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Research Project Description

High Throughput Pharmacokinetic Modeling of Environmental Chemicals
Research Participation Program
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Computational Toxicology
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Research Triangle Park, NC

EPA-ORD/NCCT-2012-17

Project Description:

A postdoctoral research project training opportunity is currently available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT) in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

The National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT) is responsible for developing computational tools and solutions for improving environmental risk assessments and regulatory decisions pertaining to chemical safety and sustainability. The objective of this research project is to provide in vitro-in vivo extrapolation (IVIVE) support for the EPA virtual tissues, ToxCast, and ExpoCast projects by refining a high-throughput physiologically-based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modeling framework for relating whole body chemical exposures to cell-level doses (i.e. microdosimetry). The project will involve using extant computational tools and publicly available data to demonstrate approaches for rapid development of PBPK models, as well as coordinating on-going efforts to obtain new in vitro data to parameterize these models and assessing the uncertainties inherent to IVIVE.

The research participant could be involved in the following team activities:

  • Implement, analyze, and refine a chemical-independent PBPK model requiring minimal parameterization from in vitro data.
  • Critically evaluate the model’s applicability to identify chemical-specific properties indicating the need for further pharmacokinetic study.
  • Collaborate with developers of empirical, quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) models for predicting chemical-specific properties.
  • Refine the model parameterization and expand the model structure to represent additional physiology addressing the needs of various projects (e.g. dermal absorption for ExpoCast or placental transfer for Virtual Embryo).
  • Parallelize and otherwise refine model calculations to best use National Computer Center supercomputer resources.
  • Review evidence from the literature and NCCT databases to develop hypotheses and identify datasets for evaluating and revising models.

The participant will be trained to conduct hypothesis-driven research using minimally-parameterized (i.e. high throughput) mathematical models to describe adsorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion by the human body of environmental chemicals. There will be a strong focus on developing computational tools (e.g. R packages) implementing these models for non-expert uses.

The research participant will become a member of a team of scientists involved in developing, testing, documenting and deploying solutions for the Chemical Safety for Sustainability (CSS) program. The participant will have latitude in exercising independent initiative and judgment in the research commensurate with the level of training. The participant will have the opportunity to communicate his/her research via internal and/or public presentations and manuscripts.

Qualifications:

Applicants must have received a doctoral degree biomedical engineering, physics, mathematics or pharmacokinetics within five years of the desired starting date, or completion of all requirements for the degree should be expected prior to the starting date. Experience in computational areas such as quantitative structure-activity relationships, dynamical modeling, and/or multi-scale modeling; and scientific software development in languages including R, Java, Perl, Python, C, and/or MATLAB is desired. 

The program is open to all qualified individuals without regard to race, sex, religion, age, physical or mental disability, national origin, or status as a Vietnam era or disabled veteran. U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status is preferred (but can also hold an appropriate visa status, however, an H1B visa is not appropriate).

The appointment is full-time for one year and may be renewed for up to two additional years upon recommendation of EPA and subject to availability of funds. The participant will receive a monthly stipend. The participant must show proof of health and medical insurance. The participant does not become an EPA employee.

Funding may be made available to reimburse a research participant's travel expenses to present the results of his/her research at scientific conferences. No funding will be made available to cover travel costs for pre-appointment visits, relocation costs, tuition or fees, or a participant's health insurance.

Technical Questions:

Dr. John Wambaugh is the mentor for this project.  He can be contacted at wambaugh.john@epa.gov.

How to Apply:

The Research Participation Program for EPA is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. Please reference Project # EPA-ORD/NCCT-2012-17 when calling or writing for information. For additional information and application materials contact: Research Participation Program/EPA-ORD, Attn: Betty Bowling, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, P.O. Box 117, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-0117, Phone: (865) 576-8503 FAX: (865) 241-5219 e-mail: betty.bowling@orau.org. 

An application can be found at http://orise.orau.gov/epa/applicants/application.htm