As an awardee of the SOT International ToxScholar Outreach program, I gave a two-day course to PhD and MS students in the Toxicology Program of the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The opportunity to go back to my graduate school in Brazil to teach the students and inspire their careers in toxicology was a very gratifying experience! The success of the course would not be possible without the outstanding help and coordination of the host, Professor Silvia Berlanga de Moraes Barros, who organized and motivated the students’ participation. Prof. Barros integrated the course as an official discipline of the Toxicological Program of the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Sao Paulo.
For political and economic reasons, the establishment of a scientific research career in Brazil has become extremely difficult. This situation has contributed to the low interest of students to pursue a career as a researcher, including in toxicological sciences. Considering the importance of science to the development of a nation, it is important to motivate, guide, and support students that consider the option of a career in toxicological research.
I aimed to expand the awareness of toxicology research and inspire students into the field of toxicology by sharing my career history and informing students about paths, challenges and specific training and skills needed to succeed as a researcher in toxicology. I talked about the important role that SOT and the Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists (HOT) played in my career and shared information on how the students can take advantage of these organizations to boost their careers, including ways students can volunteer with SOT and HOT, the awards offered, and opportunities to attend the SOT Annual Meeting in the US.
To encourage Brazilian students to follow a career in toxicological research and promote their careers, it is important to create collaboration between multinational laboratories. During my visit, I presented two additional seminars related to scientific topics in which I have expertise: “Epigenetic Alterations Induced by Exposure to Chemical Genotoxic and Non-genotoxic Carcinogens” and “Early Biomarkers of Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)-Related Hepatocarcinogenesis.” I was able to reinforce an ongoing collaboration with students from the laboratory where I conducted my PhD thesis at the University of Sao Paulo and to establish a new collaboration with the University of Goias, Brazil.
The fact that I was a former student from the University of Sao Paulo helped me to connect with the students and opened discussions about the unique issues and concerns related to research that are present in developing countries as Brazil. From these interactions, it was proposed to the students to write a short article about aspects of toxicology research in Brazil, which will be published in Toxenlaces (the HOT newsletter) in July 2020.
The results of a survey after the course indicated that the overall evaluation of the course was excellent, and the course improved the perception of the students in toxicology research.
From the host, Prof. Silvia Berlanga de Moraes Barros:
“The participation of Dr. de Conti as a visiting Professor at the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of São Paulo, was outstanding. She gave talks to the MSc and PhD students of the Program in Toxicology and she shared with them her experience both in science and regulatory issues related to her area of activity. Also, she shared her experience as a previous postdoc of the NCTR, now she as a fellow of the NCTR, on how to build a career in toxicology in US. Besides that, she also addressed her experience as a member of the HOT board with special emphasis on the importance of being a member of both SOT and HOT.”
During this visit I could feel the eagerness of the students to learn about hot topics in toxicology and discuss upcoming changes in the field. The energy I felt from them has inspired me to keep contributing to increasing awareness of toxicology and promoting the careers of students in developing countries. The SOT International ToxScholar Outreach program allowed me to give back to my country.