The Society of Toxicology (SOT) will recognize several NIEHS grantees this year for contributions to improving public health. According to a Dec. 14 press release, Lauren Aleksunes, Pharm.D., Ph.D., will receive the SOT Achievement Award, and Kenneth Reuhl, Ph.D., and John Wise Sr., Ph.D., will receive SOT Education Awards. Several other grantees also will receive awards (see text box).
The awardees will be recognized at the society’s 55th annual meeting in March in New Orleans.
“Toxicologists are involved in research that both assesses the safety of chemicals and compounds and determines the mechanisms, or ways, in which chemicals and compounds affect the body,” said Peter Goering, 2015-2016 SOT President. “The 2016 SOT awardees are among the best and brightest of our scientists.”
Outstanding New Environmental Scientist continues to shine
Aleksunes is receiving the SOT Achievement Award for making significant contributions to the field of toxicology within 15 years of obtaining her highest degree. She is currently an associate professor in the Rutgers University Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and the Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology.
The NIEHS Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) award, given to Aleksunes in 2012, funded a project to help understand how cell transport proteins, or transporters, in the placenta help prevent environmental contaminants from reaching the developing fetus during pregnancy.
In addition, her lab studies how transporters in the kidney, liver, and brain help remove pharmaceuticals and environmental chemicals from the body to protect against toxicity. Aleksunes’ lab uses a variety of tools to study transporters, including molecular biology, cell biology, animal studies, human tissue studies, and pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic models of chemical metabolism.
She also serves as lead researcher for NIEHS-funded grants focused on training undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows.
Career-long contributions to toxicologist training
Longtime NIEHS grantee Reuhl is being honored for his commitment to excellence in training, and significant contributions to toxicology education. He is a professor in the Rutgers University Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and the interim director of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute.
Reuhl’s lab studies neuropathology, or disease in the central nervous system, especially in relation to developmental neurotoxicology, traumatic brain injury, and how various cell types in the central nervous system respond to harm.
“During his tenure as the program director for the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology, the program produced an outstanding cadre of graduates and postdoctoral trainees who went on to become leaders in toxicology in academia, industry, and government,” said Carol Shreffler, Ph.D., NIEHS health scientist administrator. “He is well-deserving of this award.”
Wise, another longtime NIEHS grantee and professor of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, will also receive the 2016 SOT Education Award. His NIEHS-funded studies examine the cellular and molecular mechanisms that lead to lung cancer following exposure to hexavalent chromium. Other research includes studying toxic exposures in wildlife, including whales in the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“Whether it is our work in the tiny, microscopic world of a cell, or out in the wild with some of the most amazing creatures on earth, being a scientist is always a thrill and a privilege, and the most important part of being a scientist is to share all of these discoveries with others and to be an educator,” Wise said.
(Virginia Guidry, Ph.D., is a technical writer and public information specialist in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)