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Sommer Scholars

Tyna Dao

PhD Student, Environmental Health Sciences

Three years into a career at the Food and Drug Administration, where she spent much of her time at a desk reviewing food additives, Tyna Dao knew she wanted to work in public health. A toxicologist by training, Dao is keenly interested in food and drug safety at the population level. Her mission now is to find a way to integrate basic science training with her passion for public health. “I just really want to use science to help people,” she says. Her work here at the Bloomberg School involves epigenetics, the study of changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype, caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. She’s examining the effects of exposing pregnant mice to environmental factors, such as a high-fat diet, allergens, antioxidants or endocrine disruptors, to see if the pups have a higher risk of asthma. While she sees a future for herself working at the bench, Dao also enjoys the challenges of the regulatory environment. She plans to augment her scientific knowledge with a PhD in molecular and translational toxicology but doesn’t limit herself to the confines of a lab. “I may want to go back into government work doing risk assessment,” she says. “It’s fascinating to be the person who makes regulatory calls in terms of toxicological studies. Someone has to make those decisions and interpret that data.” 17: Number of years Dao has been playing tennis