Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute
Biochemical Toxicology Group
and speaking skills are essential for getting funding and for
Rogene Henderson is a
senior scientist at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in
Albuquerque, NM. She performs research to determine the health effects of
inhaled pollutants. Henderson's work includes reading the literature to
determine what research has been done in the area, generating testable
hypotheses and developing approaches to test the hypotheses.
Henderson's research involves some animal handling and the development of
chemical analytical techniques to detect pollutants and their metabolites
in body tissues and fluids. She uses mathematics to describe the
relationships between air concentrations of chemicals and body
concentrations of the chemical or its metabolites and how these
concentrations change with time. She writes up results of her research for
publication in scientific journals.
Much of Henderson's work is related to regulation of air pollutants and
her research is often audited by outside people who have an interest in
the regulatory process.
Henderson cites the following as an example of a typical project: An
airborne chemical is suspected of causing cancer in humans. Animal studies
must be done to determine how the body metabolized the compound, how the
compound and its metabolites are distributed in the body and if the
metabolites bind to macromolecules such as tissues and fluids. This
involves synthesis of standards for the proposed metabolites. Rats or mice
are exposed to the chemical and tissues and fluids are collected at
different time points after the exposure. The samples are analyzed and the
half lives for metabolism and for clearance of the compound from the body
Personal characteristics that helped in her job are scientific curiosity,
a thoughtful imagination, hard work, and ability to write and speak well
enough to sell her ideas to research funding agencies. The ability to work
well with others is important for Henderson since she works with teams of
scientists. Working in teams is essential because, she says, real-world
problems seldom come neatly packaged for one discipline to study.
A career in chemical issues in toxicology is an exciting one, says
Henderson. "It is an opportunity to help keep our environment clean and to
prevent pollutant-induced disease. But to succeed requires a lot of hard
work and devotion to the task. You have to ask if that is really what you
want to do and if you want to design experiments or help with the chemical
analyses needed by the person who designed the research. Both types of
jobs are needed and fulfilling, but each is different." She also
recommends developing writing and speaking skills which are essential for
getting funding and for writing reports.
Chemists are employed in toxicology by government and academia as well as
by both small and large private firms. A related area is pharmacology and
chemists are hired by pharmaceutical firms for that work.