Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Jaclyn Canas
When Jaclyn Cañas came to Texas Tech, she was a pre-med student certain she would become a doctor. And she did become Dr. Cañas—but she didn’t quite follow the path she expected. Knowing she’d need a strong science background for medicine, she joined the Honors College for challenging classes with other motivated students. With science as a strong suit, she did well in her freshman and sophomore biology and chemistry classes, and a professor encouraged her to begin research at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) at TTU. With TIEHH faculty mentor Dr. Todd Anderson, Jaclyn was soon researching how organocholorine pesticides contaminate reptile eggs. A chance to explore the effects of toxic agents in the environment on Morelet’s crocodiles in Belize told her she really liked research. But how could she squeeze that in along with medical school?
As a junior, she was offered a prestigious TTU-Howard Hughes Medical Institute biomedical undergraduate research fellowship and continued working in the broad field of toxicology. Because toxicology draws on many scientific disciplines, Jaclyn’s research was the perfect way to feed her interest in the sciences. When she applied to medical school that year, she was following the path she originally envisioned. But traveling to a conference that fall to present a poster of her research told her she was hooked on becoming a researcher. Though it was possible for her to earn a joint M.D./Ph.D., Jaclyn realized as she continued to explore toxicology that she had a special gift for research. With Dr. Anderson’s encouragement, she applied to the Ph.D. program after earning her bachelor’s degree in zoology in 2001 magna cum laude with Highest Honors—meaning she completed an Honors senior thesis based on her research. Jaclyn earned her doctorate in 2005 in environmental toxicology.
After a postdoctoral research fellowship with the Environmental Protection Agency in Oregon to study the effects of herbicide drift on native plants and non-target crops, Jaclyn was drawn back to Texas Tech to become assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Toxicology and a faculty mentor for an undergraduate researcher in the HHMI program. She continues to investigate the effects of toxic agents and their effects on plants, microorganisms and other small organisms.