Learning about Environmental Endocrine Disruptors from World-Leading Experts

By Rosemarie de la Rosa posted 07-26-2018 12:48 PM


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are ubiquitous in the environment and have been shown to adversely affect human health and ecology. I learned more about EDCs by attending the 11th Environmental Endocrine Disruptors Gordon Research Conference (GRC) held in Les Diablerets, Switzerland, from June 3–8, 2018. This opportunity was made possible through the generous support of the SOT Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award.

During the GRC, I learned about the latest advances in EDC research from leading experts in the field. Lectures provided an overview of the impact of EDCs on humans, wildlife, and laboratory animals. Topics of discussion included low dose effects, chemical mixtures, perinatal imprinting, the microbiome, and transgenerational effects. Approaches for the identification, prioritization, and risk assessment of EDCs were also addressed. The international nature of the conference allowed for cross-country comparisons in EDC policy and regulation. By attending this conference, I gained a better understanding of the current state of EDC research. Additionally, researchers noted knowledge gaps in the science of EDCs. In the future, I aim to advance the field by conducting research that addresses some of these challenges, such as mixtures toxicology and measuring the exposome.

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 Participating in an organized trip to a glacier during the Environmental Endocrine Disruptors Gordon Research Conference held in Les Diablerets, Switzerland

I am interested in understanding the cumulative effects of chemical and nonchemical stressors on human health. My graduate research at the University of California, Berkeley, focuses on identifying environmental chemicals that interfere with glucocorticoid receptor (GR) signaling. GR has systemic effects on the endocrine, metabolic, cardiovascular, immune, reproductive, and central nervous systems. As part of this research, I developed a cell-based GR bioassay that can be used to screen both environmental chemicals and human plasma for altered glucocortigogenic activity. I also am interested in modeling the effect of chemical mixtures on GR signaling. Most of my graduate work has focused on utilizing in vitro methods to address these questions. However, after attending the GRC, I am interested in learning more about effect-directed analysis and statistical methods that can be used to assess mixture effects of EDCs in epidemiological studies.

Three outcomes that attending the GRC will help me achieve within the next year are:  

  1. Publishing the results presented during the GRC poster session;
  2. Evaluating mixture effects in my ongoing research collaborations; and
  3. Obtaining a postdoctoral fellowship in a laboratory conducting EDC research.

The most rewarding aspect of the GRC was networking with fellow graduate trainees and researchers from all over the world. I engaged in informal conversation with conference attendees during meals and poster sessions. Through these exchanges I shared my aspirations of becoming a Research Professor and obtained invaluable advice and encouragement from senior scientists. I also presented a poster during the conference; during that time I received suggestions on my project and career moving forward. Organized group trips were also a fun opportunity to build relationships with colleagues. Overall, the conference provided a space that was conducive to networking with scientists at various career stages and encouraging young researchers, like me, to pursue careers in EDC-related research.