Spotlight on Chemists

Alan Katz: Toxicologist

What is Toxicology?

Toxicology involves the study of harmful effects that chemicals may have on organisms. Misunderstanding chemicals, such as fluorine gas, can lead to overexposure, poisoning, and death. But unfounded fear can prove unnecessary for chemicals that are harmless when used properly. 

Toxicologists work in many settings, such as universities, industries, and governmental organizations. They utilize everything from robotic tools to computer software to investigate data.

Types of Toxicologists:

A few examples of science careers in the field of toxicology include:

  • Clinical Toxicologists: diagnose and treat patients with diseases caused by toxic chemical substances
  • Environmental Toxicologists: study the effects of chemical pollution on people, animals, and communities via lab and field research
  • Forensic Toxicologists: establish causes of death and identify key toxicological clues that help solve crimes 
  • Industrial Toxicologists: develop new materials such as industrial chemicals, consumer products, and pharmaceuticals
  • Mechanistic Toxicologists: explore the toxic effects of chemicals on living organisms 
  • Regulatory Toxicologists: determine whether drugs and exposure to them can be declared safe for the consumer market 

The toXcel Company

Toxicologist Alan Katz founded toXcel in 1999. His group of dedicated scientists pursued a “full range” of toxicological investigations. Katz has decades of experience in pharmaceutical, chemical, food, cosmetic, and agrochemical toxicological fields. He views himself as a “coach, mentor, and team-builder,” at toXcel.

Professionals at the company work to improve the safety, health, and well-being of all people. Different governmental agencies, businesses, and communities consult them for “scientific, analytic, technical, and regulatory services.” toXcel researchers explore scientific issues regarding the environment, transportation, public health, and more. 

Katz’s Journey in Toxicology

Katz postulates that while few high school students focus specifically on toxicology, they may have a passion for biology, chemistry, or medicine. Any and all of these academic areas can segue into toxicological sciences later in life.

As an undergraduate, Katz pursued chemistry and biology. “Undergraduate coursework could be in just about any area,” he says. “Build [experience] with a broad mixture of chemistry and life sciences.”

Undergraduate Coursework Examples:

  • Genetics
  • Analytical and physical chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Environmental sciences
  • Parasitology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology

Katz then earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Science in Human Physiology. He has since achieved many professional certifications and is currently a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology.

Opportunities in Toxicology

The process of locating opportunities for experience in toxicology will vary depending on individual interest. For instance, those interested in medicine, might serve as a volunteer in a local hospital.

“I studied part-time and worked as a chemical lab technician. Afterward, while getting my graduate degree, I worked as a research assistant.”  

Katz describes the start of his career in toxicology as “serendipitous.” He pursued an opening in drug safety evaluation at a local Johnson&Johnson pharmaceutical facility. “That is where I got ‘hooked’ on toxicology,” he says. 

The Future of Toxicology

Right now, Katz is leading a team to help clients develop sanitization products and PPE. toXcel hopes to provide this protection to fight viral infections such as Covid-19. 

This cutting-edge project reflects Katz’s favorite part of the job: the constant learning, questioning, and investigating. Katz, and toXcel, plan for a future that will be defined by “growth in opportunities to learn, innovate, and problem-solve.”

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