Latest STEP Awards Announced

With SOT support, two SOT graduate students will be supplementing their graduate training with specific activities directed toward future career paths in toxicology. The recipients are Lauren Lewis, BS, Texas A&M University, and Anne Turco, BA, University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Supplemental Training and Education Program (STEP) funding provides up to $1,000 to support participation in activities outside the dissertation work that will contribute to professional development. Graduate students are encouraged to begin developing proposals now for the next application deadline of May 1, 2019.

Lauren LewisMs. Lewis will participate in the American College of Toxicology educational course “Toxicology for Pharmaceutical and Regulatory Scientists” in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in April. Her career goal is to become a toxicologist in the pharmaceutical industry in drug discovery and development, specifically, investigation of small molecule drugs that target epigenetic mechanisms that may be key drivers in disease pathogenesis. Participating in this course will help her fill in graduate program curriculum gaps, including topics such as nonclinical data, safety pharmacology, and analyses of nonclinical data. She will learn about regulatory toxicology from a nonclinical pharmacology and toxicology point of view.

Her research mentor, Ivan Rusyn, MD, PhD, Texas A&M University, remarked that Ms. Lewis “has taken a very proactive path to training in toxicology by not only taking advantage of the rigorous and diverse academic curriculum in toxicology and regulatory science but also by actively seeking opportunities to expand her horizons by engaging in additional training and learning. She has engaged in a number of collaborations and training opportunities at other academic centers [University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Pennsylvania, and Duke University] and a federal agency [US FDA National Center for Toxicological Research] and is attending national/regional conferences in toxicology and drug safety. … This award will be a very valuable recognition to her aspirations in toxicology, in general, and her interest in pursuing a career in the drug industry.” Additional recognition of Ms. Lewis by SOT includes the 2018 Colgate-Palmolive Award for Student Research Training in Alternative Methods and the 2019 Syngenta Fellowship Award in Human Health Applications of New Technologies. She serves in several leadership positions, including with the SOT Women in Toxicology Special Interest Group, the Gordon Research Conference and Seminar on Drug Safety, and the executive committee of the Texas A&M University Interdisciplinary Faculty of Toxicology.

Anne TurcoMs. Turco will be attending the next Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment Dose Response Boot Camp with STEP support. Currently pursuing research related to the molecular mechanisms of toxicants, her career goal is to become an independent toxicologist specializing in consumer product safety. She has been actively seeking opportunities to become a more competitive job candidate, such as attending the Morgridge Entrepreneurship boot camp to build business acumen and pursuing leadership development through activities on her campus, including serving as president of the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Student Liaison Committee, serving as vice president of the Madison Chapter of Graduate Women in Sciences, and participating in WiSolve, a student-led industry consulting group.

Chad Vezina, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, her research mentor, commented that “the lack of formal training in risk assessment is consistently identified by students as the biggest weakness of their training experience. No formal training in risk assessment is available on our campus and this boot camp perfectly meets Anne’s particular career development needs.” He commented on her high productivity, including two publications as an undergraduate after a prestigious summer undergraduate research fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He continued, “Anne has assembled an ambitious and exciting research project which tests the hypothesis that chemical exposures during fetal and neonatal development interfere with prostate neuroanatomical development to change mouse urinary function. … Her idea to examine smooth muscle function is an innovative strategy for examining the mechanism by which TCDD causes urinary dysfunction. … I can state without hesitation that her project is transformative. If she is successful in her aims, she will have the first ever preclinical in vivo model for examining prostate smooth muscle function (and dysfunction)—it will generate considerable interest from the pharmaceutical industry.”

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