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Abby D Benninghoff

Abby D Benninghoff

Assistant Professor
Faculty: DVM, Faculty, Research
Location:  AGRS room 246
Office Phone:  435-797-8649
Fax:  435-797-2118
4815 Old Main Hill
Logan, Utah 84322

Specialties: Epigenetics, epigenomics

About Me

In 1997, Abby D. Benninghoff received her B.S. with dual majors in Biochemistry and Biology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She then completed her doctoral research in Marine Science, with a specialization in comparative reproductive physiology, at the University of Texas at Austin in 2004. Dr. Benninghoff then worked as a post-doctoral research associate at Oregon State University, where she received additional training in the areas of Toxicology and Carcinogenesis. Dr. Benninghoff is currently an Assistant Professor in the Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences department where she teaches courses in Endocrinology and Science Communication. She is also a faculty member of the USU School of Veterinary Medicine where she teaches components of Veterinary Physiology. Dr. Benninghoff is a affiliate faculty member of the USTAR Applied Nutrition Research program, which has a research focus on gut microbiota, diet and health.

A major goal of Dr. Benninghoff’s research program is to understand the influence of environmental factors on mechanisms of gene regulation in determining health and disease in animals and humans. In other words, she focuses on the intersection of nature and nurture by investigating gene-environment interactions.

Projects in her lab fall within two broad program objectives: 1) Determine how modification of dietary intakes of macronutrients, micronutrients and specific bioactive food chemicals may prevent or suppress carcinogenesis, and 2) understand how certain environmental contaminants (e.g., polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, perfluorinated chemicals) interact with the genome, either through receptor activation or modification of the epigenome, to increase cancer risk.

Dr. Benninghoff’s research program has received funding support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.


For Students

  • Courses I Teach
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    • ADVS 6650/5650 Science Communication
      Principles of effective science communication intended for scientific peers and general lay audiences. Instruction will center on effective written and/or oral communication for journal articles, proposals, conference presentation, public lectures and new media. This course is not discipline-specific.
    • ADVS 6630/5630 (cross-listed BIOL 6630/5630) Endocrinology
      Molecular, cellular and physiological aspects of the endocrine system in vertebrates, presented with a species comparative approach. Clinical aspects and diseases associated with dysfunction of the endocrine system.
    • VM 7508 Research Orientation
      This course introduces students to resources and important issues for identifying and developing focused areas in biomedical research.
    • VM 7509 Research Issues, Ethics and Literacy
      Philosophy and history of methodological, ethical and political issues relevant to biomedical research using selected monographs and essays.
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Education and Research

  • Research Interests
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    The long-term goal of my research program is to understand how chemicals in the environment influence human health and disease, both for the better (cancer chemoprevention) and for the worse (tumor promotion).  My research interests are specifically focused on:  (i) the role of the estrogen receptor in transplacental cancer prevention by dietary phytochemicals, (ii) the novel role of the estrogen receptor in tumor promotion by a class of environmental contaminants called perfluoroalkyl acids, (iii) transplacental chemoprevention by bioactive food components via epigenetic mechanisms, and (iv) the impact of dietary mixtures on key molecular targets involved in cancer prevention and suppression.

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  • Education
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    • Ph.D.  Marine Science, The University of Texas at Austin 2004.  Area of specialization: Comparative Endocrinology. Dissertation: Signal transduction pathways regulating steroidogenesis in the ovary of Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulatus)
    • B.S. Biochemistry and Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Magna cum laude.
    • Postdoc in Toxicology 2005-2009, Oregon State University. Research emphasis on the impact of environmental pollutants on carcinogenesis and dietary cancer prevention.
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  • Experience
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    • 01/10-present, Assistant Professor, Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences Department, Utah State University, Logan, Utah.
    • 05/08-12/09, Faculty Research Associate (Postdoc), Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University.
    • 01/07-01/09, Science Communication Fellow, Environmental Health Science, Advisor:  Dr. J. Peterson Myers.
    • 11/06-5/08, Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University, Advisor:  Dr. David E. Williams.
    • 01/05-11/06, NIEHS Postdoctoral Fellow (Institutional NRSA training grant T32-ES07060), Environmental Health Sciences Center and the Dept. of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University, Advisor:  Dr. David E. Williams.
    • 08/04-01/05, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Marine Science, University of Texas at Austin, Advisors:  Drs. G. Joan Holt and Izhar A. Khan.
    • 08/97-07/04, Doctoral Candidate and Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Marine Science, University of Texas at Austin, Advisor:  Dr. Peter Thomas, Dissertation:  Signal Transduction Pathways of Regulating Steroidogenesis in the Ovary of Atlantic Croaker (Micropogonias undulatus).
    • 06/00-08/00, Teaching Assistant (Reproductive Fish Physiology), Department of Marine Science, University of Texas at Austin.
    • 01/98-05/98, Teaching Assistant (Introduction to Oceanography), Department of Marine Science, University of Texas at Austin.
    • 08/95-08/97, Undergraduate Research Fellow, Department of Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Advisor: Dr. John Koontz, Thesis:  The effect of diazoxide on hepatocyte nuclear factor-1α in obese Zucker rats.
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  • Manuscripts Submitted/In Preparation
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    1. Benninghoff, A.D., Orner, G.A., Buchner, C. Hendricks, J.D., Williams, D.E. (In preparation)  Promotion of hepatocarcinogenesis by perfluoroalkyl acids in rainbow trout. Environmental Health Perspectives.
    2. Benninghoff, A.D., Koch, D., Koluri, S.K., and Williams, D.E. (In preparation)  Estrogen receptor (ER) interaction as an alternative mechanism of toxicity of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs). Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.
    3. Benninghoff, A.D., Ehresman, D.J., Hemmer, M. Salinas, K. Huset, C.A., Field, J.A. and Williams, D.E. (In preparation)  Assessment of the estrogen activity of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and other structurally diverse perfluorinated chemicals in rainbow trout.  Toxicological sciences.
    4. Krueger, S.K., Henderson, M.C., Siddens, L.K., VanDyke, J.E., Benninghoff, A.D., Andrew, A.P., Furnes, B., Schlenk, D. and Williams, D.E. (Submitted)  Characterization of Sulfoxygenation and Structural Implications of Human Flavin-Containing Monooxygenase Isoform 2 (FMO2.1) Variants S195L and N413K.  Drug Metabolism and Disposition.
    5. Salinas, K., Serrano, J., Higgins, L., Benninghoff, A., Williams, D., Walker, C., and Hemmer, M. (Submitted)  Identification of two isoforms of vitelline envelope protein in the plasma of rainbow trout exposed to 17β-estradiol.  Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part D: Genomics and Proteomics.
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  • Published Articles
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    1. Williams, D.E., Willard, K.D., Orner, G.A., Hendricks, J.D., Pereira, C., Benninghoff, A.D. and Bailey, G.S. (In press)  Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and Ultra-Low Dose Cancer Studies.  Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part C: Toxicology and Pharmacology.  Available online December 13, 2008.  doi:10.1016/j.cbpc.2008.12.002.
    2. Tilton, S.C., Orner, G.A., Benninghoff, A.D., Hendricks, J.D. and Williams, D.E. (2008)  Genomic profiling reveals an alternative mechanism for hepatic tumor promotion by perfluorooctanoic acid in rainbow trout.  Environmental Health Perspectives 116(8):1047-55. Selected as highlight article for this issue: http:www.ehponline.org/docs/2008/116-8/ss.html#alte.
    3. Benninghoff, A.D. and Williams, D.E. (2008)  Identification of a transcriptional fingerprint of estrogen exposure in rainbow trout liver.  Toxicological Sciences 101(1):65-80.
    4. Benninghoff, A.D. (2007)  Toxicoproteomics - the next step in the evolution of environmental biomarkers? Toxicological Sciences 95(1):1-4.
    5. Mohamed, J.S., Benninghoff, A.D., Holt, G.J., and Khan, I.A. (2007)  Cloning of three GnRH genes and their mRNA expressions during larval development and prior to active gametogenesis in the cobia, Rachycentron canadum.  Journal of Molecular Endocrinology. 38(2):235-44.
    6. Faulk, C.K., Benninghoff, A.D. and Holt, G.J. (2007)  Ontogeny of the gastrointestinal tract and selected digestive enzymes in cobia (Rachycentron canadum) larval development.  Journal of Fish Biology. 70:567-583.
    7. Benninghoff, A.D. and P. Thomas (2006) Gonadotropin regulation of testosterone synthesis by theca and granulosa cells of Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulatus): II. Involvement of a mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. General and Comparative Endocrinology 147(3):288-296.
    8. Benninghoff, A.D. and P. Thomas (2006) Gonadotropin regulation of testosterone synthesis by theca and granulosa cells of Atlantic croaker (Micropoganias undulatus): I. Role of CaMK in calcium-mediated steroidogenesis and interactions between calcium and adenylyl cyclase pathways.  General and Comparative Endocrinology 147(3):276-287.
    9. Thomas, P., Dressing, G., Pang, Y., Berg, H., Tubbs, C., Benningham, A., and Doughty, K. (2006) Progestin, estrogen and androgen G-protein coupled receptors in fish gonads.  Steroids 71(4):310-316.
    10. Benninghoff, A.D. and P. Thomas (2005) Involvement of calcium and calmodulin in the regulation of ovarian steroidogenesis in Atlantic croaker (Micropagonias undulatus) and modulation by Aroclor 1254.  General and Comparative Endocrinology 144(3):211-23.
    11. Benninghoff, A.D. and P. Thomas (2003)  Interactions of calcium and cyclic AMP signaling pathways regulating steroidogenesis in primary cultured theca and granulosa cells of Atlantic croaker. Fish Physiology and Biochemistry 28 (1-4):327-328.
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  • Book Chapters
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    1. Walter, R.B., Tilton, S.C., Orner, G.O., Benninghoff, A.D., Bailey, G.S. and Williams, D.E. (2008)  Carcinogenesis models: focus on xiphophorus and rainbow trout.  In:  Oceans and Human Health.  Risks and Remedies from the Seas.  (Eds. Walsh, P.J., Smith, S.L., Fleming, L.E., Solo-Gabriele, H.M. and Gerwick, W.M. Elsevier, New York, pp 585-611.
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  • Published Abstracts and Presentations
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    1. Benninghoff, A.D., Buchner, C. Hendricks, J.D., and Williams, D.E. (2008)  Multiple perfluoroalkyl acids promote liver cancer in rainbow trout.  Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) North America 29th Annual Meeting.  Tampa, Florida, November 16-20.
    2. Salinas, K., Serrano, J., Higgins, L., Benninghoff, A., Williams, D., Walker, C., Hemmer, M.  Identification of two isoforms of vitelline envelope protein in the plasma of rainbow trout exposed to 17β-estradiol.  Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) North America 29th Annual Meeting.  Tampa, Florida, November 16-20.
    3. Benninghoff, A.D., Buckner, C., Hendricks, J.D., Williams, D.E.  (2008)  Multiple perfluoroalkyl acids enhance aflatoxin B1-initiated hepatocarcinogenesis in rainbow trout via possible estrogen-like mechanism of action.  Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) 4th World Congress.  Sydney, Australia, August 3-7.  (Platform presentation).
    4. Perry, K.M., Orner, G.A., McQuistan, T., Benninghoff, A.D., Percifield, T., Tilton, S.C., Pereira, C.B., Fisher, K.A., Lohr, C.V., Egner, P., Kensler, T., Hendricks, J.D., Bailey, G.S., and Williams, D.E. (2008)  Analysis of ultra-low dose aflatoxin B1 exposure in rainbow trout. 25th Annual Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Regional Chapter of the Society of toxicology.  Corvallis, Oregon, September 19.
    5. Benninghoff, A.D., Buchner, C.H., Orner, G.A., Hendricks, J.D. and Williams, D.E. (2008)  Promotion of hepatocarcinogenesis by perfluoroalkyl acids by an estrogenic mechanism.  10th European Regional International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics Meeting. Vienna, Austria, May 18-21.
    6. Benninghoff, A.D. and Williams, D.E. (2008)  Gene expression profiles of perfluorooctanoic, -nonanoic and -decanoic acids and 8:2 fluorotelomer alcohol in rainbow trout, a model for human hepatocarcinogenisis.  Society of Toxicology 47th Annual Meeting.  Seattle, Washington, March 16-20th.
    7. Duong, L., Benninghoff, A.D., Tanguay, R. (2008)  Assessment of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) developmental toxicology using embryonic zebrafish.  Society of Toxicology 47th Annual Meeting. Seattle, Washington, March 16-20th.
    8. Benninghoff, A.D. (2008)  Importance in Communicating About Estrogen-like Pollutants.  Presentation for the Academy of Lifelong Learning.  Corvallis, Oregon, February 28.
    9. Benninghoff, A.D. and Williams, D.E. (2007)  Estrogen receptor (ER) interaction as an alternative mechanism of toxicology of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs). Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) North America 28th Annual Meeting.  Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 11-15.  (Platform presentation).
    10. Benninghoff, A.D., Orner, G.A., Tilton, S.C., Field, J.A., and Williams, D.E. (2007)  Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFQA) and structurally related perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) are xenoestrogens in rainbow trout, a model organism of endocrine disruption and human carcinogenesis. NIEHS and EPA sponsored meeting on Future Research on Endocrine Disruption:  Translation of Basic and Animal Research to Understand Human Disease.  Durham, North Carolina, August 27-29.
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  • Science Outreach With Environmental Health News
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    As a Science Communication Fellow with the Environmental Health News organization for 2007 and 2008, the following representative citations are for short synopses or full review articles written for the media and the public to highlight recent, important research in the field of environmental health.  For more information about this group, please visit www.environmentalhealthnews.org/2007scicommfellows.html.

    Example Full Reviews (out of 11)
    1. Benninghoff, A.D.  PFOA slows breast development in mice exposed via mom.  Available online January 29, 2009.  www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/pfoa-impairs-breast-development-in-mice.
    2. Benninghoff, A.D. and Hessler, W.  Nanoparticles damage brain cells.  Available online November 17, 2008.  www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/nanoparticles-damage-brain-cells.
    3. Laiosa, M.D. and Benninghoff, A.D.  Exposure to a PAH before birth or via breast milk can lead to cancer.  Available online October 23, 2008.  www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newsscience/exposure-to-carcinogens-in-the-womb-or-through-breast-milk-can-have-long-term-deadly-consequences/.
    4. Benninghoff, A.D.  Herbicide impairs how rats care for newborns.  Available online October 3, 2008.  www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/2-4-d-pesticide-impairs-maternal-caregiving-in-rats/.
    5. Benninghoff, A.D. and Hessler, W.  Maternal arsenic exposure reprograms genes in fetus.  Available online April 19, 2007.  www.environmentalhealthnews.org/newscience/2007/2007-0417liuetal.html
    Example Short Synopses (out of 48)
    1. Benninghoff, A.D.  Nonylphyenol kills special reproductive cells in male rats by changing the cell's outside membrane.  www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/nonylphenol-disrupting-the-cellular-boarder/.
    2. Benninghoff, A.D.  Insights from the fruit fly on human susceptibility to arsenic poisoning.  Available online September 23, 2008.  www.enviornmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/insights-from-the-fruit-fly-on-human-susceptibility-to-arsenic-toxicity/.
    3. Benninghoff, A.D.  Local children perform better on tests after coal-burning power plant closes.  Available online September 4, 2008.  www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/closure-of-coal-burning-plant-leads-to-improvements-in-local-childrens-brain-development/.
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  • Research in the Public Media
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    1. Renner, K.  (2008)  "A tale of two fish."  Environmental Science and Technology. 42(18):6784-6785.  www.pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/sample.cgi/esthag/2008/42/i18/pdf/es801813m.pdf.
    2. Associated Press.  (2008)  "OSU Scientists continue long tradition of using trout to research cancer."  the Oregonian - Online Edition.  June 23, 2008.  www.blog.oregonlive.com/breakingnews/2008/06/osu_scientists_continue_long_t.html.
    3. Odegard, K.  (2008)  "Trout used as 'lab rats' in cancer study."  Corvallis Gazette-Times.  June 13, 2008.  www.gazettetimes.com/articles/2008/06/13/news/community/3aaa03_labfish.txt.
    4. Raloff, J.  (2008)  "Nonstick Toxicity."  ScienceNews - Web Edition.  Available online May 30, 2008.  www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/32405/description/Nonstick_toxicity.
    5. Hood, J.  (2008)  "Alternative mechanism for PFOA?"  Environmental Health Perspectives 116(8):A351.  www.ehponline.org/docs/2008/116-8/EHP116pa350PDF.PDF.
    6. Albright, M.A.  (2007)  "Abby Benninghoff:  Mixing chemistry and communication."  Corvallis Gazette-Times.  March 17, 2007.  www.gazettetimes.com/articles/2007/03/17/news/focus/cfocus02_benninghoff.txt.
    7. Raloff, J.  (2006)  "No-stick chemicals can mimic estrogen."  ScienceNews 170(23):366.  www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/8009/title/No-stick_chemicals_can_mimic_estrogen.
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Honors and Activities

  • Grant Support
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    • Cancer Prevention by indole-3 carbinol via modulation of the epigenome.
      • NCI: 1R21CA13523-01A1, Awarded $353,804, 04/09-03/11 
      • The goal of this proposal is to determine how dietary indole-3-carbinol modifies the epigenome to decrease the overall risk of lymphoma with primary focus on the epigenetic modification of CYP1B1. 
    • Dietary 13C and SFN in preclinical model of human T-cell lymphoma. 
      •  Prevent Cancer Foundation, undergoing revision
      • The primary objective of this proposal is to evaluate the anti-proliferative effects of an indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and sulforaphane (SFN) mixture by utilizing a pre-clinical xenograft model of human T-cell lymphoma. 
    • ED001 cancer studies:  promotion with ethinylestradiol. 
      • NIEHS: R01ES017446, undergoing revision
      • The goal of this study is to employ the trout model of hepatocellular carcinoma to evaluate the impact of long-term dietary exposure to ethinylestradiol on spontaneous, aflatoxin B1- or dibenzo[a,l]pyrene-dependent cancer across a wide carcinogen dose response.  
    • Ultra low dose carcinogen testing with the trout model. 
      • NIEHS: R01ES013534, Undergoing revision
      • The objective of this renewal application is to determine the spontaneous tumor response to environmental mixtures of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, including "new" mixtures from China and "aged" mixtures from Los Angeles basin area, in rainbow trout, a useful model animal for carcinogenesis risk assessment.  
    • Role of estrogen receptor β in cancer chemoprevention by indole-3-carbinol.
      • NIEHS: 1F32ES01477-01A1, awarded $71,169, 11/06-05/08
      • The primary objective of this grant was to evaluate the role of ERβ in modulating the chemopreventative properties of dietary I3C against transplacentally induced thymic lymphoma and lung adenocarcinoma. 
    • Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) as modulators of tumorigenesis in rainbow trout.
      • NIEHS Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center Pilot Project, Awarded $20,000 09/06-12/07
      • The primary objective of this study was to examine the influence of several model perfluorinated chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid, on hepatic tumorigenesis in rainbow trout, a well-established animal model of human hepatocellular carcinoma.  Results of this study will support a planned R01 application to NIEHS for either the Summer or Fall 09 grant cycle.  
    • Toxicogenomics in chemical profiling:  an evaluation of the utility of in vitro hepatic gene expression profiles for predicting chemical classification.
      • Society of Toxicology and Colgate-Palmolive Grants for Alternative Research, awarded $40,000, 01/06-12/06
      • The goal of this study was to examine the utility of hepatic gene expression profiles for predicting chemical classification by apparent mechanism of action
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  • Research Fellowships
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    • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship, National Institute of Environment Health Sciences, 2006-2008.
    • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Institutional Postdoctoral Fellowship, Environmental Health Sciences Training Grant, Oregon State University, 2005-2006.
    • David Bruton, Jr. Graduate School Fellowship, University of Texas at Austin Graduate School, 2003.
    • U.S. EPA STAR Fellowship for Graduate Environmental Study, National Center for Environmental Research, U.S. EPA, 2000-2003.
    • E.J. Lund Graduate Fellowship in Marine Science, Department of Marine Science, University of Texas at Austin, 2000-2003.
    • Graduate Research Fellowship, Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show, 1999-2000.
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Threshold Scholars Program in Biological Research, University of Tennessee, 1995-1997.
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  • Other Honors
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    • Postdoctoral Research Award Finalist, International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics, 2008.
    • Postdoctoral Travel Award, NIEHS/EPA Future Research on Endocrine Disruption Meeting, 2007.
    • Postdoctoral Research Award Finalist, International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics, 2006.
    • Colgate/Palmolive Grants for Alternative Research Award, Society of Toxicology and the Colgate/Palmolive Company, 2006.
    • Travel Scholarship, Office of Graduate Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 2003.
    • Summer Tuition Scholarship, Department of Marine Science, University of Texas at Austin, 1998.
    • Phi Beta Kappa, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1996-1997.
    • Tri-Beta Biological Honor Society, Charter Member, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1997.
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  • Professional Societies
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    • Society of Toxicology
    • Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
    • International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics
    • American Association for Cancer Research
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  • Service
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    • SETAC North America Mentoring Committee, Chairperson, 2007-present
    • Oregon State University President's Taskforce on the Postdoctoral Experience, Postdoctoral Representative, 2008-2009
    Expert Scientific Peer Review
    • Ad hoc manuscript review for Toxicological Sciences, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Toxicology, Environmental Science and Technology, General and Comparative Endocrinology
    • Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Research (ATSDR) Toxicological Profiles:  Perfluoroalkyl Acids (PFAAs) (2008).
    • GENANIMAL program for the French National Research Agency (2007)
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