On March 24, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to bring my training in toxicology full circle and speak with Dr. Brett Winters’s introductory toxicology class at California State University East Bay (CSU-EB). Rewind six years to the spring of 2016, when I sat in an introductory toxicology class at my undergraduate institution, San Jose State University (SJSU), another school within the California State University system.
My path to finding toxicology was not straightforward. I had started off my undergraduate career as a forensic science major. During my sophomore year, I switched my major to chemistry and started doing research on digestive enzymes from mosquitos. By participating in a summer research program, I got to explore air pollution research. Ultimately, these experiences led me to research graduate programs in toxicology, including the Curriculum in Toxicology and Environmental Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). I met Dr. Winters while he was a PhD student in the curriculum in toxicology at UNC. After graduating from the program, Dr. Winters returned to the Bay Area for his career and also began lecturing at CSU-EB. Flash-forward a few years, and he still remembered I had graduated from SJSU. He was excited to potentially host a guest lecturer from the same university system his students attended. He encouraged me to share my own path and reassure any student that it was OK if they change their minds and pursue new interests.
After my introduction to the students, we discussed “what would be on the exam.” I was specifically a guest lecturer for the respiratory toxicology section of the course, so I got to discuss a few of my favorite things with the students: cilia and mucus. It was important to me to not only teach new information, but also demonstrate how toxicologists use these concepts to examine potential toxicity of emerging public health hazards. Toward the end of the class, I asked the students what questions they would like to investigate about the effect of e-cigarettes on the respiratory system. Together, we worked through how we could potentially address these questions using some of the model systems we discussed.
Ultimately, I am incredibly grateful to SOT for the opportunity to visit with Dr. Winters’s students and talk to them about the opportunities in research, graduate school, and SOT with support from the ToxScholar program. I hope others in SOT will participate in this wonderful program as it is a great opportunity to introduce more students to the possibilities within toxicology.
Managed by the Faculty United for Toxicology Undergraduate Recruitment and Education (FUTURE) Committee, ToXScholar grant applications are accepted at any time. Potential ToxScholars can request funding for travel or event costs, or for SOT endorsement of virtual presentations to undergraduate audiences.