As with many scientists, Dr. Tijerina’s journey began at an early age with telescopes and science fair projects. With the support of her parents, Dr. Tijerina attended a science magnet school and eventually pursued a bachelor’s degree in Biology. It wasn’t until late in her undergraduate career at University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) that Dr. Tijerina began laboratory research under the mentorship of Drs. Rama Ratnam and Gail Taylor.
While attending a SACNAS conference Dr. Tijerina met Dr. Bill Atchison, who recommended the Society of Toxicology (SOT) Committee on Diversity Initiatives (CDI) undergraduate program. In 2010 Dr. Tijerina attended the CDI undergraduate program where she was introduced to the field of toxicology. The concepts of novel research, medical applications, and protecting public health were all appealing reasons to pursue a career in toxicology.
After graduating from the UTSA in 2011, Dr. Tijerina participated in a post-baccalaureate program at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in the laboratory of Dr. José Lemos. During this time Dr. Tijerina took a Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology course offered by Dr. Richard K. Miller where she became increasingly intrigued by perinatal toxicology. In 2012, Dr. Tijerina began her graduate education at New York University under the direction of Dr. Judith Zelikoff, focusing on the repercussions of perinatal exposures.
Throughout graduate school, Dr. Tijerina remained involved in SOT by presenting posters and attending mentoring sessions. She served as the graduate student representative for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter and the Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists special interest group. Over the years she received several student awards, including the Perry J. Gehring Diversity Student Travel Award, the Inhalation and Respiratory Specialty Section Mary Amdur Award, the Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists Special Interest Group Award (Sponsored by Celanese), and the Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues (i.e., ELFSI) Graduate Student Award. The SOT Annual Meeting served a vital role in introducing various career paths and providing a vast network of mentors and colleagues.
Upon graduation, Dr. Tijerina returned to Texas to be closer to family (and further from snow). As a toxicologist with the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, LLC., Dr. Tijerina has remained engaged in academia by offering career presentations and internships to students from local universities, including participating in the ToxScholar program. An average day as an emergency response toxicologist varies from working at a nuclear waste site to engaging members of the community regarding their water supply. Dr. Tijerina is continuously fascinated by the wide-breadth of knowledge demonstrated by her team in unordinary situations. When she is not out in the field, Dr. Tijerina spends her time conducting occupational exposure assessments and product safety evaluations.
Dr. Tijerina’s experiences as a toxicologist have only amplified her initial interest sparked during the CDI undergraduate program. She hopes to continue her involvement with the CDI undergraduate program and has most recently used the SOT meeting as a recruitment arena for qualified candidates.