April 14, 2017
Katrina Borofski, a senior public health major, recently traveled to Baltimore, MD for the annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology (SOT), held March 12-16, 2017. The society is “a professional and scholarly organization of scientists from academic institutions, government, and industry representing the great variety of scientists who practice toxicology in the US and abroad.”
Borofski, who works in the lab of Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences Alicia Timme-Laragy, traveled to the meeting through a Pfizer SOT Undergraduate Student Travel Award. The award is granted to undergraduates presenting research at the meeting in order to foster interest in graduate studies in toxicology. Timme-Laragy nominated Borofski for the award.
“I thought she would benefit from the networking opportunities that the award offers and the exposure to the greater science community that attends SOT,” she explains. “Also, she defended her honors thesis in December 2016 and so her research was also at a stage where it was robust enough to be presented- and it showed some really interesting findings!” she adds.
The Pfizer Award pays for the awardee’s registration fee and travel and living expenses at the SOT annual meeting. In addition, the program includes a mentoring program that matches the students with a researcher at Pfizer. Borofski’s mentor was Dr. Christopher Bowman, who is an associate research fellow.
“It was a pleasure getting to connect with Chris throughout the conference. He gave me an expert perspective on what it’s like to have a career in industry, which as a student conducting research in academia, I have had no exposure to. It was really interesting to see the implications of his pharmaceutical and drug discovery research on the work I do,” says Borofski.
After completing her undergraduate degree this May, she is spending her summer researching the movement of drugs within the body and kidney damage caused by exposure to toxins. She’ll be working on this research in the lab of a faculty member she connected with while at SOT. Borofski will then return to UMass Amherst to finish up a master’s degree in Environmental Health Sciences as part of the 4+1 Accelerated Master’s program.
“After the master’s program I plan to apply to dual MD/PhD programs so I can pursue a career as a physician scientist,” she explains. “In the long run, I hope to work in medical oncology while continuing to pursue basic research,” she adds.
“More than anything, I felt gratitude when I found out I received the Pfizer award. I am incredibly fortunate to have a mentor as supportive and inspiring as Dr. Timme-Laragy, as well as a wonderful lab family that have helped me tremendously in my independent research. It was nothing short of an absolute privilege to represent the Timme-Laragy laboratory and SPHHS at such a large venue,” says Borofski.