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Environmental Factor, March 2013

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NTP fellow lands toxicologist position at EPA

By Sheetal Thakur

Minerva Mercado-Feliciano, Ph.D.

Mercado-Feliciano was honored by SOT for her service to HOT in 2011, and recognized as first author of an NTP paper of the year in 2012. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Barry McIntyre, Ph.D.

Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology Group head and mentor McIntyre (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NTP fellow Minerva Mercado-Feliciano, Ph.D., began a new position Jan. 28 as a toxicologist in the Health Effects Division of the Office of Pesticide Programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In her new role at EPA, Mercado-Feliciano will be part of a team responsible for evaluating safety of pesticide products that are to be sold or distributed in United States. She will be directly contributing to the regulatory decision-making process, by ensuring that new and existing pesticide products can be used with a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health, and that the pesticide producers have met the federal toxicity evaluation standards.

Mercado-Feliciano completed her Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology at Indiana University. She came to NIEHS in February 2008 as a postdoctoral Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) fellow in the Laboratory of Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology. Driven by her passion for applied toxicology and risk assessment, she moved to the Toxicology Branch in the Division of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in August 2009, and in 2012 successfully completed requirements for becoming a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology (DABT).

Under the mentorship of Barry McIntyre, Ph.D., who heads the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology Group and also holds a DABT, Mercado-Feliciano completed her fellowship with NTP. “While at the NTP, Minerva developed a strong foundation in study design and interpreting large in vivo data sets,” McIntyre said of his colleague. “In her new position, she will have the opportunity to further expand upon this experience. We are confident that she will do well.” 

Key to success — one-of-a-kind career training in NTP

According to Mercado-Feliciano, her training in the NTP Toxicology Branch was pivotal in making her a desirable candidate for the EPA toxicologist position. While there, she worked in collaborative multidisciplinary teams to design and interpret large-scale toxicology studies in laboratory animals for chemicals and herbals that characterize potential threats to human health. She also gained advanced appreciation and training in how to develop scientifically strong and logically sound toxicity testing strategies for potentially hazardous chemicals — a skill that will prove invaluable in her role reviewing toxicology studies at EPA.

Mercado-Feliciano said she is appreciative of the on-the-job training, support, and encouragement she received from McIntyre and other senior toxicologists in the branch during her training and job search.

To add to the top-notch skills she gained in NTP, Mercado-Feliciano had a unique set of experiences in the environmental sciences arena. For nearly a decade, she worked as an environmental manager at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. There she was mainly involved in scientific efforts to ensure safe, efficient, and environmentally sound solid waste recycling and disposal. This experience helped her appreciate the significance of safe handling of pesticides.

Leadership and involvement in SOT

Mercado-Feliciano always recognized the importance of networking, effective communication, and involvement in professional development activities. She has been an active member of the Society of Toxicology (SOT) since 2005, contributing to a special interest group, the Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists (HOT). She was involved from the organization’s inception and rose through the ranks to become vice president-elect of HOT.

“If you are interested in honing your interpersonal skills, be involved in activities at the annual scientific meetings from the start,” Mercado-Feliciano said. Her participation in HOT led to valuable opportunities for sharpening communication and project management skills, which she claims will be of tremendous value in her current position.

(Sheetal Thakur, Ph.D., is an IRTA fellow in the NTP Toxicology Branch.)

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