Janiel Ahkin Chin Tai

Janiel Ahkin Chin Tai Profile Picture
Training Group:

Integrative Neuroscience

Mentor / Lab:

Jennifer Freeman/ Freeman Lab

Specific Research Area / Project:

Developmental toxicology. Defining developmental toxicity of the agricultural herbicide atrazine in the exposed and subsequent generations using zebrafish

Lab / Personal work-related websites:
PI's website


Research Profile:

Toxicology studies the adverse effects of chemical, physical and/or biological agents on people, animals and the environment. Toxicology as a field has helped detail the health consequences of exposure to synthetic and naturally occurring chemicals as well as establish regulations for drugs and treatment for disease. Some groups are more susceptible to toxicant exposure such as humans or animals that are developing. In my research lab, we study developmental toxicology of toxicants found in the environment, especially in drinking water.

My research focuses on the herbicide atrazine, which is commonly used globally and in the midwestern US. Due to concerns for water contamination, the US EPA has set the limit of exposure at 3 parts per billion (ppb) in potable water but depending on the time of year and sample location, concentrations can reach up to 100 ppb. Atrazine exposure in human populations via drinking water sources has been associated with birth defects such as male genital malformation and small for gestational age. Studies on atrazine exposure in various animal models support atrazine as a neurotoxicant that can effect morphology, behavior and subsequent generations. In my project I expose zebrafish larvae to environmentally relevant concentrations (0, 0.3, 3, 30 ppb) of atrazine for the first 5 days post fertilization. Exposure resulted in altered behavior and detection of atrazine and its metabolites in the fish tissue. Additionally, offspring of the individuals that had atrazine exposure for the first five days had altered head length in the highest treatment group as well as changes in signaling pathways relating to nervous system development and morphology. Zebrafish have 70% homology to human genes, and 80% homology in disease related genes to human genes. These findings suggest that concentrations of atrazine found in the environment are enough to cause health risks that are immediate and into the subsequent generation in zebrafish with concern for human exposure.

About Me:

I am a first generation American and my family grew up struggling financially in the Caribbean. My mom was the first person in my family to get an undergraduate degree. Although her family didn't have the finances for her to pursue her dream of becoming a medical doctor, she was lucky to have a chance at an education and was able to provide some financial stability for her family. My parents wanted me to have more options for a successful life, so they moved to America. In the process of moving to America, my mom's degree did not transfer, and she was devastated. Despite the obstacles, she worked multiple jobs and enrolled full time at Florida International University, while juggling responsibilities as a mother and wife, to re-earn her degree in America. She went on to earn her Master's degree too. Understanding my family and community's lived experiences struggling with basic needs, finances, and educational opportunities gave me a unique, powerful perspective on opportunities provided by education that many in my community never had or even dreamed were possible. Following in my mom's footsteps, I decided to an pursue upper level education in toxicology at Purdue so I would have the privilege of being the first person in my family to obtain a PhD in a field of my own choosing.

It was a tough transition honestly, leaving my community in South Florida and transitioning to graduate school, but my family had experience adapting to change, so I found a community of people to rely on here in Greater Lafayette as my support system. PULSe provided me a cohort to bond and transition through the different stages of graduate school, and rotations allowed me to choose a field I felt best suited me.

I would first like to work in industry, then transition to working in government. Although I currently do not see myself in the traditional tenure track position in academia, I hope to educate in the form of community outreach and establishing connections with communities in need to resources for a better life through education no matter the position I work at.


  • AGEP Scholar Award (2019): A $1,000 scholarship award for fall semester with professional development and mentorship for fall and spring.
  • Scientist Mentoring & Diversity Program (SMDP) (2019): A national program seeking to diversify and prepare PhDs and postdocs for careers in industry through mentorship and networking. 1 of 36 of scholars chosen for the 2019 cohort.
  • 1st place in HSCI Research Blitz (2019): 3-minute research synopsis for the Health Sciences department. Won a $1000 travel grant.
  • Ismail Travel Grant (2018): A competitive travel grant for students to present interdisciplinary research at a conference ($700).
  • AGEP Summer Bridge Program (2017): A program that provides funding and mentoring for an eight week summer research experience in a STEM related field.
  • Purdue Doctoral fellowship (2017): A 4-year award package that has 2 years of stipend support from the Graduate school and two additional years of support from the major professor ($24,000/year).
  • Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) Travel Grant (2016). Received a full travel grant to present a poster and attend the five-day conference in Tampa ($1500).
  • National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBBChE) Travel Grant (2016).
  • MARC U* STAR (Maximizing Access to Research Careers- Undergraduate Student Training for Academic Research) (2014- 2016) http://mbrs.fiu.edu/MARCUSTAR/.
  • NIH funded fellowship that provides opportunities to become competitive researchers through mentorship, funds, workshops, and conference opportunities.
  • Winner of the Guy Harvey’s Save Our Gulf Essay and Art contest. Won an original signed print. (2011).


  • Ahkin Chin Tai, JK, Freeman, JL. Developmental Neurotoxicity of the Herbicide Atrazine. 2019.
  • Neuroscience of Development. Accepted.
  • Ahkin Chin Tai, JK, Freeman JL. Zebrafish as an integrative vertebrate model to identify miRNA mechanisms regulating toxicity. 2020. Toxicology reports. In press.


  • Chin Tai,J., Horzmann, K., Freeman, J. Adverse developmental effects in progeny of zebrafish that were exposed to atrazine during embryogenesis.
  • PULSe Retreat. Aug. 1. 2019. PMU North Ballroom. West Lafayette, IN.
  • HSCI research blitz. Apr. 5.2019. Indianapolis Zoo HSCI retreat. Indianapolis, IN.
  • Society of Toxicology. Mar. 12 2019. Baltimore Convention Center. Baltimore, MD.
  • Health and Disease Poster Session. Feb. 28 2018. Purdue University. West Lafayette, IN.
  • Ohio Valley SOT. Nov. 2018. University of Louisville. Louisville, KY.
  • PULSe Retreat. Aug. 2019. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
  • Chin Tai, J., Rugema, Y., Lyon, A. Protein purification of the Rap1A/PLC epsilon complex. PULSe reception. Mar. 2018. STEW center West Lafayette, IN.
  • Chin Tai, J., Demarco E, Robles E. A dedicated visual pathway connects photoreceptors directly to the
  • brain. SROP summer research, Jul. 28, 2017. STEW center, West Lafayette, IN
  • Chin Tai, J., Main RP. Interactive role of sex hormones and osteocyte-specific ER in regulating bone
  • mass.
  • ABRCMS National conference, Nov. 11. Tampa Convention Center, Tampa, FL;
  • BMES Regional conference, Nov. 4. I hotel conference center, Champaign, IL
  • Purdue summer research poster session, Jul. 2016. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • College of Vet Med poster session, Jul. 26 2016. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • Chin Tai, J. Tyrone Hayes. Estradiol metabolites and gene expression in African clawed frogs.
  • MARC U* STAR Mini symposium, Oct. 2015. FIU, Miami, FL.
  • NSF REU Berkeley Symposium, Aug. 13 2015. UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA.
  • Chin Tai, J. Sexual selection in Gambusia. MARC U* STAR Mini Symposium, Oct. 2014. FIU, Miami, FL.


  • Social Coordinator for PULSe GSO (Aug. 2018-2019)
  • Manage events, transport, catering and budgets for social events
  • Submit Event planning forms (EPFs) and other administrative forms for events-Graduate Assistant (Dec. 2017-May 2018)
  • Liaison between graduate students and OIGP administration
  • Escorted interviewing students
  • Ran the social media page for the OIGP office
  • Consolidated information for on campus facilities, local activities, and health
  • Graduate student Panel (Nov. 4 2017|Nov 9, 2017)
  • Discussed opportunities for gap years before grad school and information on internships
  • Spoke on the diversity visitation program panel about grad school and opportunities
  • Science Fair (Mar 3, 2017|Mar 2 2018)
  • Volunteered as a judge to give feedback/encouragement to elementary and middle school
  • students’ science fair projects and for future STEM involvement
  • Open Kitchen Night (Feb 12, 2017)
  • Volunteered at the Lafayette Transitional Home Center (LTHC) preparing meals and interacting
  • with community members that are homeless
  • Adopt a Freshman (2015-2016)
  • Coached and advised QBIC freshman in time management, effective learning and career
  • building opportunities in the field
  • The Transition: High school to College (Mar 9, 2015)
  • Spoke about research and STEM opportunities at MAST high school in Key Biscayne
  • Dr. Seuss Night (March 4, 2015)
  • Decorated classroom and ran activities at Palm Cove Elementary to promote reading
  • President of Young Science (2014- 2015)
  • Science communication club that involved the public in science via games and discussions
  • Founded club, organized events, designed displays, established networking for public outreach
  • and events
  • Science interactive displays
  • Chin Tai J., Ho B., How J., Mercado A. A sensory journey; an interactive display/talk. Technology
  • Fair, Oct. 2014. South Regional Library, Pembroke Pines, FL.
  • Chin Tai, J., Smatrakaleva, K., Martinez-Montalvo, A. A sensory journey; an interactive display/talk. STEAM Event, Jul. 2014. Southwest Regional Library, Pembroke Pines, FL.
  • Chin Tai, J. How do you perceive the world, a sensory journey, 21st Century CCLC, Jul. 2014.
  • Riverland Elementary, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
  • Chin Tai, J., Goldina A., Roach, A., Dos Santos, J. Electric signaling in Brachyhypopomus pinnicaudatus. Brain Fair, Mar. 2012. Miami Museum of Science, Miami, FL
  • Scientific Illustrator (2014- 2016)
  • Designed logo for Anya Goldina’s Research lab at Elizabethtown college hormones and crayfish behavior http://facultysites.etown.edu/goldinaa/research/
  • Designed lab logo for Philip Stoddard’s electric fish research lab at FIU
  • Teacher’s Aid (2007-2016)
  • Designed classroom themes to create a personalized atmosphere for students
  • Organized paperwork and classroom library
  • Helped guide students in science project concepts and procedures

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