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Valeria Cota

Address: 250 CEFValeria Cota photo
Phone: (319) 335-8796
Email: valeria-cota@uiowa.edu

Mentor: Nicole Brogden, PharmD, PhD

Undergraduate Institution: Buena Vista University

Graduate Program: Human Toxicology

Year Entered into Program: 2019

Research Description

Determination of Racial/Ethnic Differences in Neurotoxic Pesticide Absorption and Metabolism

Organophosphates (OP) are neurotoxic pesticides that inhibit acetylcholinesterase and have the potential to cause long-term damage even at chronic low exposure. Racial and ethnic minorities experience disproportionate environmental exposures to OP pesticides, with dermal exposure being a prevalent route of exposure. To date, there is conflicting evidence of biochemical differences in racial/ethnic skin types which may influence the dermal absorption and toxicity of chemicals. The main goal of my research is to determine the extent of OP pesticide absorption and biotransformation within the skin and determine if differences in melanin may result in variable reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in response to OP pesticides. I have recently used fluorescent dye assays to visualize ROS production in neonatal human epidermal keratinocytes (HEKn) and have been finalizing a detection method for chlorpyrifos and its metabolites for cell and diffusion studies. I am currently working on setting up a clinical trial to visualize ethnic and racial skin differences in response to microneedle insertion using Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT).


  • Predoctoral Training Grant in the Pharmacological Sciences (T32 GM067795), 2020-present
  • Nominee for a 2020 1stGen@Iowa award (an award for first generation college students)
  • Nominee for the 2020 University of Iowa Dare to Discover campaign, spotlighting student research