For Deirdre Tucker, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) predoctoral fellow in the Reproductive Endocrinology Group of the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the awards just keep piling up.
Her latest is the Edward W. Carney Trainee Award, announced in April. The national honor supports graduate student and postdoctoral scholar conference travel, such as to the 56th annual meeting of the Teratology Society in San Antonio, in June.
“My research focuses on identifying chemical causes for tumors, instead of having to wait 20–30 years for them to manifest in the human population,” said Tucker, who has also collaborated in projects with the NIEHS Division of Intramural Research. “I think research should lead to quicker diagnoses, better preventative measures, and ultimately to cures.”
Three awards for the same research
The Carney Award was established in 2015 after the untimely death of Edward Carney, Ph.D., at age 55. He was a past president of the Teratology Society and served on the NTP Board of Scientific Counselors from 2008–2011. Two Carney awards are given each year, one by the Society of Toxicology (SOT) and one by the Teratology Society.
Tucker’s Carney Award, which she will accept at the June Teratology Society meeting, was preceded in February by two others: the David Holbrook Travel Award, given annually to a UNC graduate student with a demonstrated research interest in environmental health, and the Leon Golberg Memorial Travel Award, another UNC–based award, which Tucker used to attend the March annual meeting of the SOT in New Orleans.
Tucker said that while the Carney award was presented based on a different abstract, all three $1,000 awards were based on the same data — her research into the potential for compounds used as alternatives to bisphenol A (BPA) to induce mammary tumors.
Alternatives to BPA also of concern
Research has linked BPA, which is used widely in consumer products such as water bottles, with altered mammary development in rodents and increased likelihood of tumor formation. Public concerns over such findings led manufacturers to replace the chemical with bisphenol AF (BPAF) or bisphenol S (BPS), among others. Both chemicals possess estrogenic characteristics.
Tucker’s study revealed that these two substitutes, BPAF and BPS, as well as BPA, increased the incidence of mammary abnormalities in mice. “Further studies will be necessary to determine the timing and mechanisms by which enhanced spontaneous tumor incidence may be occurring,” she wrote in her SOT abstract.
Praise for research, demeanor
“Deirdre works very hard, and the end result is excellent quality data,” said Sue Fenton, Ph.D., Tucker’s leader in the NTP Reproductive Endocrinology Group. “She also makes time to help others learn new techniques or deal with stumbling blocks. She sets an example, both in the way she conducts herself, and because her research is environmentally relevant and impactful.”
In her letter for the Golberg Award, Ilona Jaspers, Ph.D., director of the Curriculum in Toxicology at UNC, lauded Tucker’s work. “Your abstract on ‘Enhanced Spontaneous Mammary Tumor Susceptibility Induced by BPA Alternatives’ was selected as one of the best abstracts submitted for this competition,” she wrote.
(John Yewell is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison)