Reflections on the 2019 Domestic ToxScholar Outreach Program

By Barbara Kaplan posted 05-09-2019 13:45


ToxScholar Outreach Grants allow toxicologists to share their experiences in toxicology with students to increase awareness about the field. More information about domestic and international ToxScholar visits is available on the “ToxScholar Outreach Grants” web page of the SOT website.


ToxScholar Group Photo.png“I recently made my third trip in three years as a ToxScholar to the Mississippi University for Women to talk about toxicology with the undergraduates. The first year I went by myself, and last year, I brought one of my students Brittany Szafran. This year, I brought two graduate students from the MSU Center for Environmental Health Sciences, second-year PhD student Chiquita Price and again Brittany Szafran, a sixth-year DVM/PhD student. Ms. Price opened the seminar by talking about toxicology and the goals for her PhD project (under the direction of Dr. Janice Chambers). Dr. Szafran presented data from her PhD project (under the direction of Dr. Matthew Ross and me) and wrapped up by introducing undergraduate resources on the SOT website. We had 31 students attend the seminar, and about half of those stayed for a pizza lunch, which allowed for interaction between the students and Ms. Price and Dr. Szafran. Of those who attended the seminar, 90% were biology majors, 10% were chemistry majors, and half in attendance were juniors; sophomores and seniors each made up about 25% of the attendees. A small part of the presentation this year was that Ms. Price and Dr. Szafran presented for just a few minutes on their path to toxicology. Because each of them had encountered challenges on their way, the students related easily to them and were more engaged in hearing about their science and toxicology!”

–Barbara Kaplan, PhD

“I was a bit nervous leading up to the SOT ToxScholar Outreach visit. However, once I had the thought of ‘If I were in their shoes, what would I want to hear to be inspired?’ all my nervousness went away, and excitement set in. The hard part was being transparent about the obstacles and struggles I’ve faced on this journey to toxicology. However, seeing their heads nod and faces smile in approval was all the congratulations I needed to know that the presentation went well! I even had a young lady come up to me afterward expressing her gratitude because she was having similar experiences.”

–Chiquita Price, MS

“I’m grateful that I was able to speak with the undergraduate students at the Mississippi University for Women again. Compared with last year, there were several changes I felt helped our seminar shine this year. Ms. Price and I have very different backgrounds, and I believe that our backgrounds highlighted that there is more than one road to take in education. In both of our presentations we mentioned some academic downfalls, and I believe this part of our presentations really connected with the students. For instance, many of the students reacted in agreement when I mentioned my struggles with organic chemistry. At the end of my talk, I presented some information about the SOT undergrad program. To further promote SOT, I had the students visit the SOT website on their smartphones to locate the undergraduate affiliate requirements. The first student to find them was given an SOT T-shirt! While a simple task, asking the students to visit the website ensured it would be easily accessible in the history of their phone. After our presentations, one student approached me to inquire about DVM/PhD programs as I think he had never been informed they exist. He was planning to apply for the DVM program this coming summer, and he wanted to know how he could apply to the dual-degree program as well. During the discussions at the pizza lunch, I asked students about their career goals. While none of them shared the same goals as me, I found that I was able to answer their questions about professional and graduate programs. In fact, I was also able to connect one student with a past biology professor from my undergraduate university who shared the same research interests.”

–Brittany Szafran, DVM