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Current Toxicology Scholars
Ling-Hsiu Liao

I am a PhD student in Department of Entomology at the School of Integrative Biology. My area of interest lies largely in detoxification and social insects. Under the supervision of Dr. May Berenbaum, I currently study the esterase and GST detoxification system in the western honey bees, Apis mellifera. We hypothesize that the age-related division of labor in honey bee colonies affects each individual such that xenobiotics are processed differently depending on caste, age, and task. Also, we hypothesize that some of their behavior, such as food processing, may affect their detoxification ability in a colony level. I hope our study will further develop ways to improve the health of honey bee colonies, the beekeeping strategies and understanding the impacts of pesticide usage inside and outside of beehives.
Suren Bandara

I am a PhD student in the Neuroscience Program. My research focus is on developmental environmental contaminant exposures and how it may affect auditory function in adulthood, using a rat model. Under the mentorship of Dr. Susan Schantz, I have been studying the effects of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) on auditory function, with recent focus on how PCB exposure may also cause audiogenic seizures. My experiments are geared towards understanding the mechanism behind PCB induced audiogenic seizures at the level of the brainstem and to recognize if PCB exposure during development would facilitate electrically induced seizures (kindling). I hypothesize that rats exposed to higher doses of PCBs will be more susceptible to audiogenic seizures and will likely be susceptible to the more generalized electrically kindled seizures. These studies may lead to the recognition of human populations with increased seizure susceptibility due to the consumption of PCB contaminated fish.

Patrick Hannon
Comparative Biosciences

I am a Ph.D. student in Dr. Jodi Flaws’ laboratory in the Department of Comparative Biosciences. My current research focuses on how environmental chemicals impact normal ovarian function. Specifically, I am interested in how the common plasticizer di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), a known endocrine disrupting chemical, affects ovarian follicular development and functions such as steroidogenesis. I am interested in studying the effects of DEHP on folliculogenesis and steroidogenesis because any alteration in these processes can be detrimental to fertility. Additionally, ovarian derived steroid hormones play important roles in non-reproductive physiology such as cardiovascular and skeletal health, thus highlighting the importance in studying the effect of DEHP on steroid hormone production. Based on earlier work from other members of Dr. Flaws’ group and me, we have determined that DEHP negatively affects both of these vital processes by accelerating early folliculogenesis and decreasing the levels of estradiol. I hypothesize that DEHP interferes with intraovarian factors responsible for early folliculogenesis and that DEHP affects both precursor hormones and enzymes responsible for generating estradiol.  My goal is to continue to utilize both in vivo and in vitro systems to understand the mechanism by which environmentally relevant levels of DEHP affect normal ovarian folliculogenesis and steroidogenesis.

Liang Ma
Materials Science & Engineering

I am a PhD candidate in Department of Materials Science and Engineering. My current research is focused on nanoparticles-mediated environmental toxicity study, especially Quantum dots (QDs). QDs, tiny light-emitting nanocrystals, show great potential as alternative fluorescent probes due to several significant advantages over conventional molecular fluorophores, including size and composition tunable light emission, improved brightness, excellent photo-stability, and multicolor fluorescence with a single-wavelength excitation. In the past decade, tremendous research efforts have been made to synthesize high quality QDs for in vitro and in vivo imaging. However, potential toxicity of QDs from long-term release of toxic elements (Cd, Hg, Pb, Se, As, etc.) remains a major roadblock to clinical translation. In addition, there are significant environmental concerns regarding the use and disposal of heavy-metal contained QDs. I have two primary research goals: to prepare nontoxic QDs for translation into clinical applications and to use QDs as a sensitive probe for understanding the mechanisms of nanoparticle-mediated toxicity in vivo. Under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Smith in Department of Bioengineering, I will pursue these objectives through the following specific aims. Aim 1 focuses on preparing nontoxic QDs and studying the toxicity of core materials in vitro. Aim 2 introduces compact surface coatings to maximize renal clearance of QDs. Aim 3 systematically explores biodistribution and pharmacokinetics of compact QDs. I hope my research will develop novel nontoxic QDs with compact surface coatings that can be potentially translated into clinical applications. Also, biodistribution and pharmacokinetics of nanoparticles with hydrodynamic diameters in 4 – 10 nm will be systematically studied for the first time.