Talia Seymore is a 2023 recipient of the Diversity Initiatives Career Development Award. In this blog, Talia shares her experience of receiving the award and using it toward participating in the International Federation of Placenta Associations meeting in Rotorua, New Zealand. To learn more about the Diversity Initiatives Career Development Award, visit the award’s web page.
Thanks to the SOT Diversity Initiatives Career Development Award and the NIH New Investigator Award, I had the opportunity to participate in the International Federation of Placenta Associations (IFPA) meeting in Rotorua, New Zealand, at the beginning of September. IFPA took place over the course of four days and included several learning sessions that encompassed research talks from scientists from all over the world, discussions on hot topics in placental research, and evenings full of poster presentations. As at every conference, there were a few discussions that were more relevant to the development of my dissertation and professional trajectory, including implantation and early pregnancy, placental pathologies associated with developmental outcomes, physiological/functional differences between male and female placentas, and placental perfusion models to understand placental transport and toxicology.
The meeting started off with a compelling speech by a woman who spoke about her experience with preeclampsia from the patient’s perspective. Preeclampsia, a disease characterized by high blood pressure during pregnancy, affects up to 10% of pregnancies worldwide and is a growing concern since the risk factors include obesity and cardiovascular disease. The majority of placental research worldwide focuses on the etiology, mechanisms, and possible interventions for preeclampsia; therefore, this speech put a face to the disease and beautifully gave everyone the motivation and inspiration to make the most out of the conference for the next four days.
It was an honor to learn from hundreds of researchers from around the world who are all working to improve the health of pregnant women. While presenting my research titled “Chronic Inhalation of Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles Disrupts Placental Glucose Transport and Metabolism in a Sex-Dependent Manner,” I had the pleasure of meeting other scholars who work in the realm of reproductive toxicology with a focus on particle inhalation and placental outcomes, including the current President of IFPA. They took time to chat with me about my experimental design and expected outcomes. I was offered invaluable insight into my project and future directions. These scientists do not regularly attend the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo, and I would not have been able to meet and network with them without the SOT Diversity Initiatives Career Development Award.
The warm welcome from many individuals that I met allowed me to improve my networking skills, and I am excited to maintain these relationships. One action that I have taken is sending follow-up emails and statements of gratitude to the people whom I met that can serve as mentors in different facets of my professional and research development, especially in regard to interrogating complex placental pathways. I learned how to conceptualize the data from several presentations to apply them to my own studies, and I am excited to integrate these diverse perspectives into my dissertation proposal in the next year. Lastly, I also plan to collaborate with these new colleagues as a way to develop possible research directions for my postdoctoral studies.
Overall, my participation at the IFPA meeting has given me a global perspective on my research. I am now prepared to approach my studies from a wider lens. I am grateful to have met these inspiring scientists who will serve as a helping hand to understand the placenta and the role it can play in reproductive toxicity and developmental pathologies.