Toxicology student creates success through Millennium Scholars Program

Natalie McCollum
July 09, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Talia Seymore, a rising senior majoring in toxicology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, has discovered her passion for research through the Penn State Millennium Scholars Program.

The Millennium Scholars Program is designed for high-achieving science, technology, engineering and math students who will become leaders in their chosen fields and are committed to increasing the diversity of professionals in STEM-related disciplines. The goal is for the students to obtain a doctoral degree.

“Where I come from, a Ph.D. isn’t something I knew much about,” said Seymore, of the Bronx, New York. “My advisers (in Millennium Scholars) put me in the direction of preparing for that. It has kept me on track grade-wise, résumé-wise and career-wise.”

Early in her freshman year, Seymore walked into the office of Joshua Lambert, associate professor of food science, and expressed her interest in conducting undergraduate research. Lambert’s lab focuses on the beneficial properties of foods, such as green tea, soy and chocolate, and their role in chronic disease prevention.

As a freshman, Seymore assisted graduate students in their research. By her sophomore year, she led her own project examining the benefits of cocoa and what biological activity stems from the processing of this bean. Her findings have shown a correlation between cocoa powder and the inhibition of inflammation and fat breakdown.

“Talia is a very hard worker and is curious,” Lambert said. “I think part of her success in research is that she has a certain willingness to do new things and is clever in how she thinks about them. She’s a great ambassador for the Millennium Scholars Program.”

Seymore is particularly interested in how chemicals in the environment affect the human body. While conducting research in food science, she applied her knowledge of toxicology with a new twist, focusing on the ways to treat a living organism with chemical compounds through food.

Last fall, Seymore was recognized at the annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students for her work on the research paper, “The Effect of Prenatal Exposure to an Environmentally Relevant Phthalate Mixture on Testosterone Levels in Adult Mice.” She took part in this toxicological research during her time working at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign last summer.

“I worked with a grad student to research how chemicals found in all plastics can impact fertility in mice and, therefore, men,” Seymore said. “I had to learn quickly, but I became really passionate about that project.” The paper was published in the Environmental Research Journal.

Seymore continues to refine her research repertoire this summer at Rutgers University, where she is looking at the effect of chemical warfare agents on soldiers in the military. She has taken part in research projects at these universities through the Big Ten Summer Research Opportunity Program.

Outside of academics, Seymore serves as an advocate for minority students through her involvement in Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences, known as MANRRS. The goal of the organization is to create a community for underrepresented students within the College of Agricultural Sciences through the promotion of opportunities such as conferences, exhibitions and internship experiences.

“MANRRS serves as a great space to make underrepresented students feel included and supported,” said Seymore, who will serve as the club’s vice president in the coming academic year. “As a toxicology major, I hope to give a different perspective, because it is not a field that comes to mind when we think of agriculture.”

The Millennium Scholars Program encourages students not only to reach their full potential, but also to find what inspires them. For Seymore, her passion has been grounded in her research and has inspired her to pursue her doctorate in developmental toxicology -- particularly on the way chemicals affect the developing fetus.

Seymore attributes much of her success at Penn State to the Millennium Scholars. “Conducting research and going to conferences isn’t an everyday thing. They push us to go above and beyond, and because of that I feel strongly prepared for grad school.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 03, 2020