Statement from Student Rep: Julie Castaneda
The Molecular Toxicology IDP at UCLA provides an incredible environment in which students can pursue their interests across many different fields of toxicology and acquire the skills needed to become a professional scientist. The mission of the Molecular Toxicology IDP is to train doctoral students to perform cutting edge research on the mechanisms whereby exogenous chemical and physical agents cause disease. The courses cover vast areas of research including fundamentals of toxicology, toxicodynamics, molecular mechanisms of human diseases, cellular and molecular pharmacology, and ethics and accountability in biomedical research. UCLA offers access to a variety of top tier research scientists, sophisticated core facilities, and exposure to great educational opportunities including graduate seminars, guest speakers, and ongoing lecture series in toxicology, carcinogenesis, cardiology, neuroscience, immunology, and more. Students working within this environment have a definite advantage with respect to their graduate training. The program is committed to having graduate students present their work at both local and national scientific meetings such as Society of Toxicology (SOT), American College of Toxicology (ACT), various non-profit organizations, and in the Molecular Toxicology internal seminar series. There is no doubt that the resources available through this graduate program will foster every student's research and successful maturation into premiere scientists.
Current Molecular Toxicology Graduate Students
Ciara MartinVisit Website
Julie CastanedaVisit Website
Kristin YamadaVisit Website
Priti PrasadVisit Website
Erin Hsu received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and subsequently joined the Molecular Toxicology Program at UCLA under the tutelage of Oliver Hankinson. Here, her work involved the characterization of novel TCDD-inducible genes, focusing on mechanisms of both carcinogenesis and chemoprevention. Her research resulted in the identification of a novel mechanism of phytochemical-based chemoprevention that was highlighted in the national and international media. Erin completed her postdoctoral work in the laboratory of Chris Bradfield at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is currently a Research Assistant Professor at Northwestern University.
"Mol Tox program provided me the foundation for my job skills and knowledge as a toxicologist. It's a great program!"
Ilona Bebenek received both her Bachelor's degree and her Master's from UCLA. Her B.S. was in Organismic Biology, Ecology and Evolution, and her Master's thesis focused on the study of the genetics and evolution of jellyfish sensory organs. She joined the Molecular Toxicology PhD Program and the laboratory of Dr.Oliver Hankinson in 2004. She has been involved in research on the mechanisms of carcinogenesis mediated by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT). She utilizes a transgenic knockout mouse for these studies and several carcinogenesis models. She is also in the process of helping to characterize an orphan cyotchrome p450, CYP2S1. Here, a transgenic knockout mouse, as well as cell culture, are used to study the role of CYP2S1 in the pathology of several diseases.
"I began the Molecular Toxicology program in 2003 and after my three rotations I joined Dr. Curt Eckhert's laboratory to study the mechanisms of action of boric acid on prostate cancer cells. Over the next five years, through hard work and excellent mentoring by my advisor, I learned how to do many different molecular biology techniques and assays, how to plan experiments, interpret data, and most importantly how to think independently and critically about science. I had many opportunities to present my work at national conferences and to make career contacts. I also made life long friends. Completing my PhD was an arduous process, but I am very happy that I did it and that it was through Molecular Toxicology. I am currently conducting post doctoral research in a cardiology lab at UCLA."
Lynn Yamamoto works in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Schiestl and studies gene-environment interactions such as the responses in DNA repair-deficient mice to secondhand smoke or radiation. She also studies the effects of intestinal microflora on carcinogenesis.
Peter Bui graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a bachelor's degree in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. Before he went to graduate school he worked for a biotech company for several years where he was a co-inventor for 3 patents. He then received his Ph.D. in Molecular Toxicology from UCLA. Currently, he is a postdoctoral fellow in both Molecular Toxicology and Clinical Molecular Genetics. His research interests include the possible role of a novel cytochrome P450 2S1 in colorectal cancer and asthma, and molecular diagnosis of genetic disorders and cancers.
Sudheer Beedanagari graduated with a M.S from the University of Georgia, and went on to receive his Ph.D. in Molecular Toxicology from UCLA. Currently he is working as a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA in Dr. Oliver Hankinson's laboratory. He worked as a student representative for the Southern California regional chapter for SOT (SCCSOT) and currently works as a postdoctoral representative for American Scientists of Indian Origin (ASIO), a special interest group of SOT. His research interests include examining the role of epigenetic mechanisms in dioxin-induced transcriptional regulation of the human and mouse Cytochrome P450s.
Quote: "My excellent training in the UCLA Molecular Toxicology program has provided me with a solid foundation to establish my career as a Toxicologist. I am so grateful to all my colleagues (Moltoxer's) and especially Dr. Oliver Hankinson for his great mentoring."
Following the completion of his Ph.D. graduate studies in the UCLA Molecular Toxicology program, Wade Barranco participated in a two year post-doc focusing on the contribution of proteases and cigarette smoke contaminants to the development of asthma and COPD, respectively, in mice. He has since been employed at a small pharmaceutical company as a toxicologist fulfilling the roles of designing and monitoring toxicology studies contributing to the regulatory advancement of small molecule drugs.
Quote: "I continue to utilize my training at UCLA as a valuable resource, with respect to my duties as an industry toxicologist."
"The MolTox program at UCLA provides an excellent foundation for a career in toxicology. I really appreciated the many opportunities to attend professional meeting and smaller symposiums and training courses. The faculty is outstanding and besides being highly regarded experts in their fields, are very approachable and supportive."