Environmental Toxicology Research Program
The University of Mississippi

May 2022

Kristie Willett Receives University’s Top Research Award

Kristie Willett stands in front of fish tanks

May 6, 2022

OXFORD, Miss. – Sometimes parents are the best role models to follow. Kristie Willett may be an example of that.

Lynn B. Willett, now a retired animal science and toxicology professor from Ohio State University, showed his daughter, Kristie, the world of toxicology from a young age. Kristie attended her first Society of Toxicology, or SOT, meeting in 1978, and her first publication was with him when she was in high school in 1989 on the topic of polychlorinated biphenyls metabolism by rumen microorganisms.

Read More: “Kristie Willett Receives University’s Top Research Award”

March 2022

UM Researchers Working for Safe Drinking Water in Mississippi

Water comes out of a silver sink faucet.March 22, 2022

OXFORD, Miss. – Kristie Willett, BioMolecular Sciences department chair and professor, is part of an interdisciplinary team that is raising awareness of lead in drinking water through outreach, research and education.

This fall, Willett and Stephanie Otts of the National Sea Grant Law Center will teach an honors class about the topic and direct a lead forum in Jackson to help solve the problem.

Watch Video: “UM Researchers Working for Safe Drinking Water in Mississippi”

November 2021

Research conducted at The University of Mississippi into the effects of water quality stressors on early oyster life stages is essential for ensuring the long-term success of oyster reef restoration.

Read more: Effects of flood-associated stressors on growth and survival of early life stage oysters (Crassostrea virginica)

An infographic showing the impact of flood associated water quality stressors on early oyster life stages

July 2021

UM Researchers Working to Protect Mississippi’s Environment

Two people inspecting an oyster

Preserving the health of the Mississippi Coast is important for the health of the state as a whole. Fortunately for the state, the researchers at the Environmental Toxicology Research Program are here to help.

At ETRP, graduate students work alongside University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy faculty, research scientists and staff to resolve problems related to environmental and human health. Their research provides valuable resources for state and local decision-makers. With events such as extreme storms putting pressure on the Gulf of Mexico in recent years, those resources are more important than ever.

Read More: “UM Researchers Working to Protect Mississippi’s Environment”

August 2021

The BMS STEMS REU program came to an end with a 2 day season finale of outstanding student presentations. Lots of thanks go out to the students for their enthusiastic engagement in their research; our faculty mentors; and the students’ near-peer graduate student & postdoc mentors.

a mixture of 7 men and women standing on stage together smiling for a photo on their STEMS REU presentation day.













April 2021









Up Front: Virtual Talks with UM Experts Hosts BMS Faculty April 22

Event flyer with pictures and titles of Courtney Roper, Marc Slattery and Kristie Willett along with event details.


BioMolecular Sciences faculty Courtney Roper and Marc Slattery along with BMS Chair Kristie Willett will discuss how environmental toxicologists at the school are working to improve human and environmental health. Join the trio via Zoom and celebrate Earth Day on Thursday, April 22 at 1 p.m. CT. Register at olemissalumni.com/events.

August 2020

Researchers Tackle Challenges of Safe Drinking Water in Mississippi

Water going from sink to drinking glass.July 29, 2020

OXFORD, Miss. – Recognizing that clean drinking water is a necessity of life, a group of University of Mississippi professors is using community-based research, education and outreach to work with communities in addressing water quality challenges.

Most Mississippians receive their drinking water from a network of more than 1,100 public water systems. The smaller systems serve dozens of people, while larger ones supply tens of thousands of citizens with water. Other Mississippians obtain their water from private wells.

Read More: “Researchers Tackle Challenges of Safe Drinking Water in Mississippi”

June 2020

BioMolecular Sciences Chair Receives AACP Graduate Education Award

Kristie WillettJune 30, 2020

OXFORD, Miss. – Kristie Willett, chair of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, has been named the inaugural recipient of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Graduate Education Special Interest Group Achievement Award.

The honoree must exemplify teaching excellence and commitment, inspirational leadership, and be a valued mentor, which are many of the qualities Willett portrays.

Read More: “BioMolecular Sciences Chair Receives AACP Graduate Education Award”

February 2020

Graduate Students Find Impacts of Freshwater in Mississippi’s Oysters

Two graduate students standing on a boat looking at oystersFebruary 24, 2020

OXFORD, Miss. – As Ann Fairly Barnett pulled an oyster dredge up through the shoreline waters of the Mississippi Sound, she was dreading what she was about to find.

“Not a single living oyster,” said the University of Mississippi master’s student in environmental toxicology.

The Jackson native, along with UM environmental toxicology graduate student James Gledhill and chemistry graduate student Austin Scircle, had chartered a small fishing boat to visit several native oyster reefs in the sound to check the water quality and the health of the reefs.

Read More: “Graduate Students Find Impacts of Freshwater in Mississippi’s Oysters”

January 2020

BMS Chair Named Toxicological Sciences Deputy Editor

Kristie WillettJanuary 16, 2020

OXFORD, Miss. – The Society of Toxicology’s official journal, Toxicological Sciences, has named Kristine Willett, chair of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences, as one of two new deputy editors to its staff.

Willett, also a professor of pharmacology and environmental toxicology at the University of Mississippi, “will be coordinating solicitation and peer review of Forum articles and developing and administering new training for the editorial board and reviewers,” according to Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey M. Peters

Read More: “BMS Chair Named Toxicological Science Deputy Editor”

Kennedy Dickson, a student researcher in Dr. Kristie Willett’s lab and 2019 National Collegiate Honors Council Portz Scholar, had a 1st author publication in the Fall 2019 Arizona Journal of Environmental Law and Policy. We are so proud of all the hard work Kennedy has done! 

Read more: Cannabinoid Conundrum: A Study of Marijuana and Hemp Legality in the United States”



November 2019

Cammi Thornton, Principle R&D Chemist in Environmental Toxicology, shared how fun science can be with her daughter’s pre-K class!














August 2019

Forensic Chemistry Major Named Portz Scholar

August 1, 2019
OXFORD, Miss. – Kennedy Dickson (SMBHC 19) has been named a 2019 National Collegiate Honors Council Portz Scholar. She is one of three recipients nationwide and will present her honors thesis, “Cannabinoid Conundrum: A Study of Anti-Epileptic Efficacy and Drug Policy,” at the NCHC conference in New Orleans this coming November as well as collect her certificate and award of $350.

This summer, California-native Kennedy is working as a Forensic Science Intern for the Orange Crime Laboratory in Southern California. She has begun the law school admissions process and hopes to study intellectual property, patent law, and bioethics. This fall, she will continue researching cannabinoids with Professor Kristie Willett, who also advised her honors thesis. Kennedy is grateful for Professor Willett along with Ms. Cammi Thornton and Professors Zach Pandelides, Erin Holmes, and Nicole Ashpole.

Congratulations, Kennedy!


July 2019

Pharmacy Alumni Recognized with UM Distinguished Alumni Awards

Sly LeeJuly 9, 2019

OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss Alumni Association is honoring eight recipients for its Distinguished Alumni Awards in 2019 in recognition of their service and accomplishments.

Two of those honorees are School of Pharmacy alumni, as Kimsey O’Neal Bailey will be inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame and Sly Lee will receive the Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

Read more: “Pharmacy Alumni Recognized with UM Distinguished Alumni Awards”

June 2019

Congratulations to Dr. Nicole Ashpole on receiving the 2018 – 2019 New Investigator Research Award and Dr. Kristie Willett on receiving the 2018 – 2019 Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc. Faculty Research Award!!


April 2019

UM Graduate Student Selected for Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Course

Amelia ClayshulteApril 19, 2019

OXFORD, Miss. ­– Amelia Clayshulte, a second-year Ph.D. student in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Department of BioMolecular Sciences, was accepted into a tropical taxonomy course at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

The internationally competitive course takes place at the Bocas Research Station in Bocas del Toro, Panama, for 21 days this summer. Clayshulte, originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico, will be one of approximately 15 students participating in a course titled “Understanding Relationships of Non-bilaterian Metazoans: Sponges.”

Read more: “UM Graduate Student Selected for Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Course”

March 2019

Congratulations to the team of Dr. Kristine Willett, The Department of Biomolecular Sciences, Mississippi Law Research Institute and UM Center for Population Studies for recognition as an Excellence in Community Engagement Finalist at the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement Celebration of Service! Their collaborative teaching engages students and communities about clean water in Mississippi.

February 2019

February 19, 2019

As proud alum, Dr. Roy and Dr. Paris united post-docs from across campus to discuss the benefits of our community joining the National Postdoctoral Association. We can’t wait to see how our post-docs can grow and work together!






January 2019

University Professor Awarded Cancer Research Grant

BMS Council with Josh Sharp for Skills WorkshopJanuary 31, 2019

OXFORD, Miss. ­– After nearly 50 years of cancer research in the U.S., the search for a cure continues at the University of Mississippi.

The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy received a research grant from the National Cancer Institute this week for the cancer prevention research work done by the university’s Cole Stevens and Kristie Willett, both of whom are professors in the School of Pharmacy.

Read more: “University Professor Awarded Cancer Research Grant”

December 2018

BioMolecular Sciences Advocacy Council Enhances Graduate Student Experience

BMS Council with Josh Sharp for Skills WorkshopDecember 17, 2018

OXFORD, Miss. ­– The graduate students and faculty of the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Department of BioMolecular Sciences have worked together to reestablish an organization that will benefit the many graduate students within the department.

The BMS Graduate Student Advocacy Council formed during the fall of 2018 as the department renewed its official student registration of the former BMS Journal Club. The organization plans to include more opportunities for interaction outside of the labs with faculty and student networking events, journal club meetings and football tailgates.

Read more: “BioMolecular Sciences Advocacy Council Enhances Graduate Student Experience”

June 2018

TriCounty Workforce Alliance_OystersBioMolecular Sciences and Environmental Toxicology, along with National Sea Grant Law Center and Center for Population Studies, welcomed the Tri-County Workforce Alliance for a tour. Students learned about our lead study as well as oyster and zebrafish research.



April 2018

ETOX graduate student James Gledhill (left), pharmacognosy grad student Amelia Clayshulte (center) and ETOX grad student Ann Fairly Barnett.




UM Pharmacy Grad Student Earns Student Exchange Award

Ann Fairly Barnett divingOXFORD, Miss. ­– Ann Fairly Barnett, a University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy graduate student, received the Student Training Exchange Opportunity award from the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

The award will allow Barnett to conduct research in the Shoemaker Toxicology Laboratory at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs this summer under the guidance of Joe Griffitt, chair of USM’s Division of Coastal Sciences and associate director of its School of Ocean Science and Technology.

Read More: “UM Pharmacy Grad Student Earns Student Exchange Award”

Congratulations to BMS graduate student, Amelia Clayshulte, in receiving second place in the Science Slam competition at the Young Environmental Scientist Meeting (YES), Stand up for Science.



January 2018

Alumnus Makes Forbes “30 Under 30” List of Leaders

Sly LeeJanuary 22, 2018

OXFORD, Miss. – As technological advances continue to rapidly turn yesterday’s fiction into today’s facts, a University of Mississippi alumnus finds himself at the forefront of the burgeoning virtual and augmented reality revolution.

Sylvester “Sly” Lee, co-founder of Emerge Inc., an independent technology company in Los Angeles, recently made Forbes magazine’s annual “30 Under 30” list of rising entrepreneurs in manufacturing and industry.

Read more: “Alumnus Makes Forbes ’30 Under 30′ List of Leaders”

December 2017

Congratulations – Dr. Dennis Carty!

Wishing the best of luck to Dr. Dennis Carty, 2017 PhD graduate from our Environmental Toxicology program, on starting your new post-doctoral position at UC Davis!




May 2017

2017 Mid-South Regional Chapter Meeting – Save the Date!

Please add to your 2017 calendars that our regional chapter meeting will be held May 18-19th in Oxford Mississippi. Matt Moore (USDA) and Kristie Willett (Univ. of MS) are organizing the event. We have a short course planned on scientific publishing as well as two plenary talks. Student platform and poster presentations will also surely be a highlight of the event. We hope to have outstanding attendance given our relatively centralized location in our region and because Oxford is an awesome place to visit.  We are looking forward to seeing you in May! 

Abstracts for platform and poster presentations must be submitted by MAY 5, 2017.

MidSouthSETAC2017 OXFORD MS Call for Abstracts



South Central Chapter of the Society of Toxicology 2014 Annual Fall Meeting

The 2014 Annual Meeting of The South Central Chapter of the Society of Toxicology was held On October 23-24, 2014 in Oxford, MS.  The focus of this year’s SCC-SOT meeting included natural products, metabolism and careers in toxicology. The meeting was organized by Dr. Kristie Willett and her colleagues at Ole Miss. There were four feature activities associated with this year’s meeting: keynote speech, selected platform presentations, K-12 luncheon, and poster presentations. There were more than 100 participants from 14 institutions around the south central region.

The meeting began with opening reception in the evening of Oct 23 at the Thad Cochran Research Center, which was entertained by “Trivia Pursuit” conducted by the graduate students. The first Keynote address followed the reception, which was given by the internationally renowned pharmacologist, Dr. F. Peter Guengerich of Vanderbilt University. In his speech entitled “Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Natural Products: Roles in Toxicity and Drug Development”, Dr. Guengerich described the two faces of CYP450 enzymes in disease development and how natural products can be applied to disease treatment based on their activities on CYP450 enzymes.

Dean David Allen of UM School of Pharmacy greeted meeting attendees to start the beginning of the second day, followed by welcoming remarks by Dr. William Slikker, Jr., the Director of National Center for Toxicological Research. The second keynote speech was given by Dr. John Lipscomb of US Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Lipscomb grew up and received his education in this region. He shared his interesting experiences working as a regulatory toxicologist with the audience. Seven talks from graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty were selected for this year’s platform presentation. The topics of these talks spread from genotoxicity, organ toxicity to carcinogenesis.

K-12 Toxicologist Luncheon and Lunch with a Toxicologist

Photo from left to right Dr. Wesley Gray, Elizabeth Hubbard, Deborah Jones (teacher), Dr. John Lipscomb, Vanndrika Robinson, Harrison Atkinson, Kayla Hall, Addison Roush, and Dr. Kristie Willett

This year’s K-12 toxicologist luncheon “Toxicological Research – Inspiring the Next Generation of Toxicologists” was again organized by Dr. Wesley Gray of Southern University. The goal of the K-12 Toxicologist Luncheon is to introduce a new generation of potential toxicologists to career opportunities in toxicology. The luncheon served to: (a) highlight how high and middle school students can become involved in toxicology, (b) advertise summer programs in toxicology for high school students, (c) showcase the various career paths in the field, and (d) provide a forum for students to display and discuss their science projects and future career plans. The luncheon supplements the chapter’s commitment to building for the future of toxicology and the promotion and recognition of toxicology within our Region. Dr. John Lipscomb, toxicologist and risk assessor for the US EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment served as the speaker for the K-12 Luncheon. His talk “Road to Becoming a Toxicologist” highlighted how his own academic journey to toxicology. Ten students from Lafayette High School attended the hour and a half long program that involved a sit down lunch, comments from Dr. William Slikker, past president of SOT, Dr. Wesley Gray, the region’s K-12 liaison, and Dr. Yunfeg Zhao, current president of the chapter. Theses K-12 students had the opportunity to interact with several senior members of the chapter, including Dr. Martin J. Ronis of UAMS, Dr. Kenneth E. McMartin, LSUHSC, and Dr. Kristie Willett, The University of Mississippi. After the luncheon, they were given a guided tour of the posters section, and an opportunity to sign up for a toxicology mentor.

SCC-SOT 2014 Poster Session

The most anticipated event at the meeting for our students was the afternoon poster session, which included 38 posters covering a broad range of topics. Three of the posters were presented by undergraduates; eighteen were presented by graduate students, who had been mentored by toxicologists from the region, and thirteen were presented by postdoctoral fellow, technician, or junior faculty.


2014’s Award Ceremony Highlight

Another highlight of our annual meeting is the award ceremony, which provides a true reflection of the chapter’s ongoing commitment to the mentoring and inspiring the next generation of toxicologists.

Outstanding Platform Presentation:

1st Place: Annapoorna Sreedhar (Louisiana State University Health Science Center)

2nd Place: Khalid Alharthy (University of Mississippi)

3rd Place (tie): Sherri Hudson (University of Alabama at Birmingham), Alexander Alund (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences), Zhuhong Zhang (National Center for Toxicological Research)

Outstanding Undergraduate Student Poster presentation:

1st Place: Royce Nichols (King University)

2nd Place: H.C. Martin (University of Central Arkansas)

3rd Place: John Franklin (University of Mississippi)

Outstanding Graduate Student Poster Presentation:

1st Place: Lauren Mangum (Mississippi State University)

2nd Place: Kasey Jackson (Louisiana State University Health Science Center)

3rd Place: Anberitha Matthews (Mississippi State University, College of Veterinary Medicine)

Outstanding Postdoc/Non-Student Poster Presentation:

1st Place: Alexandra Noel (Louisiana State University)

2nd Place: Dianke Yu (National Center for Toxicological Research)

3rd Place: Isabelle Miousse (University of Central Arkansas)

Outstanding Poster Presentation for Regulatory Sciences:

1st Place: Antonio Ward (Mississippi State University)

Support for the awards was generously provided by meeting sponsors including The UAMS Regulatory Science Program, Charles River, ElSohly Laboratories Inc., WVR, Waters, Fisher Scientific and the University of Mississippi.

Award created for environmental toxicology students

To honor a former faculty member and environmental toxicology research leader, the School of Pharmacy has created the William H. Benson Distinguished Graduate Student Award.

“I was honestly in disbelief when I first learned of the plans for the award,” said Benson, who served as a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the school for a decade. “I am just incredibly flattered and honored that it would even be considered.”

School of Pharmacy Recognizes Faculty for Research, Instructional Innovations and Service

The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy recognized four faculty members for research, instructional innovation and service during its annual fall faculty retreat. Mahmoud A. ElSohly, research professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, was presented with the Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc. Research Award, and Soumyajit Majumdar, associate professor of pharmaceutics, received the New Investigator Award. Daniel Riche, assistant professor of pharmacy practice and medicine, received the Faculty Instructional Innovations Award, and Robert Doerksen, associate professor of medicinal chemistry, received the pharmacy school’s Faculty Service Award.

UM-Led Research Team Awarded $20 Million to Study Long-Term Effects of Gulf Oil Spill

A scientific consortium led by the University of Mississippi has been awarded $20 million over three years to study lingering environmental effects of the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The funding is part of $112.5 million awarded to eight research teams by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, or GRI, a group formed to help understand and mitigate the impacts of hydrocarbon pollution and stressors of the marine environment, with an emphasis on conditions found in the Gulf of Mexico. The GRI was established with a 10-year, $500 million commitment from BP.

Environmental Toxicology Researchers and Students Work to Assess Environmental Damage from Gulf Oil Spill

The University of Mississippi’s graduate program in environmental toxicology began just four years ago, but the massive oil spill this summer in the Gulf of Mexico promises to provide research opportunities to keep faculty and students busy for decades. Several UM researchers are studying the spill’s effects on the region’s fish, shellfish and plant life. The work has serious implications for tourism, fishing and other activities across the Gulf Coast region, said Kristine Willett, associate professor of pharmacology and graduate program coordinator for the Environmental Toxicology Research Program in the School of Pharmacy.

Watch video:

Students Have Career-Changing Experience In Bahamas Underwater Laboratory
Help marine biologists examine coral reef extinction risk

OXFORD, Miss. – After spending part of their summer exploring coral reefs in the Bahamas, several University of Mississippi students are contemplating new career choices.

Researchers from UM and the University of Alabama led the students on a underwater study in a protected marine reserve off Lee Stocking Island, part of the Great Exuma chain of the Bahama Islands. Funded by the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology, part of NOAA’S Office of Ocean Exploration and Research at Ole Miss, the aim was to motivate a new generation to explore the continued survival of coral reefs.

“This was a great opportunity to give our students an introduction to the tropics, something they would probably not be able to do otherwise,” said NIUST executive director Ray Highsmith. “I was lucky as an undergraduate to be taken to a wonderful tropical coral reef as a research assistant, and it changed my life. I’ll be surprised if that doesn’t happen to some of these students.”

That seems to be the case for Sly Lee, a 21-year-old UM environmental toxicology graduate student from Oxford. “The class in the Bahamas made me realize that coral reefs are completely doomed if we continue our current path and lifestyles as inhabitants on this planet,” Lee said. “I also discovered that I want to study these marine ecosystems and maybe even discover new compounds. Plus, ‘I travel the world scuba diving’ has a nice ring to it.”

One of the most diverse, richest ecosystems on the planet, coral reefs are threatened by pollution, climate change and human activities. The risks of coral reef extinction are so real that marine biologists worldwide are frantically studying the problem. Scientists from UM and UA are trying to better understand coral disease and ocean acidification in the reef near Lee Stocking Island. With a fish-eye view of the crystal clear turquoise waters, the team observes one of nature’s most fragile, yet bountiful tropical marine ecosystems.

“Coral reefs help provide food, medications along with other goods and services to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, yet they are disappearing at alarming rates,” said UM pharmacognosy professor Marc Slattery, an expert on briny invertebrates and algae. “The Caribbean is a biodiversity hot spot, and without study they too may be lost to future generations.”

This summer, the team examined reefs submerged 200 to 300 feet below the surface, depths overlooked by prior surveys, said Slattery, director of NIUST’s Ocean Biotechnology Center and Repository. Slattery hopes to discover new pharmaceutical compounds from coral reef organisms.

Lee and other students also got their feet wet as Slattery and colleagues led a related two-week graduate course, “Coral Reef Stressors: Adaptation in Tropical Marine Ecosystems,” at the nearby Perry Institute for Marine Sciences. Students described their maritime encounters with multicolored fish, corals, sponges and sea fans as life-changing.

“The course was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Mallory Johnson, a 21-year-old first-year UM pharmacy student from Brookhaven. “I was able to visualize, firsthand, the process of developing potential pharmaceuticals from the marine environment.”

In addition to scuba diving and snorkeling up to three hours for daily afternoon fieldwork, the typical day onshore included morning laboratory experiments and nightcap lectures. The course will be offered again next summer, and Johnson encourages her peers to consider taking the class.

Other researchers working with Slattery on the project include UM’s Deborah Gochfeld, an expert on corals and fish from the National Center for Natural Product Research, and UA’s Julie Olson, a microbial ecologist with expertise in biological oceanography. The team brought home plenty of samples of the coral and other sea life, and Slattery said they will be busy for months examining them for signs of changes in the reef’s health.

For more news, visit pharmacy.olemiss.edu/media.