Meet the team


Dr. Samuel Buxton

Sam manages research programmes on nickel genotoxicity and carcinogenicity within the NiPERA team and leads regulatory efforts on nickel cancer classifications. Sam authors regulatory position papers and collaborates with colleagues on other human health research programmes.

Prior to joining NiPERA in 2017, Sam was a postdoctoral research associate at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas and at Iowa State University, Iowa.

A naturalized US citizen from Ghana, Samuel holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from the University of Ghana, a PhD in Toxicology from Iowa State University, Iowa, USA and a PhD in Life and Health Sciences from François Rabelais University in Tours, France. Sam is a board certified Toxicologist and a member of the Society of Toxicology, the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is based in the Durham office.

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Dr. Emily Garman

Emily is responsible for developing and overseeing research for assessing the environmental effects of nickel production and use. She also coordinates the environmental research programme for the Nickel REACH Consortia and assists with other global environmental regulatory initiatives.

Prior to joining NiPERA in 2008, Emily was an Environmental Consultant with DPRA. She is a member of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry and was on the Board of Directors for the Regional Chapter.

A US national, Emily holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Pennsylvania, a Masters in Environmental Engineering specialising in water resources from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD in Integrative Biology from Florida Atlantic University. She is a Certified Environmental Risk Assessor.

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Dr. Kate Heim

Kate Heim leads the Nickel Institute’s communications, research and regulatory actions regarding Nickel Allergic Contact Dermatitis. Her responsibilities also include overseeing bioelution testing and supporting incorporation of this approach into regulatory frameworks. Additional regulatory scientific input for nickel substances in Korea REACH and the International Maritime Organisation is also part of her role.

Kate first joined NiPERA in 1996, leaving in 2006 to work for ARCADIS on REACH registration dossiers. She returned to NiPERA in 2011, overseeing the updating of the REACH registration dossiers and resuming her role as the dermal sensitisation expert.

A US national, Kate holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Colorado College and has a PhD in Toxicology and Cell Biology from Duke University. She has been a board-certified toxicologist since 2000. She is based in Durham.

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Connie Lawson

Connie Lawson has extensive experience in operational support services and project management. She is responsible for organising and coordinating the Durham office operations and procedures to ensure they are efficient and effective. She provides office management, including liaison between staff and outsourced services, as well as overseeing the NiPERA sample repository and providing communications support.

Connie first worked at NiPERA from 1988-1997. She re-joined in 2009, after working for a global technology services company in the life sciences sector, where she implemented data validation services for pharmaceutical companies from project initiation to production rollout and management of day-to-day operations.

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Dr. Tara Lyons-Darden

Tara is responsible for coordinating, managing and maintaining the classification and toxicity data in the Nickel REACH Consortia registration dossiers. She also manages several projects within the nickel nanoparticulate research programme.

Prior to joining NiPERA, Tara held two consecutive postdoctoral research fellowships that focused on prostate cancer research (Duke University) and the biological effects of neurotoxic agents (U.S. EPA). Following her postdoctoral research, Tara had the unique opportunity to work as a medical writer and editor for Education and Training Systems International and The Customer Link. In 2008, Tara joined NiPERA as the scientific technical writer and later expanded her scientific contribution by increased utilization of her educational and research background.

Tara holds Bachelor’s degrees in Biochemistry and Chemistry from North Carolina State University and has a PhD in Pathology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Board Certified Toxicologist (Diplomat of the American Board of Toxicology). Tara is a US citizen, based in Durham.

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Dr. Elizabeth Traudt Middleton

Ellie works within environmental science program where she collaborates on the design, monitoring, and management of environmental toxicity studies. Ellie also facilitates the preparation of environmental risk assessments for submission to regulatory agencies and communication of environmental toxicity information on nickel and its compounds to relevant stakeholders.
Prior to joining NiPERA in 2019, Ellie was an Ecological Risk Assessor with Jacobs Engineering Group where she worked on projects on behalf of both governmental bodies and private sector industries, gaining expertise in U.S. EPA environmental regulations. She is an active member of both the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) and the American Chemistry Society (ACS) and has co-authored several peer-reviewed journal papers.
Ellie holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Metropolitan State University of Denver, a Masters in Geochemistry from Colorado School of Mines, and a PhD in Geochemistry specializing in aquatic toxicology from Colorado School of Mines. Ellie is a US citizen and is based in the Durham office.

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Dr. Adriana Oller

Adriana is responsible for the strategic research direction of the science arm of the Nickel Institute, as well as guiding the research, regulatory and communications activities of six doctoral level staff. She joined NiPERA Inc. in 1994 as a human health toxicologist, and is a leading authority on the mutagenicity and carcinogenicity effects of nickel. She regularly participates in expert panels worldwide.

Prior to joining NiPERA, Adriana undertook post-doctoral research at both the Lineberger Cancer Research Center and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in North Carolina.

Originally from Argentina, Adriana holds a Master’s degree in Biochemistry from Buenos Aires University and has a Ph.D. in Genetic Toxicology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a Diplomat of the American Board of Toxicology and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Adriana has authored a number of peer-reviewed papers on nickel toxicology. She is based in Durham.

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Dr. Chris Schlekat

Chris is responsible for ensuring that regulations pertaining to nickel and nickel substances in the environment are based on current scientific knowledge. Chris also represents NiPERA in global regulatory processes, with specific emphasis on bioavailability-based risk-assessment approaches for nickel in water, sediment, and soil.

Before joining NiPERA in 2003, Chris was manager of Environmental and Health Sciences for Rio Tinto Borax in California. He serves on the editorial board of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

A US citizen, Chris holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, a Masters in Marine Biology and a Doctorate in Environmental Health Sciences. He is a Board-Certified Toxicologist and is based in Durham.

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Dr. Mike Taylor

Mike is responsible for overseeing research to fill data gaps in the risk assessment and human health effects associated with exposure to nickel and nickel compounds.

Prior to joining NiPERA in 2013, Mike was senior toxicologist for Afton Chemical Corporation, where he was responsible for identifying potential regulatory and risk assessment gaps regarding the human health effects of inorganic manganese.

A US citizen, Mike holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a PhD in Toxicology, both from West Virginia University. He also conducted post-doctoral research on the health effects of metal-containing dusts and fumes for the National Research Council. He has been a Diplomat of the American Board of Toxicology since 2009. He is based in Durham.

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