Congratulations to Toxicology Graduate Students Taking New STEPs in 2018

As chair of the Graduate Subcommittee, I am pleased to announce the selection of the most recent recipients of Supplemental Training and Education Program (STEP) funding. These awards provide up to $1,000 to support participation in activities outside the dissertation work that will contribute to professional development for the chosen career path in toxicology as proposed by the applicant.

v2Composto Picture.jpgGabriella Composto of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, will attend the Environmental Mixtures Workshop at Columbia University in New York in August. This two-day intensive workshop will provide a rigorous introduction to multiple different techniques to analyze exposure to mixtures in environmental health. Ms. Composto’s dissertation delineates the underlying mechanism of sulfur mustard injury to the skin. She says,“In order to become a well-rounded scientist who can pursue a career in dermal toxicology, it is important that I am aware of the environmental chemicals individuals may come in contact with and how to analyze them. I will leave the workshop skilled in multiple different techniques to analyze exposures to mixtures in environmental health. After graduation, I would like to begin my career in dermal toxicology, preferably in personal care so I can be a part of advancing product safety and development to help treat skin diseases. My knowledge in assessing exposure risk of pollutants will aid in my ability to determine the safety, incidence, and distribution of mixtures on the skin to control disease and other factors relating to health.” Her advisors are Jeffrey Laskin and Laurie Joseph.

Kerins photo.jpgMichael Kerins will participate in the TERA Dose-Response Boot Camp that will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio, September 24–28, 2018. His dissertation research at the University of Arizona explores pathological roles of NRF2 activation by xenobiotics and mutation, and methods to circumvent tumor drug resistance in cancer. Aikseng Ooi, his advisor, said “Given his previous experience (he was a product developer for a consumer products company before beginning graduate school) and interest in the consumer products category, this training is extremely relevant for his career goals. Michael has indicated to me his desire to return to this industry as a toxicologist, and risk assessment training will be a boon to his career prospects.” The course will provide training in hazard characterization and dose-response assessment, and upon completion, participants will be able to derive and evaluate risk values and supporting documentation for both noncancer and cancer risk assessments.

v2Melnikov photo.jpgFjodor Melnikov has arranged to participate in computational chemistry studies in the laboratory of Jakub Kostal at George Washington University, Washington, DC, during August and September. Yale advisor Paul Anastas states, “Fjodor developed a novel algorithm for high-throughput assessment of complex concentration-response curves, as well as their parameter uncertainty. In addition, we have shown promising relations between the data and chemical properties derived from density functional theory. However, considerable computational effort is necessary to compute sophisticated reactivity and portioning parameters for large toxicity data sets.” Dr. Kostal said, “The goal of the training exercise is to provide practical, hands-on experience necessary for greater reliance on and responsible use of computational chemistry tools in predictive toxicology and molecular design research.” Mr. Melnikov underscores the value in saying “This experience…is immensely helpful to my future career. I am planning to continue working in alternative assessment, biological modeling, and chemical design after graduation. As the number of chemicals in commerce is in the tens of thousands, it is neither humane nor cost-effective to assess all toxic endpoints for all existing and incoming substances with animal test…I will continue to work to understand the relationships between electronic properties of a molecule and its biological and industrial functions to enable more rational chemical and pharmaceutical design and a safer, more sustainable industrial landscape.”

v2Diana You Headshot-1.jpgDiana You of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, will be attending the October Cetara Intensive Workshops on Model-Informed Drug Development in October in Princeton, New Jersey.  Her advisors Lauren Aleksunes and Jason Richardson said, “Diana intends to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry building upon her PharmD and PhD training. At Rutgers and Neomed, we do not have the training capabilities in PBPK modeling that Diana wishes to develop during the Simcyp training. Advanced in silico training will make her highly competitive for industrial positions that tie drug disposition and toxicity testing.” Her thesis research elucidates the importance of efflux transporters in modulating the levels and consequently efficacy and/or toxicity of various chemicals in the brain. She says, “After graduation, I would like to utilize my knowledge of transporter functioning to work as a scientist in a pharmaceutical company to evaluate the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics (PK/PD) of drug candidates in the human population....Therefore, it is important that I am also trained on this modern technique.”

 Graduate students are encouraged now to begin developing proposals for the next application deadline which is October 9, 2018.

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