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King University News :: King U Students Present at International Conference on Toxicology

BRISTOL, Tenn., June 6, 2014 – This past spring, five of King University’s Neuroscience or Biology students, along with Dr. Vanessa Fitsanakis, associate professor of Biology, and her research lab staff presented their original research at an international meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. This meeting, the Society of Toxicology’s 53rd Annual Meeting and ToxExpo™, is the largest professional gathering of toxicologists in the world.

In addition to sponsoring an annual meeting, the Society of Toxicology (SOT) is committed to creating a safer and healthier world by advancing the science of toxicology. According to the 2013-14 SOT President Lois D. Lehman-g class=gr_ gr_7557941 gr-alert g class=gr_ gr_6934274 gr-alert gr_spell ContextualSpelling ins-del multiReplace id=6934274 data-gr-id=6934274gr_spell/g ContextualSpelling ins-del id=7557941 data-gr-id=7557941g class=gr_ gr_6934275 gr-alert gr_spell ContextualSpelling ins-del id=6934275 data-gr-id=6934275McKeeman/gg class=gr_ gr_6934276 gr-alert gr_spell ContextualSpelling ins-del multiReplace id=6934276 data-gr-id=6934276/g/g Ph.D., ATS, “The annual meeting provides opportunities to learn from [peer toxicologists] about their latest scientific achievements in the field of toxicology and related disciplines as well as from Nobel laureates and other distinguished leaders. In addition, the SOT Annual Meeting provides a venue to share work [from the past year]. For the science of toxicology, this is the premier meeting that shouldn’t be missed.” This year, over 6,000 professionals in the field of toxicology attended.

“The Society of Toxicology continues to benefit from the active involvement of faculty like Dr. Fitsanakis who g class=gr_ gr_7558623 gr-alert g class=gr_ gr_6934244 gr-alert gr_spell ContextualSpelling ins-del id=6934244 data-gr-id=6934244gr_gramm/g Grammar multiReplace id=7558623 data-gr-id=7558623makeg class=gr_ gr_6934245 gr-alert gr_spell ContextualSpelling ins-del multiReplace id=6934245 data-gr-id=6934245/g/g it a priority for her students to be involved in research and present their papers at the largest toxicology meeting in the world,” said Richard g class=gr_ gr_7558085 gr-alert g class=gr_ gr_6934246 gr-alert gr_spell ContextualSpelling ins-del multiReplace id=6934246 data-gr-id=6934246gr_spell/g ContextualSpelling ins-del doubleReplace id=7558085 data-gr-id=7558085g class=gr_ gr_6934247 gr-alert gr_spell ContextualSpelling ins-del doubleReplace id=6934247 data-gr-id=6934247Pollenz/gg class=gr_ gr_6934248 gr-alert gr_spell ContextualSpelling ins-del multiReplace id=6934248 data-gr-id=6934248/g/g, Ph.D., chair of the SOT Education Committee. “Involving undergraduate students in research g class=gr_ gr_7558161 gr-alert g class=gr_ gr_6934213 gr-alert gr_spell ContextualSpelling ins-del id=6934213 data-gr-id=6934213gr_gramm/g Grammar multiReplace id=7558161 data-gr-id=7558161providesg class=gr_ gr_6934214 gr-alert gr_spell ContextualSpelling ins-del multiReplace id=6934214 data-gr-id=6934214/g/g important experiences in the discipline and allows the students to see the connection to graduate school and a multitude of careers. Toxicology is a field with a diversity of employment opportunities all of which help create a safer and healthier world.”

Toxicologists perform research in a wide range of fields including academia, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and the cosmetics industry, among others.

“In the students’ research, they were continuing to tell more of the story that relates to the potential relationship between pesticides and neuron cell death,” said Fitsanakis. “All of the posters from the lab this year were themed. Several posters presented data related to the ability of these pesticides to target and inhibit the mitochondria in cells. The mitochondria are the part of the cell responsible for making energy the cell needs to survive. The other group of posters looked at whether these pesticides could increase oxidative stress. If a cell is exposed to increases in oxidative stress, this can result in damage to the proteins and other important cellular components on which the cell relies for proper function.”

King students presenting posters in Phoenix included Royce Nichols (’14), Shelbie Burchfield (’15), Rachel Donaldson (’14), Sarah Orfield (’14), and Reid Barnett (’14). Neurotoxicology research staff members, and alumnae from King University, who also presented included Denise Bailey(’12), lab manager, and Callie Todt (’13), lab assistant, and Ariel Velasquez (’13), lab assistant. Only approximately one percent of those attending the SOT annual meeting are undergraduates.

“The students felt a true sense of comradery with the scientists at the SOT meeting,” commented Fitsanakis. “They were treated and accepted as professionals in the field of toxicology. To prep the students to be both knowledgeable and comfortable presenting their poster, we practice quite extensively. Initially, the students find it somewhat traumatic since I do not allow them to practice while looking at their poster until the night before their presentation. Part of the prep is to help them present the entirety of their research poster without having the crutch of their poster on which to lean. When the students were ready to present at the SOT meeting, they were able to do so with confidence alongside other professionals because they knew what was on their poster by heart.”

As part of their experience and interactions with the scientists at the meeting, two of King’s students were accepted to toxicology internships for summer 2014. Shelbie Burchfield is interning at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and is working on research related to kidney toxicity; Royce Nichols is interning at Louisiana State University in Shreveport in their Neurotoxicology and Pharmacology program.

For more information on King University’s Neurotoxicology Lab contact Dr. Vanessa Fitsanakis at or 423.652.6322.


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