Four Undergraduates Working in Environmental Health Sciences Labs Recognized by Society of Toxicology

UMass Undergraduate Pfizer Award Recipients

Top row (l-r): Joseph McGaunn, Menna Teffera, and
advisor Alexander Suvorov. Bottom row (l-r): Christopher Clark,
Emily Severance, and advisor Alicia Timme-Laragy.

December 19, 2019

Four undergraduates working in the labs of Environmental Health Sciences faculty members Alexander Suvorov and Alicia Timme-Laragy have received the Pfizer Award from the Society of Toxicology (SOT). The awards will support their registration, lodging, ground transportation, food and travel to the society’s annual meeting in March in Anaheim, California. Each of the 21 national winners will present their honors thesis research at the conference.

Alexander Suvorov, an advisor to two of the four, says the student success is truly remarkable: “All students who received this award are doing research in the laboratories of faculty of the Environmental Health Sciences Department. Our department consists of just eight faculty yet we received four Pfizer awards given by the largest toxicological organization in the world to applicants from the whole world. The SOT meeting is the biggest toxicological forum in the world attracting 7,000 to 8,000 participants every year,” he adds. “The fact that four out of 21 awards went to UMass Amherst really puts us on the world toxicological map. We should not underestimate the honor and value of this fact.”

The four are Emily Severance, a senior undergraduate Commonwealth Honors College student who is a double major in biochemistry and molecular biology and psychology who is conducting independent research in Alicia Timme-Laragy’s laboratory; Joseph McGaunn, who is double majoring in biochemistry/molecular biology and psychology, and also completing an integrated concentration in science through the UMass iCons program and conducting research in Suvorov’s lab; Menna Teffera, a Commonwealth Honors College student majoring in public health sciences and also conducting research in the Suvorov lab; and Christopher W. Clark, a senior Commonwealth Honors College student in Timme-Laragy’s lab with a double major in environmental science and STEM German.

Each of the 21 recipients nationwide will be matched with a Pfizer scientist as a mentor at the meeting and will be recognized at a special breakfast hosted by the company.

Timme-Laragy says, “These awards are a distinguished honor for our students and an indication of the high-quality, nationally competitive research that our undergraduates are doing in toxicology here at UMass.” She also expressed appreciation for research grants to the students from Commonwealth Honors College that supported their independent studies.

Suvorov says, “I am very proud for the group of student recipients. Their motivation, hard work and intellectual curiosity was recognized by a very prestigious award from the most respected toxicological society in the world. I am also proud of our small and young department which attracted almost 25% of all awards distributed internationally.”

In recognizing the students’ accomplishments, the society’s Faculty United for Toxicology Undergraduate Recruitment and Education (FUTURE) Committee says it had “a large number of very impressive applications to review, and your selection is quite an accomplishment. The Society of Toxicology is extremely pleased that Pfizer initiated this program to encourage and support your involvement in scientific research for the benefit of human and environmental health.”