Study of immunotoxicity leads to national award
From left, research specialist Quing Hu, doctoral students Jason Franklin and Qixiao Jiang, and Dr. Jamie DeWitt discuss their research in DeWitt’s lab in the Brody Medical Sciences Building. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services
Dr. Jamie DeWitt, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, has received the 2013 Outstanding Young Investigator Award from the Immunotoxicology Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology.
The award is given to investigators who are 10 or fewer years out from obtaining their doctorates who have contributed substantially, through scholarly research, to the field of immunotoxicology. To date, DeWitt has 24 scholarly publications that focus on immunotoxicity and a total of 34 publications.
DeWitt received the award at the group’s annual meeting in March in San Antonio, Texas.
“It’s a huge honor as the scientists who’ve been selected for this award in the past have made monumental contributions to the field of immunotoxicology,” said DeWitt, who then mentioned her mentors and advisors during her educational and professional career.
Her research focuses on systemic and developmental immunotoxicity following exposure to environmental pollutants. One of her main interests is the impact of exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid, a compound used to manufacture many industrial and commercial products such as Teflon, on immune function.
Her goals are understanding the long-term effects of developmental toxicant exposure on behavior and immune function, evaluating common signaling pathways for nervous and immune system development and identifying critical windows of developmental exposure.
“I think this award also indicates that the immunotoxicology community values developmental immunotoxicity research and research that explores the connections between the immune and nervous systems,” DeWitt said. “These are both areas that are relatively new in the discipline and areas that are somewhat understudied in relation to other areas of immunotoxicology.”
Ultimately, DeWitt wants to extend her studies in developmental immunotoxicology to investigate the potential role of immune modulation in the development of disorders such as autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
DeWitt has been at ECU since 2008. In addition to being on the pharmacology and toxicology faculty, she is also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Public Health at the medical school. She also chairs the Brody Women Faculty Committee and is the incoming president of the North Carolina regional chapter of the Society of Toxicology.
DeWitt completed her doctorate in 2004 at Indiana University-Bloomington in environmental science and neural science and completed post-doctoral studies in immunotoxicology at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in cooperation with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dr. David Taylor, DeWitt’s department chair, praised DeWitt’s research and her collaboration with faculty members from across ECU. “The university, Brody School of Medicine and the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology are fortunate to have Dr. DeWitt as a member of the faculty,” he said.