Monday, September 28, 2015

Toxicology alumnus Phillip Wages presents at prestigious Gordon Conference

The article below was recently written for the Environmental Protection Agency to promote the exciting work being done by one of our toxicology graduates:

Phillip Wages (B.S. Toxicology, ’11) Presents at Prestigious Toxicology Conference

  In August 2015, Phillip Wages, a graduate with honors from Ashland’s toxicology program, presented a talk and poster at the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Toxicity in Andover, NH. Wages is a doctoral student in University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Curriculum in Toxicology (CiT) program. He is conducting his research under James Samet, a research biologist with EPA’s Environmental Public Health Division in Chapel Hill, NC.
Phil in his Ashland research lab

 The GRC is a highly-selective, specialized conference in mechanistic toxicology that selects only about 150 attendees and speakers from a worldwide pool of applicants. Wages was one of four trainees from his program to present at the conference.

 Wages gave a talk and presented a poster on the topic, “The role of hydrogen peroxide in the oxidative modification of protein targets in human bronchial epithelial cells exposed to 1,2-naphthoquinone.”

 He began moving towards a research career at the intersection of public health and toxicology during his undergraduate studies in toxicology at Ashland. Wages has always been interested in how cells respond to toxins, but it wasn’t until the combined effects of an engaging professor, an interesting research assistantship, and an invitation to a Society of Toxicology meeting that he decided to focus on public health and toxicity. These days, that intersection shows up in Wages’ doctoral research.

 “In the past,” Wages explains, “it has been shown that hydrogen peroxide and other random oxygen species ‘promiscuously’ damage cells. Our research is showing that same result at high levels. We’re hoping to look at how chronic exposure at low doses creates adaptive responses in susceptible populations.” He also is looking generally at how hydrogen peroxide perturbs normal lung function through inflammatory signaling and possible early biomarkers that signify that change.

 Wages research has implications on cytotoxicity and exposure research, as well as on mechanistic asthma research. Because he believes his is the first report to show exposure to an environmentally relevant air pollutant result in protein sulfenylation, Wages was excited to apply to GRC and be invited to share his research there. “This is a smaller conference, and these are the researchers in the field. Anytime trainees get to go there is a great opportunity to network and talk with experts.”

 Wages enjoys the collaboration available to him within the partnership between CiT and EPHD. “It’s been a unique and rewarding opportunity to work with EPA investigators. A lot of my day-to-day is basic science, but it is always put in the context of the ‘big picture.’ It makes the work so much easier because it’s appreciated.” Within that “big picture,” Wages will continue to investigate these research topics and more as he pursues his Ph.D.

His EPA advisor, James Samet, speaks very highly of Wages’ contributions to the EPHD lab, saying, “We are very fortunate that we’ve had a long history of mentoring very bright, energetic students like Phil from the CiT program.”

Published with permission from EPA’s Office of Research and Development’s (ORD) National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL) 
Author: Tess Liebersohn, contracted writer for NHEERL/ORD

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