I am a fifth-year PhD candidate in environmental health sciences at the Mailman School of Public Heath, Columbia University. My dissertation research focuses on studying environmental contributors to neurodegenerative diseases—specifically, chronic exposure to air pollution mixtures and metals. This semester, thanks to the SOT Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award, I had the opportunity to attend a four-day workshop on exposure-response analysis in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. The workshop focused on statistical methods used to analyze exposure/response data using the Statistical Software R. It covered noncompartmental pharmacokinetics; statistical hypothesis of clinical trial data; and exposure/response modeling, including survival models, cox models, logistic regression, proportional odds models, generalized linear models, and Poisson regression. Each session was composed of a lecture that gave an overview of the method’s background theory and principles follow by a lab session in which we applied the method to a real dataset using R. There were approximately 15 attendees, and the relatively small group size allowed for a very interactive workshop. Participants were from different backgrounds, including academia, pharmaceutical companies, and government agencies, which also made the workshop a great opportunity for networking.
Through my research work, I became interested in the field of risk assessment, specifically in analyzing exposure/response data and the process of determining safety margins for environmental compounds. As part of my PhD dissertation research, I generated neuron and glia survival data at different concentrations of metal exposure using wild-type and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in vitro cell models. I will first use the knowledge I acquired in this workshop to complete the analysis of the survival data and identify minimal metal exposure concentrations that elicit toxic effects in each cell type. I also will leverage the skills I obtained through this workshop to continue my main dissertation project evaluating the relationship between chronic exposure to air pollution and progression of neurodegenerative diseases. For my postdoctoral training, I plan to build on my dose/response analysis expertise by taking advantage of the increasing availability of toxicological data and exposure/response computational models to continue studying the effects of environmental exposures on neurodegeneration.
The ability to analyze exposure/response relationships is crucial to determining what exposure amounts are considered safe and where safety thresholds lie when setting regulations for environmental toxicants or product safety. Thus, participating in the NIH dose/response workshop was a great learning opportunity for me through which I acquired core foundational skills to further my knowledge in risk assessment.
SOT Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award
The SOT Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award enables undergraduate and graduate students to enhance their professional and personal development and engage in additional education and career development opportunities. Administered by the Committee on Diversity Initiatives, the SOT Diversity Initiatives Fund provides the award, which aims to increase and retain individuals from groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. Award recipients are selected based on criteria that include quality of the proposed experience, relevance of the proposed professional activity to a career involving the science of toxicology, academic achievement, and recommendation by an academic advisor. Awards of up to $1,000 per recipient may be given.
Applications are accepted anytime but no later than May 1, 2020.