Trainee Spotlight – Anthony Su

Anthony Su is a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Michigan School of Public Health who has been studying Toxicology and working on PROTECT under Project 2 Leader Dr. Rita Loch-Caruso since 2016. In Rita’s lab, Anthony’s research seeks to understand the mechanisms of trichloroethylene (TCE) toxicity during pregnancy. When asked about the responsibilities within this role, Anthony said, “I use an in vitro human placental trophoblast cell model (BeWo) exposed to the TCE metabolite S-(1,2-dichlorovinyl)-L-cysteine (DCVC) and an in vivo timed-pregnant Wistar rat model exposed to TCE to study the molecular effects of TCE on pregnancy. A big portion of my work also seeks to understand how to modulate TCE toxicity. I am also involved with manuscript writing to publish findings and grant applications.” Anthony is a leader amongst his peers and has been serving as a Graduate Student Representative for the Michigan Regional Chapter of the Society of Toxicology, in UMICH School of Public Health Department of Environmental Health Sciences, and in the University of Michigan School of Public Health’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committees since 2018. In these representative roles, Anthony can contribute to many of these organizations’ events, providing him invaluable leadership and coordinating experience.

Anthony became interested in toxicology as an undergraduate majoring in Chemical Biology, where he was always “fascinated by the many ways humans can metabolize substances, with each pathway leading to its own ratio of beneficial to deleterious metabolites.” Dr. Rita Loch-Caruso’s lab investigates trichloroethylene (TCE) metabolism in placenta, a topic that has received very little attention despite knowledge of TCE metabolism as crucial to health outcomes in other organ systems; this was a big reason Anthony was drawn to her laboratory. Additionally, he appreciates her knowledge about cell signaling pathways and how they may relate to health outcomes along with the environmental relevance of her work. It is Anthony’s hope that their research can stimulate measures to prevent or treat adverse health outcomes created by the environmental pollutants.

Based on this, it is no surprise that Anthony’s favorite publication he participated on while at PROTECT, titled “Placenta as a target of trichloroethylene toxicity,” also highlighted this range of scientific perspectives. “I like this publication because I appreciate the comprehensive nature of the paper and how accurately it portrays the reality of the complexity of science. As one example, it is quite obvious through the paper how complex trichloroethylene (TCE) metabolism is and how variable it can be depending on sex, tissue, species, lifestyle choices, and potentially more factors. I believe that many aspects of science are often complex, which is important and unignorable, and take the duty of simplifying complex findings to be more easily understood by the public seriously.“

During his time working with PROTECT, Anthony has become a more well-rounded scientist capable of communicating to a range of scientific audiences, especially those outside the discipline of toxicology. “I have always respected the other professions that are part of PROTECT and other centers that are part of the Superfund Research Program, but involvement within PROTECT has allowed me to convey my research to audiences that are specialized in another scientific field, which makes me use a different approach than if I was communicating to another toxicologist.”

L>R: Anthony Su, Rita Loch-Caruso, & Elana Elkin at the 2019 SRP Annual Meeting

Along with becoming a well-rounded scientist, communicator, and team member, Dr. Loch-Caruso’s mentorship has been invaluable in preparing Anthony for future career goals. “She has introduced me to several individuals who have had profound impact on the design, execution, and analyses of multiple topics in my dissertation. She also informs me of seminars and other opportunities that I would otherwise not know about. Furthermore, by consistently giving me her undivided attention during meetings, Dr. Loch-Caruso has helped me develop many cognitive skills crucial for my future.”

In the past year, Anthony attended and presented at the Society of Toxicology 58th Annual Meeting as well as the Superfund Research Program (SRP) Annual Meeting. At the SOT Annual Meeting, he presented a poster titled “Trichloroethylene stimulates metabolomic changes in the amniotic fluid of a timed-pregnant Wistar rat model of fetal growth restriction” while at the SRP Annual Meeting, he presented a poster titled “The trichloroethylene metabolite S-(1,2-dichlorovinyl)-L-cysteine stimulates metabolomic changes in human placental trophoblast BeWo cells undergoing syncytialization.” Participating in the SRP Annual Meetings and seeing other PROTECT Center researchers and trainees in person is Anthony’s favorite part of working with the PROTECT Center. “The sense of comradery and common goals among PROTECT Center researchers that is apparent at these meetings is just incredible. I would also say all my interactions with anyone affiliated with PROTECT Center have been among my favorite moments about working with the PROTECT Center.” If you are interested in learning more in depth about his research, check out the posters linked below.

Anthony will graduate in Spring 2020 and hopes to become a tenured-track and board-certified toxicology professor, aiming to substantially impact how we understand molecular mechanisms of toxicity. We are so proud of the dynamic accomplishments Anthony has achieved here at PROTECT and can’t wait to see what he does in the future.


Posters:
The trichloroethylene metabolite S-(1,2-dichlorovinyl)-L-cysteine stimulates metabolomic changes in human placental trophoblast BeWo cells undergoing syncytialization. 2019 SRP Annual Meeting
Trichloroethylene stimulates metabolomic changes in the amniotic fluid of a timed-pregnant Wistar rat model of fetal growth restriction. 2019 SOT Annual Meeting