Dr. Toney joins Multidisciplinary Achievement in Respiratory Research Training (SMARRT) program
When Ashley Toney, PhD, joined Lerner Research Institute in February 2023, she was unsure how her background as a trained nutritionist might fare in the world of microbial genetics. But upon meeting Apollo Stacy, PhD, Department of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Sciences, Dr. Toney knew she had found an exceptional mentor and the next step of her career.
Dr. Toney earned her Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Science with an emphasis in Public Health before continuing to receive a dual PhD in Biochemical Molecular and Community Nutrition. She then completed a dietetic internship and a postdoctoral fellowship in El Paso, Texas.
“I began working in the public health sector because I was so passionate about helping people of the Mexican and Mexican American communities,” she says. “I chose experiences in El Paso to better understand the needs of my community, especially as people came across the border.”
A first-gen student who recognizes the importance of education and training, Dr. Toney is honored to receive an NIH T32 award. This award stems from the Supporting Multidisciplinary Achievement in Respiratory Research Training (SMARRT) program, which provides mentorship and hands-on research experience to LRI postdoctoral fellows.
The grant will aid her current research in Dr. Stacy’s lab, where she studies how oral microbes, such as Neisseria mucosa, play a role in lung airway diseases. Typically, these microbes are beneficial to the oral cavity, but they become opportunistic pathogens once they reach the lungs. She hopes to discover what genes promote microbial survival using Tn-seq, as those genes would make good targets for future therapeutics.
“Mexican and Mexican Americans are predisposed to diabetes and COPD, both of which play to this type of microbe” says Dr. Toney. “I chose this field so I can examine diseases that are disproportionately affecting these populations and find accessible therapeutics.”
Dr. Toney hopes to use this research to further her vision of minority health, one which her mentor consistently supports.
“Receiving this grant is a reminder that the work I’m doing is important,” she says. “That there are people who want to invest in me and believe in what I’m doing.”
Dr. Grund joins third class of fellows in the Supporting Multidisciplinary Achievement in Respiratory Research Training (SMARRT) program
The Supporting Multidisciplinary Achievement in Respiratory Research Training (SMARRT) program award fosters training based in individualized interests.
Dr. Scheraga will use the support to investigate novel signaling mechanisms that control macrophage function and protect the lung during trauma.