FVSU lands $400,000 grant for toxin study

A federal grant will help Fort Valley State University students study the impact of toxins on the environment.

The $399,049 grant from the National Science Foundation will pay for new lab equipment and internships for FVSU students to study toxicology, said Celia Dodd, an assistant professor in the biology department.

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Georgia, announced the grant in a release. The National Science Foundation is a federal agency that supports scientific research.

Dodd was the lead writer of the grant and will direct it. She said toxicology is a field of study that students often don’t enter until graduate school. She noted that Fort Valley is home to the Woolfolk Chemical Superfund site, which has been cleaned up.

“One of the things every field is trying to do is increase the numbers of future toxicologists, and one way to do that is to introduce the field at the undergraduate level,” she said.

George Mbata, chairman of the department, said the grant will allow the students to study a wide array of toxins, ranging from agriculture and industrial to medications. Toxins disproportionately impact poor communities, he said, and the grant will allow greater diversity of those who study them.

“This will really enhance the ability of our students to prepare strong applications for graduate programs in toxicology,” Mbata said. “It is an opportunity to increase the participation of minority students in toxicology.”

Dodd said she expects the new lab equipment to be ordered this fall, to create a new toxicology lab in the Academic Classroom and Laboratory Building. Internships would begin next summer with new toxicology classes to be established by the school year that begins fall 2016.

Interns will study in labs at the University of Georgia and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I applaud the National Science Foundation for providing Fort Valley State University this wonderful opportunity for students to continue to connect and grow through science and research by bolstering the program’s undergraduate research training,” Bishop said in the release.

Jessica Bailey, Fort Valley State’s interim president, said in the release that she was elated to get the grant.

“Our desire is to continue encouraging students to get engaged and excited about research, and these funds will play a vital role towards reaching that goal.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.