Elect

Dr. Lacher is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Minnesota (UMN) Medical School and a member of the Cellular Mechanisms of Cancer Program at the UMN Masonic Cancer Center. Dr. Lacher’s research focuses on characterizing cell-type specific patterns of gene regulation following exposure to various inducers of stress. In addition to her commitment to research, Dr. Lacher is a dedicated educator. She is leading the Pharmacology Thread in the new bi-campus curriculum build, and in 2022 Dr. Lacher was Awarded the Basic Science Teacher of the Year by the Medical Students. Dr. Lacher serves as Chair of her Department's BMS DEI committee, and serves as an elected member on the DEI Council of the UMN Medical School. Dr. Lacher is also involved in STEM outreach activities through the UMN Innovators of the Future, Bois Forte Community Based Science and QueerScience Programs. Dr. Lacher is a member of the Society of Toxicology and is a Founding Executive Board Member of the Special Interest Group, Out Toxicologists and Allies (OTA). She has served two terms as Secretary/Treasurer for OTA. She is also a member of Women in Toxicology (WIT), Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists (HOT) and the Northland Regional Chapter of the Society of Toxicology.

Cody Schmidlinr

Cody Schmidlin, PhD

Secretary-Treasurer

Dr. Schmidlin is a Senior Scientist in Toxicology at AbbVie where he serves as a Study Director in the Preclinical Safety group. Cody earned his PhD in Cancer Biology from the University of Arizona in 2021. After joining SOT in 2018, Cody served as the Graduate Student Representative for the Mechanisms Specialty Section and the Out Toxicologists and Allies Special Interest Group of SOT. From 2021–2023, Cody worked as a postdoctoral research scientist at Eli Lilly and Company in the investigative toxicology group where his work was awarded the Postdoctoral Fellow Achievement Award by OTA in 2023. Additionally, Cody served as the OTA Representative to the Special Interest Group Collaboration Group in 2022–2023. At both Lilly and AbbVie, Cody has participated in the PRIDE Employee Resource Groups and served on various DEI committees/initiatives. Cody is passionate about the growth, mentorship, and collaboration of LGBTQIA+ scientists and wants to support the goals of OTA and SOT in the upcoming year.

Troy A. Roepke

Troy A. Roepke

Past President and Councilor

Dr. Roepke is an Associate Professor at Rutgers University and the Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, where they study the interactions of gonadal steroids (estrogens), diets, and endocrine disruptors on the physiological and neurological processes controlled by the hypothalamus with a current focus on perinatal and adult exposures to organophosphate flame retardants. They received a doctorate in Physiology with a designated emphasis in Reproductive Biology from the University of California, Davis in 2005. Their postdoctoral training was at Oregon Health & Science University studying the neuroendocrinology of estrogens from 2005 to 2011 where they were the recipient of a K99/R00 Pathways to Independence Award from NIDDK to study how endocrine disruptors influence metabolism. Dr. Roepke has served as ad hoc reviewers for NIH IPOD, POMD, BNRS, and SYN study sections and on Special Emphasis panels for the NIDDK. They have authored or co-authored sixty-one publications over a wide range of fields including endocrine disruption, estrogen signaling, potassium channel activity in the context of energy homeostasis, the stress response, feeding and exploratory behaviors, and the LGBTQIA2S+ experience in STEM. They have been a member of the SOT since 2018 and currently serves as the President for the Out in Toxicology and Allies Special Interest Group.

Tracie Baker

Tracie Baker DVM, PhD

Senior Councilor

Dr. Baker is currently an associate professor at the University of Florida, Department of Environmental and Global Health. Dr. Baker received her Master of Science from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in Marine Biology, specializing in toxins produced by marine organisms. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2008 and started a postdoctoral fellowship in the School of Pharmacy in 2009. She completed her PhD in Molecular and Environmental Toxicology in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison researching the effects of early sublethal dioxin exposure on health outcomes in adults and subsequent generations. In 2013, she was awarded an NIH K01 award and she also received the Young Investigator Award from the SOT Midwest Regional Chapter. Dr. Baker was the postdoctoral representative for the SOT Clinical and Translational Sciences Specialty Section 2013-2015. She accepted an assistant professor position at Wayne State University in 2016, and in 2021 moved to University of Florida. She is currently a committee member of the SOT Faculty United for Toxicology Undergraduate Recruitment and Education (FUTURE) and Vice President of the SETAC Inclusive and Diversity Committee. She undertakes translational toxicological research using a zebrafish model with the goal of bridging human, animal, and environmental health. Dr. Baker is currently investigating the phenotypic, transcriptomic and epigenetic effects of early sublethal environmental chemical exposures on development in adults and subsequent generations, as well as quantification and analysis of these contaminants in the environment. Tracie is a Full Member of the Society of Toxicology and has been a member since 2012. As an out LGBT+ faculty member, Dr. Baker works to promote equity and inclusion in her lab, the classroom, and her department, as well as mentor and support the careers of professional LGBT+ students and toxicologist.

Thivanka Muthumalage

Thivanka Muthumalage, PhD

Junior Councilor

Dr. Muthumalage is an assistant professor in the School of Health Sciences Toxicology Program at Purdue University. His research focuses on the inhalation toxicity induced by exposure to environmental toxicants using in vitro and in vivo models under normal and preexisting disease conditions. Dr. Muthumalage’s current NIEHS-funded project focuses on inhalable menthol- and tobacco-flavored tobacco products-induced lung toxicity. His research aims to identify mechanisms and pathogenesis of acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pulmonary fibrosis. One of his primary interests includes immunometabolism in lung disease processes, specifically in T-cells. Dr. Muthumalage’s training has been in inhalation and immuno-toxicology, primarily studying the effects of tobacco smoke, secondhand tobacco smoke, and electronic cigarette aerosols. Further, his research expands to cannabis and other inhalable drugs-induced lung toxicity, especially the additive and synergistic effects of inhalable mixtures. Dr. Muthumalage is dedicated to training future toxicologists with the most up-to-date research techniques in pulmonary toxicity and improving human lung health by studying the exposome and targeted environmental stressors. He has been a part of the Society of Toxicology since 2010 and served in various capacities in specialty sections and regional chapters. He also served on the diversity and inclusion committee at the University of Rochester and now serves on the Access, Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity, Equality, and Support committee at Purdue University to enhance diversity and reduce disparities in toxicology and health sciences.

Jess Ray

Jess Ray, PhD

Postdoctoral Representative

Dr. Ray is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow and the Flow Cytometry Core Staff Scientist at the University of Montana. Their research investigates the influence of sex-based biological variables on respiratory inflammation. They are specifically interested in how estrogen modulates alveolar macrophage cholesterol metabolism and the role that lipid metabolism plays in regulating macrophage phenotype and inflammatory function. Dr. Ray received their doctorate in Toxicology from the University of Montana in 2021 and served on UM’s Graduate & Professional Student Association as Senator (2016–2019) and Co-president (2019–2021). Dr. Ray has been involved in toxicological research since 2014 when they joined Dr. Jim Luyendyk’s hepatic toxicology lab at Michigan State University as an undergraduate. They became a member of SOT in 2016 and have received the SOT Intern Award for their undergraduate research and a 1st Place Postdoc Platform Presentation Award from their Regional Chapter, as well as serving on the OTA Programming Committee.

Joanna Woo

Joanna Woo

Graduate Student Representative

Mx. Woo is a PhD candidate in the Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology at Rutgers University, dedicating their research and studies into identifying mechanistic targets linking mechanical disturbances in airway smooth muscle to modulations in airway flexibility like airway hyperresponsiveness in obstructive lung disease. Graduating from St. John’s University with a Bachelor’s degree in Toxicology in 2018, Mx. Woo has been a SOT member since 2017. Currently, the goal of their research is to pinpoint functional modulations in human airway smooth muscle (HASM) cells with the activation of volume-regulating ion channels, proposing new mechanistic targets for patients with poor response to conventional asthma treatments. These findings will also be important in understanding the intersection of asthma exacerbated by toxicant exposures. At Rutgers University, they served as Communication Chair in the Rutgers Association of Toxicology Students and successfully completed their fellowship in the Technology Transfer Fellowship Program by Innovation Ventures. Mx. Woo has been an instructor of the Toxicology, Health, and Environmental Disease (THED) high school program since 2021 and transitioned to becoming coordinator of the program this past year. They currently serve as part of the School of Graduate Studies Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Graduate Student Advisory Committee aimed to build an inclusive welcoming graduate community at Rutgers University. In SOT, they have served as a Graduate Student Representative for the Mechanisms Specialty Section and the Out Toxicologists and Allies Special Interest Group. Throughout their career, they’re the author/co-author of four peer-reviewed articles, presented seven poster presentations to international and regional scientific conferences, and recently gave a trainee talk on their current research at an international level. As Graduate Student Representative of the Out Toxicologists and Allies Special Interest Group, their goal is to continue to advocate the group to increase student engagement and recruitment, enhance mentoring of trainees, promote outreach to students and faculty to enrich more LGBT+ mentorship in toxicology, and continue to collaborate with LGBT+ toxicologists to promote diversity and inclusion in the scientific community.

Contact

To reach the Special Interest Group Officers, please email SOTHQ@toxicology.org

Bylaws

SOT Council approved the Out Toxicologists and Allies bylaws in June 2019.