JGPT Ph.D. candidates, Chelsea Cary and Zakiyah Henry, have been awarded the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31) to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), respectively. F31 fellowships are awarded to promising predoctoral students with potential to develop into productive, independent research scientists through mentored research training; therefore, this is a great honor for both scholars!

Chelsea is investigating the impact of micro and nanoplastic (MNP) exposure on uteroplacental function and offspring health. More specifically, her research aims to demonstrate how maternal plastic inhalation impairs the blood vessels transporting nutrients to the developing fetus. MNPs represent a widespread environmental contaminant, and little is known about how inevitable human exposure to MNPs will affect future generations. Under the guidance and mentorship of Drs. Phoebe Stapleton and Lauren Aleksunes, Chelsea is beginning to address the reproductive and developmental consequences of maternal MNP exposure.

Zakiyah is working under the mentorship of Dr. Grace L. Guo where she is studying the tissue-specific role of the farnesoid X receptor in the development of metabolic dysfunction-associated steatohepatitis (MASH/NASH). Known FXR ligands with the potential to treat MASH are whole body FXR activators that contribute to various side effects such as an imbalance in cholesterol homeostasis and pruritus. With her work, Zakiyah is hoping to provide novel mechanistic insight for the creation of more targeted FXR therapies for the treatment of MASH with limited side effects.