The Undergraduate Diversity Program Awards provide the opportunity for promising undergraduate science majors interested in research careers and faculty advisors to attend the Undergraduate Diversity Program at the Society of Toxicology (SOT) Annual Meeting. The goal of the program is to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to pursue graduate degrees in the biomedical sciences, especially toxicology, and to allow their advisors to become more familiar with toxicology as a career option. Faculty advisor awardees from the last five years have represented 19 different institutions.
This year’s faculty advisor awardees were Shizuka Hsieh (Trinity Washington University), Derrick Swinton (Claflin University), Laura Kelly Vaughan (King University), and Oluseyi Vanderpuye (Albany State University).
As part of the Undergraduate Diversity Program, faculty advisor awardees engaged in presentations and case studies across the breadth of toxicology. They also attended Annual Meeting sessions and had networking opportunities with senior toxicologists, postdoctoral scholars, academic program and internship directors, and more.
Dr. Shizuka Hsieh attended the SOT Annual Meeting with three students from Trinity Washington University, including Danielle Vado, a student travel awardee. Dr. Hsieh and Ms. Vado presented two posters at the meeting—Exposing the Possible Hazards of Plug-In Air Fresheners: Volatile Organic Compounds Emitted into Room Air and Volatile Organic Compound Profile in a Car Cabin during a Commute in Washington, DC.
Dr. Hsieh (third from the left) is engaged in a lively discussion with Undergraduate Diversity Program Travel Award students.
Dr. Hsieh shared her experience at the meeting in four tangible outcomes:
- Outcome 1: Gained teaching resources from SOT’s Undergraduate Educator Network and learned that toxicology is an interdisciplinary area that appeals to students in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, nursing/health, forensic science, and environmental health. Made connections with faculty and researchers from other colleges and discussed possible collaborations.
- Outcome 2: Learned ways to grow undergraduate research at her institution and the interdisciplinary possibilities in toxicology.
- Outcome 3: Learned about opportunities and obtained career advice for undergraduates at her institution. Ms. Vado and other Trinity Washington University undergraduate students gained experience in presenting at a national conference, their posters received attention and requests for copies. They all participated in some undergraduate program activities geared towards mentoring, networking, and persistence in STEM. She also learned about summer undergraduate research and post-baccalaureate programs that might be suitable for her students.
“I am now able to tell students what toxicologists do with degrees in Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Biology. About a third are in academia, a third in industry, a third in government regulation (e.g., US Food and Drug Administration).”
- Outcome 4: Gained a better understanding of how public servants work with underserved communities in polluted areas and learned about case studies of improved environmental situations for marginalized communities.
Most recently, Dr. Hsieh has been coordinating a ToxScholar visit to her campus to educate students about toxicology as a career field.
Dr. Vanderpuye (left) at the Program Directors’ session, during which Undergraduate Diversity Program Travel and Pfizer Travel awardees presented their posters.
Dr. Oluseyi Vanderpuye added, “as an advisor, I found it inspiring to meet so many young scientists with great potential for careers in toxicology. It was also heartening to see that the meeting had so much to offer for them from various scientific sessions to career discussions and a graduate school fair filled with the warmest most helpful representatives one could ever hope to meet. I was also happy to see that the advisees got on so well with each other and the two who accompanied me (Alexius Lampkin and Alexis Taylor from Albany State University) readily made friends. I also noted that the advisees benefited greatly from the table hosts. I benefited from meeting the organizers of the diversity session and learning about opportunities for students and graduate school and took back much information for my students. I also enjoyed meeting the exhibitors and learning about their products some of which I intend to purchase and use in my classes and my students’ research. I learned a lot about SOT activities and other events such as the international toxicology meeting in Hawaii and am working towards generating results to present there. The SOT meeting was a multifaceted stimulating and educative event and I am deeply grateful for the undergraduate diversity award that allowed me to attend and learn from the SOT meeting.”
Dr. Swinton (left) speaking to SOT member and Undergraduate Diversity Program Speaker Martin Philbert
The faculty advisors who receive travel support become SOT agents by infusing toxicology into undergraduate classrooms. As one advisor noted on the program feedback form: “Thank you for inspiring, energizing me to go back and bring what I learned into the classroom.”
Handwritten note written by an advisor on an anonymous program feedback form