CSETAC would like to recognize the student presentation winners from our 2017 Annual Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina. Dana Szymkowicz, a student at Clemson University and the 2nd place poster presentation winner, describes how her passion for serving others has influenced her career path.
Serving others has always been one of my greatest passions in life. Whether it’s teaching young athletes how to play volleyball, going out of my way to support a friend or family member, or traveling across the world to serve on mission trips, I find great joy in helping others. This is one of the main reasons why I want to pursue a doctoral degree and a career in toxicology. Before I began my graduate studies, I worked as a quality control technician in a polymer chemistry lab. Although I loved working the laboratory setting, I was lacking a sense of fulfillment in my work. It was then that I decided I wanted to use my love for biochemistry and toxicology to give back to my community and help protect those around me.
My current research projects focus on arsenic as a developmental toxicant in drinking water using killifish as a model organism. Arsenic is found worldwide in ground and drinking water, which causes great concern for millions of people every day. Studies have shown that in utero arsenic exposure reduces birth weight and weight gain in children, in addition to a variety of neurodevelopmental abnormalities. Killifish are sensitive to similar levels of arsenic as humans are, which is one of the main reasons we use it as our model. Using embryonic-only exposures to mimic exposures, we hope to determine mechanisms behind these growth reductions.
When I’m not working in the lab, I spend my time playing and coaching volleyball . After being involved in this sport for 14 years, I have seen my fair share of successes and failures. Nevertheless, I never gave up on my passion to keep volleyball a part of my life. That same drive and motivation has been instilled in my graduate studies, and I am excited to see what my future holds outside of graduate school in the world of toxicology.