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Environmental Factor, December 2015

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Quist wins young investigator award

By John Yewell

Erin Quist

In their poster, Quist and colleagues wrote that low doses of PFOA induced significant alterations in genomic expression patterns of prenatally exposed mice. The alterations affected key proteins involved in lipid metabolism, cellular proliferation pathways, and mitochondrial function. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS postdoctoral fellow Erin Quist, D.V.M., has added to her growing list of awards and official recognitions, winning first place in the Young Investigator in Toxicologic and Industrial Pathology competition. The award was presented at the October combined meeting of the Society of Toxicologic Pathology, American Society of Veterinary Clinical Pathology, and American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP)  in Minneapolis.

Quist is an Intramural Research and Training Award fellow in the National Toxicology Program (NTP). She works in the Reproductive Endocrinology Group, led by Sue Fenton, Ph.D., and is also a member of the NTP Pathology Group, headed by David Malarkey, D.V.M., Ph.D. Quist is pursuing a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University (NCSU).

“I have nominated her for every postdoc and graduate student award that she is qualified for,” said Fenton. “She certainly deserves the awards she has received. Erin has a lot of positive energy and works hard on her projects.” Quist was the winner of the Roger O. McClellan Student Award at the March meeting of the Society of Toxicology, and the society recently honored her with a travel support award to attend the society’s 2016 meeting.

Searching out mechanisms of PFOA liver toxicity

Quist’s winning poster, “Potential modes of action for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)-induced hepatocellular hypertrophy in mice,” described progress on her Ph.D. research. “I am looking at a developmental toxicity model of prenatal PFOA exposure, using a mouse model,” she explained. PFOA is used as a stain repellent, flame retardant, lubricant, and is in many other products.

“In the livers of prenatally exposed mice, we see hepatocellular hypertrophy, which can lead to tumor development, and we are seeing it as early as 21 days old,” she explained. “I am looking for a mechanism that might drive that response, and it looks like mitochondrial proliferation plays an important role. That hasn’t been described before. But I haven’t connected all the dots yet.”

Collaboration at NIEHS and beyond

Quist’s association with NIEHS began during a 2010 visit when she met Malarkey, who encouraged her to pursue her Ph.D. in the NCSU Comparative Biomedical Sciences program.

“Erin is a star in our toxicological pathology training program and has taken full advantage of the opportunities at both NIEHS and NCSU to develop into an ACVP-certified veterinary pathologist, a researcher, and collaborator,” Malarkey said. “She is also conscientious where others are concerned and is the one of the first to volunteer to organize a holiday or birthday party.”

Reflecting on her experience at NIEHS, Quist said, “One of the things I love about NIEHS is that the environment feels like a family dynamic. We are a really collaborative, collegial bunch. I love it.”

Quist is preparing to defend her dissertation in April 2016. After that, she would like to stay at NIEHS. Eventually Quist would like to return to academia.

(John Yewell is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

Dave Malarkey

Malarkey’s group supports NTP and NIEHS researchers, and oversees pathology-related issues in rodent toxicology and carcinogenesis studies. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Sue Fenton

Fenton’s group focuses on the developmental impacts of numerous environmental chemicals. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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