Cutting-edge environmental health research depends on scientific collaboration. To identify toxicants in the environment, learn how they affect people’s health, and develop ways to prevent or treat environmentally induced diseases, researchers from complementary disciplines must approach the central problems from a variety of angles. Longtime Society of Toxicology (SOT) partner the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), helps facilitate these vital scientific collaborations through its Environmental Health Sciences Core Centers and other research opportunities.
Many SOT members have served at these Core Centers over the years, including SOT Past President David L. Eaton, PhD, ATS, University of Washington, who notes that these types of centers and multi-investigator grants provided by the NIEHS are critical to conducting multidisciplinary research.
Dr. Eaton served as the NIEHS Core Center director at the University of Washington for 18 years (now directed by SOT member Terrance J. Kavanagh, PhD, DABT) and as a past director of an NIEHS Superfund Program (currently directed by SOT member Evan P. Gallagher, PhD). During that time, he says 80 faculty members at the University of Washington were involved in his Core Center research endeavors. Current Core Center activities at the University of Washington include research on toxicogenomics and 3-D organ-on-a-chip technology, as well as the projects Predictive Toxicology Center for Organotypic Cultures and Assessment of Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) for Engineered Nanomaterials, an US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) STAR multi-investigator grant directed by SOT member Elaine M. Faustman, PhD, DABT, and a recently renewed NIEHS P30 Core Center grant on microphysiological systems.
Beyond the work at its Core Centers, the NIEHS, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016, has employed hundreds of SOT members and other toxicologists over the years, while providing funding and grant support to many, many more.
For early career scientists, such as SOT Allegheny-Erie Regional Chapter Past President Phoebe Stapleton, PhD, West Virginia University, NIH and NIEHS support can be critical to scientific and career advancement. Early in Dr. Stapleton’s career, she was a recipient of the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F32) that supported her postdoctoral training, which was under SOT member Timothy R. Nurkiewicz, PhD, West Virginia University. This training introduced her to the discipline of toxicology, and once it was completed, she turned to the NIEHS to further enhance her research efforts.
Currently, Dr. Stapleton is conducting research related to nanomaterial exposure and the vascular system that is supported by an NIEHS K99/R00 Pathway to Independence (PI) Award designed to facilitate a timely transition from a mentored postdoctoral research position to a stable independent research position. In her case, she will be transitioning to a faculty position within the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute and the Pharmacology and Toxicology Department at Rutgers University this fall. Specifically, she is assessing vascular dysfunctions after nanomaterial exposure using in vivo models of pregnancy.
Dr. Stapleton appreciates the role SOT and its component groups have had on her career development. “Vital to my knowledge of these funding opportunities was my engagement with the Society, Specialty Sections, and particularly with the Women in Toxicology (WIT) Special Interest Group, as well as my involvement with the Allegheny-Erie Regional Chapter. These SOT organizations provided me encouragement, support, unique networking opportunities, and early recognition,” she says.
To recognize the contributions NIEHS and SOT have had on their careers and science, Drs. Eaton and Stapleton are scheduled to be featured speakers at “SOT and NIEHS Past, Present, and Future: 50 Years of Collaboration,” a scientific symposium being held this summer. NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director and SOT Past President Linda S. Birnbaum, PhD, DABT, ATS, and SOT President John B. Morris, PhD, ATS, are hosting the event on Wednesday, July 13, 2016, from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm at the Rodbell Auditorium, NIEHS Campus, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. SOT Past President Cheryl Lyn Walker, PhD, Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences and Technology, also is expected to speak at the event.