About the Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program at UCR
The interdepartmental Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program (ETOX) offers an integrated interdisciplinary course of study leading to the M.S. or Ph.D. degree. The program is designed to teach students the scientific principles of toxicology and it focuses primarily upon the biology, chemistry, and mechanisms by which xenobiotics and natural toxins interact with the biosphere, including humans. Studies on mechanisms of toxicity complement research directed towards understanding the movement of toxics through soil, water, and air and for the development of procedures to reduce pollution and clean up contaminated sites. As we face rapidly changing and complex global environmental issues, scientific and analytical tools are needed to meet these demands. The program aims to provide a bridge between chemical and biological research principles and current real worldwide issues through cutting edge research and analytical applications. Environmental issues are not singular in their causes or their effects, so an interdisciplinary approach is needed to help solve complex multi-faceted environmental issues.
Stem Cells in Toxicity Testing of Electronic Cigarette Refill Fluids
Vasundhra Bahl in the Talbot Lab is investigating the effects of electronic cigarette refill fluids on human health. She carried out a cytotoxicity screen using human embryonic stem cells and mouse neural stem cells as in vitro models for early embryonic development in order to assess the effects of these products on prenatal stages. She also used human pulmonary fibroblasts to compare the effects of these products on prenatal and adult stages. The research shows that most of the products were more cytotoxic to the stem cells than the adult cell type, indicating that prenatal stages would be more sensitive to the adverse effects of electronic cigarette refill products. This is one of the first screens in which stem cells have been used for in vitro cytotoxicity testing of a large number of products in a time and cost efficient manner.
Microbial Project: Rancho La Brea Tar Pits
Jean-Paul Baquiran and Richard Belcher are taking samples of natural asphalts from the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits, in Downtown Los Angeles, California. Jean-Paul (left) is analyzing the metagenome of the asphalts using next generation DNA sequencing to help characterize the metabolic pathways of petroleum hydrocarbons. Richard (right) is isolating bacteria optimized for biosurfactant production, which can increase the bioavailability of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons for subsequent biodegradation.
Aquatic Ecotoxicology: Schlenk Lab
His research focuses on understanding the biochemical factors that influence susceptibility to environmental and natural chemicals. Three specific projects involve the impact of climate change on environmental factors that influence detoxification strategies in aquatic organisms; mechanistic investigations of the effects of salinity on pesticide toxicity in fish; and the role of biotransformation as a mechanism of tolerance to natural and man-made toxic agents.