Corie Ellison’s PhD research on pesticides sent him to the cotton fields of Egypt.
His degree launched him into a dream job at a Fortune 500 company.
“This job is exactly what I’m interested in,” Ellison says. “It’s great knowing that I’m promoting the general health of the public.”
At Procter & Gamble’s Cincinnati headquarters, Ellison designs experiments that test whether chemicals are safe for use in an array of everyday products.
He has made a seamless transition from academia to industry, a success he attributes to the thorough training and attentive mentoring he received in pharmacology and toxicology.
“UB has such a well-rounded department. You’re taking classes in everything from pharmacology and toxicology to cell biology and gene expression,” he says.
“Rather than focusing on one path, you have exposure to many different areas, which makes you a really well-balanced scientist.”
Ellison discovered pharmacology and toxicology as a UB undergraduate. Originally a pre-pharmacy major, he soon realized that a research-oriented course of study would better suit his interests.
When he learned that UB offered a BS degree in pharmacology and toxicology—one of only a handful of such programs in the country—he was intrigued.
When he took an experimental pharmacology course, he was hooked.
“That was my favorite class at UB,” Ellison says. “It was a hands-on experience—an investigative lab course that really engaged you and taught you to critically think your way through problems. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn.”
During his junior year, Ellison discussed research opportunities with James Olson, the department’s undergraduate advisor.
Olson invited him to join his lab, where Ellison remained through his doctoral research, investigating the effects of chronic pesticide exposure on Egyptian cotton farmers.
“I owe a lot to Dr. Olson because he was very interested
in helping me build my career,” Ellison says.
With Olson’s guidance, Ellison applied for and won a prestigious predoctoral fellowship from the National Institutes of Health. In the span of a month, he received four awards from the Society of Toxicology.
“The whole environment of Dr. Olson’s lab was very supportive,” Ellison says. “He always encouraged me to apply for awards, present my research and attend conferences.
“When you think of the qualities you want in a mentor, he has them all.”
During his graduate studies, Ellison emerged as such an expert
in his field that he traveled to Egypt to teach scientists there
how to genotype for enzymes involved in pesticide metabolism.
“I helped them interpret the results of their assays and determine the significance of the results,” he says.
Much like his work today, Ellison found his departmental research so gratifying because it contributed to people’s health and enhanced their lives.
“Knowing that I was making an improvement in the workers’ safety made me feel good at the end of the day,” he says.
“That’s why I got into this field.”