Opportunities for New and Experienced Toxicologists

By Margaret Pratt

I’ve attended Society of Toxicology, (SOT) meetings regularly since my second year of graduate school. It’s an excellent way to get the latest updates in areas directly relevant to my work, as well as in toxicology in general, including emerging topics and technologies, some of which may be the routine tools of the future.

It’s also an opportunity to connect with friends, former and future colleagues, and collaborators.  This “networking,” forming collaborations, getting feedback, and maybe having a little fun together is a critical part of career development.

I’ve also enjoyed participating in educational outreach activities, and this year’s annual SOT meeting presented another great opportunity.  During the K-12 outreach, we introduced Bay Area kids and their families to toxicology in an interactive setting at the Lawrence Hall of Science.

A big THANK YOU to EPA’s Maureen Gwinn for being one of the leaders of SOT’s educational outreach programs, along with kudos for a well-executed, well-attended event!

Since arriving in EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System Program less than two years ago, I have become a member of two separate teams conducting assessments of chemical mixtures. My attendance at SOT was an opportunity to enhance my understanding of mixtures and cumulative assessments, as several sessions were devoted to these and related topics.

I also used the SOT Conference to focus on “NexGen” topics. NexGen risk assessment is one of EPA’s research areas that proposes to utilize data derived from the same “systems biology” techniques that have given rise to the notion of personalized medicine. This area holds much promise, but it will take time for the technology – and our use of it – to be sufficiently validated. Additionally, presentations about how epigenetic changes are emerging as factors to include in hazard assessments were also on my itinerary.

In particular, I enjoyed the plenary opening lecture given by Dr. Leroy Hood on the subject of Systems Biology and Toxicology and his vision of using emerging technologies to move from reactive health care to a more prevention-oriented paradigm. It will be interesting to watch the development of his ideas in parallel with NexGen risk assessment.

About the Author: Toxicologist Margaret Pratt joined the EPA in 2010.  She loves to travel and is trying to reconcile that with her love of animals. After joining EPA she began volunteering with an Arlington animal shelter and has since fostered 32 kittens and one cat (not all at once).

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