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5th Year

BellTyler J. Bell

Hometown: Lima, NY

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Biochemistry from SUNY Geneseo
  • M.S. in Toxicology from University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Research Group: Kottmann Lab

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

The Toxicology Training Program provides a unique environment for scientific collaboration. Coming from a background in biochemistry, I chose toxicology as a way to apply my understanding of the basic science in a meaningful way. My work has allowed me to learn from, work, and communicate with medical professionals, patients, epidemiologists, virologists, cGMP engineers, pharmacologists, neuroscientists, and more. This unique environment allows for both a broad understanding of the toxicological sciences and a focused specialty. 

What is your research focus?

Myofibroblast differentiation stimulated by transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) is generally accepted to play a pivotal role in the development and progression of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Our lab has focused on the proton sensing G-protein Coupled Receptor (GPCR) GPR68 (OGR1) as a negative regulator of myofibroblast differentiation. My work focuses on intracellular signaling generated through stimulation of GPR68, and how these signals disrupt canonical and/or non-canonical TGF-β signaling. Identification of the mechanisms through which GPR68 stimulation inhibits myofibroblast differentiation will significantly enhance our understanding of both the pathology of pulmonary fibrosis and basic cellular mechanisms through which these processes occur. As there are common mechanisms of fibrosis throughout the body, this project may also be applicable to the pathophysiology of fibrosis in other organ systems including the heart, liver, eye, and kidney.

What do you like to do in Rochester?

Go to live music, patronize our many excellent restaurants, cook, golf, cycle, ski, and spend time in the Finger Lakes region.

CubelloJanine Cubello

Hometown: Youngstown, NY

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Biochemistry from Niagara University
  • M.S. in Toxicology from University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Research Group: Mayer-Pröschel Lab

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

I have really enjoyed all of the opportunities to practice communicating my own research effectively in various public speaking formats (i.e. seminars, retreats, and conferences). Additionally, during my training thus far I highly value the opportunities to hear from and interact with past alumni and invited keynote speakers. It’s really unique and amazing to be able to just talk with these well-known researchers about their career journeys and gain insight on the steps they took for success. Considering many of them sat in our shoes years ago and have really done amazing things with their doctorate since, it’s a nice perspective check.

What is your research focus?

My research investigates the impacts of prenatal lead exposure and maternal iron deficiency on neurodevelopment, specifically from a glial perspective.

What do you like to do in Rochester?

Rochester has a little of everything for just about anyone. Being an outdoorsy person, I like to explore all of the numerous parks and hidden gems Rochester has to offer. If I’m not riding my bike or running in a local park, I’m finding new fishing spots and hiking in areas just a short car ride away.

ConnorConnor McGuire

Hometown: Buffalo, NY

Education Background: 

  • B.S. in Environmental Studies from Elmira College
  • M.S. in Environmental Health Sciences from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • M.S. in Toxicology from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Research Group: Robert Lab

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

I have most enjoyed the strong sense of community and belonging in our program. The students go out of their way to support each-other ranging from mentorship between the students, feedback from seminars and practice chalk-talks, and even just arranging social events for the students. I’ve also appreciated that the department encourages us to meet with visiting speakers to learn more about different academic and non-academic career paths, and that we’re given ample opportunities to present our research internally through our seminar series and the annual toxicology retreat, as well as at national conferences.

What is your research focus?

My research focuses on the role of environmentally relevant endocrine disrupting chemicals with putative anti-thyroid effects on T cell development in Xenopus laevis, an amphibian model organism. We specifically study a mixture of chemicals used in unconventional oil and gas extraction, which is well known to contaminate nearby surface and ground-water by wastewater run-off. My work uses this mixture to address multiple questions: 1) how can these chemicals interfere with thyroid function during tadpole-stage development, which is dependent on thyroid hormones, 2) how these chemicals alter T cell development acutely within the tadpole thymus, and 3) what are the long term effects of these chemicals on anti-viral and transplant rejection immune responses in frogs following developmental exposure?

What do you like to do in Rochester?

In Rochester I really like to explore the local restaurant and microbrewery scenes. It really feels like there are new places to visit and try out all the time. My favorite Rochester event is the Lilac Festival, a 10 day event in May that celebrates the blooming of lilacs, and features great street food, live music performances and wine tasting events.

PalmerMackenzie Palmer

Hometown: Oswego, NY

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Chemistry from SUNY Potsdam
  • M.S. in Toxicology from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Research Group: Finkelstein Lab

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

I have really enjoyed the community of our department. Everyone has always made me feel welcomed and supported. I have also loved developing and progressing my research, and growing as a scientist, which all stem from the great education I’ve been given, and continue to receive from our department.

What is your research focus?

My research focuses on alternatively activated macrophages in Radiation-Induced Pulmonary Fibrosis (RIPF). Alternatively activated macrophages are known to contribute to the progression of RIPF; however, how they become alternatively activated is still unknown. I am currently investigating metabolic alterations within RIPF, and their effects on the polarization of alternatively activated macrophages. 

What do you like to do in Rochester?

I love trying new restaurants and breweries in Rochester. The food scene here is amazing, with there being so many small, locally owned businesses. I also enjoy exploring the areas around Rochester. There are many beautiful parks in and around the city, with plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities such as biking and hiking.

4th Year

IanIan Krout

Hometown: Bucks County, PA

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Environmental Science and Assessment with a Minor in Biology from Marist College
  • M.S. in Toxicology from University of Rochester School Of Medicine and Dentistry

Research Group: Rand Lab

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

So far during my training I have enjoyed the range of interdisciplinary aspects to my research, highlighted during classes and seminar speakers as well as in my day to day work in the lab. I love the ability to approach a problem from several different angles to find the most creative and rationale way to answer the question. I have enjoyed the range of techniques, assays, and equipment I have learned to use, and I appreciate the ability to take on projects as my own, driving the direction through creative problem solving techniques.

What is your research focus?

In the lab my interests lie in both methylmercury toxicity as well as the gut microbiomes role in the field of toxicology. My research is focused on elucidating the microbial mechanisms of the gut that give rise to inter-individual differences in methylmercury elimination from person to person. It is focused on investigating the bacterial species at play in the microbiome, the mechanisms used for biotransformation, and what this means for the overall elimination rate and subsequent toxicity of differing mercury compounds.

What do you like to do in Rochester?

There are so many things I love about the Rochester community. In the summers I like to attend the Lilac, Park Ave, Jazz, and Corn Hill Festivals, as well as get a round of golf in at the numerous greens nearby. In the winters I enjoy hitting the ski slopes and visiting the museums downtown. Year round I love going out to experience the great restaurants and local breweries the area has to offer.

LucasJoseph Lucas

Hometown: San Antonio, TX

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Toxicology with a Minor in Statistics from the Pennsylvania State University
  • M.S. in Toxicology from University of Rochester School Of Medicine and Dentistry

Research Group: Irfan Rahman Lab

Alyssa Merrill

Alyssa

Hometown: Cassadaga, NY

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Biology with Minors in Chemistry, Gerontology, Pre-Med, and Psychology, Nazareth College
  • M.S. in Toxicology from University of Rochester School Of Medicine and Dentistry

Research Group: Cory-Slechta and Sobolewski Labs

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

The breath of information the coursework exposes you to. Having a broad interdisciplinary coursework aids in the determination of where to rotate as a first-year student by allowing you to find labs that align with interests you might have not been aware of or even known was an active area of research.

What is your research focus?

The physiological changes a woman undergoes during pregnancy leave her uniquely susceptible to environmental exposures, yet, maternal health remains an understudied area in toxicology. Epidemiological research has shown women exposed to high levels of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) during pregnancy have a greater likelihood of developing gestational diabetes, drastically increasing their chances of being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in the next decade. My research investigates the impact an exposure to a carefully curated mixture of EDCs during pregnancy has on a woman’s long-term metabolic and neurobehavioral health. My research addresses direct mechanisms of EDC exposure on glucose tolerance and behavioral assays used as models for anxiety and depression.

What do you like to do in Rochester?

Discovering the shops throughout Rochester. Rochester has a vast array of small business that produce everything from homemade pasta to jewelry. I never bore of seeing the creativity the area has to offer.

EmilyEmily Quarato

Hometown: Westchester, NY

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Chemistry with a concentration in Chemical Education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • M.S. in Toxicology from University of Rochester School Of Medicine and Dentistry

Research Group: Calvi Lab

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

The Toxicology Training Program has fostered an environment that has allowed me to by improve my scientific thinking and communication skills, expand my network with fellow students, faculty, and alumni, and connected me with a supportive community.

What is your research focus?

The hematopoietic system is extremely sensitive to toxic chemicals and hematopoietic failure is one of the leading causes of mortality following acute injury. The Calvi Lab focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of the bone microenvironment in regulation of hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) in the bone marrow. My work focuses on understanding the consequences to and mitigation strategies of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), a component of the bone marrow microenvironment that support HSCs, following radiation injury.  

What do you like to do in Rochester?

I am a big foodie, so I love that Rochester has given me the option to try new foods. I also love the visit the Public Market, which is a great place to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables!

AlexAlexandra Strohm

Hometown: Bloomfield Hills, MI

Education Background:

  • B.S in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with a Minor in Pharmacology and Toxicology from Michigan State University
  • M.S. in Toxicology from University of Rochester School Of Medicine and Dentistry

Research Group: Majewska Lab

3rd Year

Beamish

Catherine Beamish

Hometown: Syracuse, NY

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Chemistry with a focus in Biochemistry and a Minor in Mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis

Research Group: Rand Lab

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

I have really enjoyed learning about fly basics with the Rand Lab, allowing independence and freedom with my research projects.

What is your research focus? 

My research focuses on characterizing discrete cellular and molecular pathways responsible for developmental disruption producing the toxicity ascribed to relevant heavy metal mixtures.   

What do you like to do in Rochester?  

Rochester has a surprisingly large trivia scene sans pandemic, which my friends have continued online. There are also a lot of expansive parks in Rochester where I can have a picnic or play kickball in the summer and can cross-country ski in the winter.

Kristina FennerFenner

Hometown: Howard, PA

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Biochemistry from Susquehanna University

Research Group: Lawrence Lab

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

I have enjoyed the support system of the program and my lab. The environment is very supportive, encouraging, and communicative.

What is your research focus? 

My lab is interested in understanding how the environment can affect the way the immune system responds. We study this through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor, which acts as an environmental sensor. My project is focused on studying how environmental ligands, mediated through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor, can affect the response of the hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells to viral infections.

What do you like to do in Rochester?  

I enjoy the variety of places that you can go walk around and explore in Rochester. You can get a city vibe, nature vibe, or suburban vibe all in one area! I also enjoy going to the public market and trying different local restaurants/cafes.

SarahSarah Morgan

Hometown: Webster, NY

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Chemistry and Forensic & Investigative Sciences with a minor in Biology from West Virginia University

Research Group: DeLouise Lab

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

I love learning about the research others are conducting at URMC and understanding how all the projects are connected and inform what we know about human health.

What is your research focus? 

Microplastics are 1 µm – 5 mm pieces of plastic that due to the scale of human plastic consumption are a ubiquitous environmental pollutant. Microplastics often have other pollutants adsorbed on their surface, and these interactions can alter the toxicity of either toxicant alone. My research focuses on understanding the bioactivity of these microplastic-pollutant co-exposures.

What do you like to do in Rochester?

I enjoy attending the various festivals held in the Rochester area, exploring local cuisine with friends, and visiting the Fingers Lakes region for a relaxing day off. 

TraciTraci Pressley

Hometown: New Cumberland, PA

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Pharmacology and Toxicology with a minor in Forensics from the University of the Sciences

Research Group: Fazal Lab

Why did you chose to come to the University of Rochester?

I chose the U of R not just for the valuable education I knew I would receive here, but also the amazing people that make up this program. When I came for my interview, the friendly atmosphere, genuine people, and amazing research captured my heart and I knew that this was my home.

2nd Year

Melanie PerkinsMelanie Perkins

Hometown:  Warsaw, NY

Education Background:

  • B.S in Forensic Science Technology from Alfred State College

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

I’m enjoying the opportunities to hear about the many areas of research within the program, whether it’s through presentations or speaking with members of different labs. It really helps to put your own area of research into perspective and even gain new insights.

What is your research focus?

The aryl hydrocarbon receptor acts within the body to sense and eliminate environmental toxins and has been demonstrated to play a role in regulating the adaptive immune response. My research focuses on studying how the aryl hydrocarbon receptor may impact the functioning of B cells in the context of autoimmune disease.

What do you like to do in Rochester?

I love spending time at the various parks around Rochester. It’s great to have access to scenic outdoor spaces even in the city. The wide range of restaurants and food options is also a huge plus.

Elizabeth PlunkElizabeth Plunk

Hometown: Martin, TN

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Biology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

In my training I have enjoyed becoming independent in the lab and broadening my scientific knowledge. I was drawn to toxicology because it is interdisciplinary, so I knew I was going to have the opportunity to learn about many systems as well as other fields of scientific research. An example of this is while developing my project investigating developmental neurotoxicology, I had the opportunity to learn about the developing nervous system.

What is your research focus?

I’m investigating the effects of gestational and lactational exposures to short- chain PFAS on neurodevelopment. I’m specifically studying neuron growth and glial interactions.

What do you like to do in Rochester?

Rochester has a lot of great restaurants and parks, so to unwind from the week I like to eat good food and spend some time outside whether that be riding my bike or cross country skiing. In the summers I also enjoy going to the public market and stocking up on fresh foods for the week.

Adelaide WeidnerAdelaide Weidner

Hometown: Rochester, NY

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Chemistry, SUNY Geneseo

What have you enjoyed the most about your training thus far?

It's really satisfying to keep learning more about my work and gradually become more independent as my training progresses. I love looking back and seeing how far I've come and how much my scientific skills have developed! I also love how supportive the other trainees are when I ask for advice.

What is your research focus?

Androgens are typically thought of as "male" hormones, but they are extremely important in female reproduction. Interestingly, androgens also affect insulin activity. My lab studies the molecular and physiological actions of androgens in the ovary and how a protein called paxillin modulates androgen actions. My project focuses specifically on the intersection of androgen signaling and insulin signaling in the ovary and how those pathways contribute to the development and progression of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). We use a combination of in vitro​ cell culture and in vivo mouse models to elucidate these effects.

What do you like to do in Rochester?

My favorite thing to do around Rochester is eat at delicious local restaurants! I also love enjoying the weather year-round by taking walks around the beautiful Park Ave neighborhood.

1st Year

Ryan OwensRyan Owens

Hometown: Buffalo, NY

Education Background:

  • B.S. in Biology from Delaware Valley University
  • M.S. in Environmental Science from University of New Haven

Why did you chose to come to the University of Rochester?

The URMC showed to be a very supportive community both amongst the professors and the students. The graduates of the Toxicology program that I had connected with all spoke very highly of their time here and have success in their careers in Toxicology!

Nashae ProutNashae Prout

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Education Background:

  • A.S. in Public Heath from Montgomery College
  • B.S. in Health Education with a concentration in Environmental Health from Morgan State University

Why did you chose to come to the University of Rochester?

I chose to come to the University of Rochester because I felt as though it would be a good learning environment to earn my Ph.D. During the interview process the faculty seemed supportive and the students seemed welcoming of newcomers. I have found that while deciding to pursue a Ph.D. has felt like a whirlwind, the University of Rochester is the best place to experience it. Everyone aims to support each other in their development and that is the place I knew would be best for me.