My name is Andrew Briskin and I am a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania. I am pursuing a major in Health and Societies with a concentration in Disease and Society, and a minor in Chemistry. After graduation, I plan to attend medical school. I have not yet decided on what clinical specialty I would like to pursue. However, after participating in the STEER program, I am now thinking about how to incorporate environmental health into whatever clinical discipline I choose because of the impact the program has had on my understanding of health, the environment, and the development of disease.
What is your summer research project?
I am working with Dr. Aalim Weljie in his laboratory in the Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics at Penn Medicine. The Weljie lab focuses on the intersection of metabolism and the circadian clock within cells. My research project focuses on the effects that a few different chemicals (EDCs), which have been widely found in trace amounts among many human populations, have had on the metabolites present in cell samples. Additionally, I am using these same chemicals to do a lumicycle experiment, which tracks the expression of the Per2 and CLOCK genes, widely known to regulate circadian rhythms in mammalian cells.
What are the implications of your research?
Past research in this area has demonstrated that there is a significant connection between metabolism and the proper function of the circadian clock. It is also known that exposures to certain chemicals, typically released into the environment from industrial facilities, can have tangible effects on the metabolites found in cells. While there is a fair amount of information documented about the effects of these chemical exposures in extremely high doses, human health effects can often be noted at much lower exposure levels. Additionally, an understanding of the intersection between the circadian clock and cell metabolism is incomplete. Further research on this relationship can help us better understand the negative health effects of EDCs released by industrial sites or found in regular household materials.
What new skills have you gained through your research? In my examination of the metabolomes of cell samples, I have used both NMR and LC-MS (mass spectrometry) techniques to analyze the consistency and concentrations of different metabolites across samples with varying chemical exposures. I have learned to process, profile, and integrate raw NMR and LC-MS data in various computer programs. Additionally, I gained a lot of experience working in cell culture, as I was tasked with maintaining a cell line for multiple weeks and differentiating these cells to test different chemical exposures for my lumicycle experiment.