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Michaela Hvizdak with her poster at the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting.

Toxicology Student Presents at Annual Meeting

Finding opportunities to share research, network, and pursue your passions

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"Forever chemicals” is a mostly accurate – and semi-ominous – way to describe one of the most discussed environmental topics of recent years. When thinking about the thousands of years it takes per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to break down, it’s easy to think we might as well be talking about forever.  


Michaela HvizdakMichaela Hvizdak, a third-year PhD student in the Toxicology program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, might be thinking about PFAS more than most. Or, at least more than folks not in the toxicology field. At the Society of Toxicology (SOT) 63rd Annual Meeting and ToxExpo, she was in good company of likeminded scientists.  

Hvizdak traveled to Salt Lake City in March of this year for the meeting to present her poster, “Long-Term Exposure of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in JEG-3 Placental Cells Induces Expression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes Involved in Retinoic Acid Metabolism.” 

Along with other Toxicology students, Hvizdak was able to meet people from all areas of science and industry while at the meeting.  

“A lot of networking is beneficial,” she said of the benefits of attending and presenting at conferences and meetings as a PhD student.  

While there, she bumped into Dr. Derek Drechsel, a senior toxicologist at the environmental consulting firm CTEH in Golden. Coincidentally, he had worked in Dr. Manisha Patel’s lab at CU Anschutz.  

IMG_7079“At the time, I was running for the student representative at the Mountain West Society of Toxicology, and I got it. Dr. Dreschel, who I met at the meeting, is the secretary treasurer,” Hvizdak said. “So, it was really great that I was able to meet him in person not knowing the significance of the professional relationship we would form later on.” 

This kind of connection, serendipitously made at a conference with thousands of strangers, is what Hvizdak says is an important takeaway for doctoral students attending meetings and conferences.  

Along with getting your name out there, there are more benefits to be had.  

“You gain the skills of presenting, of public speaking, and communicating your research to a wider audience. It’s very useful,” she said.  

Hvizdak’s passion for developmental toxicology is evident in her work and the opportunities she pursues to advance in the field. Now a few years into her program, she has a bit of advice for those just starting out. It came from a mentor during her undergraduate studies at Arcadia University. 

“Find your why. Really having a passion for the work that you do is going to take you very far,” Hsvisdak said. “It'll give you that boost of confidence and perseverance in times that your work isn't going as you expect. Have that strong sense of purpose and utilize that as a foundation for your research and your career.” 

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