This year’s SOT Perry J. Gehring Diversity Student Travel Award was awarded to Midori Flores. Ms. Flores is currently pursuing a BS in environmental science and is in her senior year at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. The award recognizes an undergraduate or graduate student who was selected for the Undergraduate Diversity Program in the last four years and has an abstract accepted for the SOT Annual Meeting, and selection is made by the SOT Committee on Diversity Initiatives (CDI).
Ms. Flores received the award for her research abstract entitled “Space Toxicology: An Emerging Environmental Health Field.” Her research project involved a literature review and a mini experiment to study the importance of and bring awareness to space toxicology. Ms. Flores explains, “We are entering a brand new space decade whereupon space travel is increasing very fast. We need to study the environmental health risks of space travel and the toxicity to our very cells.” Ms. Flores’s research interests also include the study of the toxicological mechanisms of microplastics in C. elegans.
Ms. Flores talked about the impact of receiving this award and the opportunity to travel to the SOT Annual Meeting: “This award has given me the motivation to continue my research efforts, and especially in the field of toxicology. I feel that my research matters, and not only that, that my voice as a minority matters as well.”
In addition to her participation in the 2020 and 2021 virtual Undergraduate Diversity Programs, Ms. Flores engaged in a 2021 summer research internship at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, with Dr. Lauren Aleksunes that was partially funded by SOT. She is a current student in the ToxMSDT program; Dr. John Wise is her mentor and co-author of the abstract submitted for this award. Ms. Flores will begin graduate school in toxicology this year.
The award was presented during the CDI Reunion, which brings together current Undergraduate Diversity Program participants, past participants, program volunteers, and supporters. Kymberly Gowdy, CDI Chair, also recognized previous Perry J. Gehring Award recipients Juliana Agudelo, University of Rhode Island (2020); Talia Seymore (Honorable Mention), Pennsylvania State University (2020), now at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; and Alexandra Svetlik, King University (2021), now at Texas A&M University—all of whom were able to use the endowment award funds to support their travel to the 2022 meeting.
The Perry J. Gehring Student Travel Award is provided through the SOT Endowment Fund. This award recognizes Dr. Perry J. Gehring, who served as 1980–1981 SOT President and made important scientific contributions, especially in biological modeling and evidence-based assessment. Dr. Gehring had a strong interest in encouraging individuals from groups underrepresented in the sciences to enter biomedical sciences and toxicology.