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Three in Flaws Laboratory Earn Recognition

Dr. Jodi Flaws with students Justin Huff and Adira Safar

Dr. Jodi Flaws, professor of comparative biosciences, and two students who work in her laboratory recently received professional honors. The recognition came in the form of awards for Dr. Flaws and undergraduate student Adira Safar in May and a Morris Animal Foundation grant for Justin Huff, a current veterinary student. In July, Dr. Flaws will be presented with another prestigious recognition for her research impact.

Career Recognition for Dr. Flaws

Dr. Flaws received the Kenneth P. Dubois Award from the Midwest Regional Chapter of the Society of Toxicology (MRC/SOT) at its spring meeting on May 19. The Dubois Award honors an outstanding Midwest toxicologist with more than 15 years of distinguished professional experience in the field of toxicology.

Dr. Flaws credits the research accomplishments made through her laboratory to the work of her trainees and staff. Her work has long focused on investigating the mechanisms by which environmental chemicals adversely affect the female reproductive system.

Going forward, Dr. Flaws said, “We will be investigating how phthalates and pesticides affect ovarian function and fertility.”

In further testimony to the stature of Dr. Flaws as a researcher, the Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR), an international an association of scientists and physicians, will present Dr. Flaws with the 2023 SSR Research Award at its annual meeting next month. This award recognizes an active SSR member for outstanding research published during the previous six years, evaluated on the basis of significance of the problems under investigation, the breadth and depth of the analyses performed, and the level of originality manifested in the publications of this work.

Safar Honored as Young Investigator

Safar, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in molecular & cellular biology in 2024, is an assistant in Dr. Flaw’s laboratory. She received the MRC/SOT Young Investigator’s Award, which will support her research into the effects of phthalates on factors associated with ovarian aging.

Safar said she sought out the opportunity to join the Flaws lab.

“Jodi’s lab was on the top on my list, as I wanted to pursue a career as an OB/GYN or embryologist at that time. Her research was the most relevant to reproductive health,” she said.

Safar is mentored by Dr. Ramsés Santacruz, a post-doctoral research associate in the Flaws lab.

“I am deeply grateful for Jodi and Ramsés’s support in the beginning of my research career. I have developed such a passion for research that I have decided to pursue a PhD upon graduation from U of I.”

Huff Awarded Summer Research Stipend

Justin Huff, a rising second-year veterinary student, was named a Veterinary Student Scholar through a competitive program offered by the Morris Animal Foundation. The program provides a $5,500 stipend to support students conducting a summer research project.

Huff became interested in the work done in Dr. Flaws lab when she was teaching endocrinology to his veterinary class. Dr. Flaws’s passion for student success inspired him to ask her to be his mentor.

“Ongoing research, including studies done in Dr. Flaw’s lab, shows that commonly used environmental endocrine disruptors are reducing female fertility and posing long-term reproductive consequences,” noted Huff.

Little information is available regarding the impact of these chemicals on the reproductive health of companion animals. Therefore, Huff devised a summer research project to examine the effects of common endocrine-disrupting chemicals on the canine ovary. Huff is interested in becoming a professor with an emphasis on reproduction research. He wants to help others thrive and succeed the way Dr. Flaws has encouraged him.

By Elizabeth Dattner