Statement from Student Rep: Priti Prasad, M.S.
UCLA offers students with various options to pursue specific scientific interests. For students keen on pursuing a career in Toxicology, the Molecular Toxicology Interdepartmental Doctoral Program provides the optimum research environment to gain vast knowledge and develop into premier Toxicologists. The courses cover molecular mechanisms of human diseases, fundamentals of toxicology, cellular and molecular pharmacology, and toxicodynamics. Students are able to attain presentation skills and critical analysis by attending/presenting at journal clubs and internal seminar series. Diverse laboratories (such as carcinogenesis, cardiology, immunology, neuroscience) are available for students to pursue research utilizing in vitro and in vivo models. UCLA core research facilities provide the opportunity to learn innovative techniques (DNA/RNA sequencing, microscopy, mass spectrometry, high-throughput screening). Students and faculty participate in many organizations such as the Society of Toxicology (SOT), American College of Toxicology (ACT), and various non-profit organizations, that provides students to present their research work and interact with people from industry, government and academia. Above all, the program size ensures that the students are provided with a supportive and collaborative environment.
Current Molecular Toxicology Graduate Students
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."