interview

Scientist at Work: Interview with Dr. Heriberto Cabezas

Dr. Heriberto Cabezas is currently the Senior Science Advisor to the Sustainable Technology Division in EPA’s National Risk Management Research Lab, where he works to advance the scientific understanding, development, and application of science and technologies to address a variety of areas related to sustainability. He was formerly an Acting Director of the Division, and Chief of the Sustainable Environments Branch.

When did you first know you wanted to pursue science?

I think I must have been five or six. For some unknown reason, I was playing with the electricity in my house. Of course as a six year-old I was lucky to survive. I did hook up a number of things and the lights went out in my house. I had to fix it quietly so my parents wouldn’t notice. The second time, I redid my rig and the lights didn’t go out. I was always interested in science.

How does your science matter?

My work focuses on preventing environmental problems from happening in the first place. I mostly work on designing processes that have the smallest environmental footprint.

More recently, I have been working on sustainability. We have to ask ourselves, “How can we successfully manage the environment so that we avoid environmental problems in the long term?” The kinds of things that my coworkers and I do matter because it’s the best way to protect the environment and human health: being proactive. We’re not trying to fix a problem after it has already occurred, but trying to see if we can prevent the problems from occurring in the first place. I think that is important.  Click here to read the whole interview.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Scientist at Work: Interview with Thomas Knudsen

Dr. Tom Knudsen is a developmental systems biologist at EPA’s Center for Computational Toxicology. His research focuses on developing predictive models of developmental toxicity, building and testing sophisticated computer models such as the Virtual Embryo Project. This effort explores the potential for chemicals to disrupt prenatal development—one of the most important lifestages.

In addition to his research at EPA, Dr. Knudsen is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Louisville, Editor-in-Chief of the scientific journal Reproductive Toxicology, and Past-President of the Teratology Society.

Before joining EPA, he was Professor at the University of Louisville.

How does your science matter?

I am part of an exciting effort to develop new ways to explore development toxicology and prioritize the testing of chemicals using vast amounts of data and biological knowledge, powerful computers, sophisticated computer models and very large databases. Instead of the conventional approach to developmental toxicology, which over the past 50 years or so has relied on tests conducted on pregnant lab animals, we are developing virtual models that are both faster and less expensive.

For example, in the Virtual Embryo project we are using a suite of screening models that look at the interactions of various chemicals with the complex biology of a developing embryo. We think that these models and tools will be a new way of asking questions about how a pregnant woman’s exposure to chemicals in the environment might result in a risk to development.

Our work will help protect human health, greatly increase the number of chemicals we can screen quickly, and reduce costs all at the same time. So I guess it really does matter.

What do you like most about your research?

Most days I feel like I have the best job in the country!

The team that I work with consists of bright and exceptionally talented scientists, among them more than a half dozen outstanding young scientists and post-doctoral fellows. As a like-minded team, we strive to unravel complexity in a biological system such as the embryo.

I really enjoy the many opportunities for productive collaboration here at EPA. The opportunity to conceptualize the Virtual Embryo Project and see it grow and evolve has been most gratifying, not only because of the innovative science that it allows, but also because of the opportunities that it presents for professional development of young scientists.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.