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King Biology Students Present at World’s Largest Toxicology Conference

BRISTOL, Tenn., May 26, 2016 – This spring, three of King University’s seniors presented at an academic conference in New Orleans, La. Vanessa Fitsanakis, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of Biology, and the Dr. Edward W Burke, Jr., Professor in Natural Sciences, led the group of students – Caleb Corona (’16), Cellular and Molecular Biology major with a minor in Chemistry; Kara Montgomery (’16), Neuroscience major, and Cameron Sale (’16), Cellular and Molecular Biology major – to the Society of Toxicology (SOT) 55th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo in March of this year. SOT is the largest professional gathering of toxicologists in the world.

All three students participated in poster presentations at the SOT conference. The students’ research told the continuing story of the potential relationship between pesticides and neuron cell death. The research, conducted under the supervision of Dr. Fitsanakis, is part of a $300,000 grant awarded to the professor from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The grant, entitled “Role of Oxidative Stress and Protein Transporters in Glyphosate and Mancozeb Neurotoxicity,” focuses on the potential ability for widely used pesticides to cause oxidative stress.

“Working in the [Neurotoxicology] lab has been a great experience,” said Montgomery. “It has increased my ability to think analytically and statistically. The fact we are contributing actual research to the discipline of Neurotoxicology is phenomenal at the undergraduate level.” Sale added, “The lab has been an invaluable experience. I have received training on equipment I would otherwise have not had the opportunity to use.”

Sale noted, “The ability to conduct research, be published, and participate in the Society of Toxicology Conference, all as undergraduates, is amazing!”

Each of the students described their experiences as transformative. For Corona, conducting research in the lab set him on a completely different career path. “I was pretty set on becoming a wildlife biologist. Once I took toxicology with Dr. Fits, and fell in love with the ‘hows and whys’ and research of this science.”

“One of the major benefits the Biology Department at King University can provide to students that they would find lacking at a tier one research institute is the ability to work with the scientist in charge of the project,” said Fitsanakis. “At a tier one school, [undergraduate students] would be trained by graduate students or entry-level post-doctoral students. At King, we can assign the student a particular section of an on-going research project and, in essence, have them ‘own’ that project. King’s students have comparable responsibilities to that of tier one graduate-level students.”


King University is a Presbyterian-affiliated, doctoral-level comprehensive university. Founded in 1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences, pharmacy, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business administration, education, and nursing. A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and travel destinations are also available. King University is a NCAA Division II and a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity sports. For more information about King University, visit King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability. King University is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia. For more information on SCHEV certification, contact the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road, Richlands, VA 24641.