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Students Recognized at Society of Toxicology Meeting

[Andressa Gonsioroski and Kathy De La Torre]

Research by Undergraduate, Doctoral Students

Two student researchers working in the laboratory of Dr. Jodi Flaws, professor in the Department of Comparative Biosciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine, were honored at the Society of Toxicology (SOT) 2021 Annual Meeting and ToxExpo, which took place virtually at the end of March.

Andressa Gonsioroski, a PhD student in the Department of Comparative Biosciences, received the 2021 Roger O. McClellan Student Award. This award to given to veterinarians enrolled in graduate programs or dual degree DVM/PhD students. The award is based on the quality of the submitted abstract, the student’s dissertation research, academic record, personal statement, and a letter of support from the research advisor. (Dr. Gonsioroski is at left in the image above.)

Kathy De La Torre, a junior majoring in biochemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, received the 2021 SOT Undergraduate Research Award. The award is given based on the quality of the submitted poster abstract, personal statement, academic record, and the advisor’s supporting recommendation.

“It is wonderful to see underrepresented students in STEM fields receive recognition for their outstanding work from a major international scientific society,” said Dr. Flaws. “I am extremely proud of both students. They are exceptional students who are conducting novel research on the effects of environmental chemicals on female reproduction.”

Career in Veterinary Toxicologic Pathology

Gonsioroski’s doctoral research focuses on how exposure to water disinfection byproducts (DBPs) affects female reproduction. She holds both veterinary and master’s degrees from Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul Brasil. For her master’s degree is in in animal reproduction and reproduction biotechniques, she studied the effects of sublethal stress on cryopreserved bovine embryos.

“Exposure to DBPs is associated with adverse reproductive outcomes in animals and humans. My research investigates the effects of DBPs on the ovaries,” said Dr. Gonsioroski. “Such information is critical for understanding the benefits and risks of certain water disinfection processes.”

After completing her PhD degree, Dr. Gonsioroski plans to pursue a pathology residency and continue making impactful discoveries. “I hope I can combine my knowledge in reproductive toxicology and veterinary medicine to become a veterinary toxicologic pathologist.”

Curious About Harmful Chemicals

De La Torre presented her research findings on the “Prenatal and Postnatal Exposure to Polychlorinated Biphenyls Alter Hormone Receptor Expression in the Rat Ovary” to an international audience. She is one of 11 undergraduate research award recipients this year. As part of SOT’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of scientists, award winners participate in sessions that introduce them to the discipline of toxicology, graduate school, and career options.

“I have always been curious about how chemicals in our everyday products, such as plastic bottles and cosmetics, affect our reproductive system,” De La Torre said. “We have been told to avoid certain chemicals, but I never understood why.”

Her curiosity led her to join Dr. Flaws’ research laboratory at the beginning of her sophomore year. For the research presented at the conference, De La Torre performed lab work that included RNA extraction, cDNA synthesis, and quantitative PCR. With guidance from Dr. Flaws and Dr. Daryl Meling, she wrote an abstract and created a poster presentation for the conference.

“Having the opportunity to present at the conference and network with other researchers around the world has enhanced my interest in pursuing research as a career,” De La Torre said. “In the future, I hope to inform the general public about the adverse effects of chemicals in everyday products, while advocating on behalf of the public to ensure companies are being responsible for the chemicals they use.”

About the Organizations

SOT is a professional and scholarly organization of more than 8,000 scientists from academic institutions, government, and industry. The SOT Annual Meeting is the largest toxicology conference and exposition in the world.

The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine has a long history of research and clinical strengths in the field of toxicology.