My name is Alina Mizrahi, and I am originally from Mexico City. I am a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Cognitive Science and Political Science. Through the STEER program, I worked with Dr. Jianghong Liu to determine the effects of the lead-related dietary pattern on cognition (measured as IQ).
What is your summer research project?
Using data from a cohort in Jintan, China, Dr. Liu uses longitudinal data to understand the effects that lead can have on children’s development. Among other things, Dr. Liu is working to understand how dietary lead can affect cognitive outcomes in school children. This summer, I analyzed the existing literature regarding both the relationship between dietary patterns and cognition and the link between lead and cognitive functioning in children. In our manuscript we describe how we found an association between lead-related dietary pattern and IQ scores. I also drafted a poster that will be presented at the conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology.
What are the implications of your research?
Lead is prevalent in our environment. Sources of lead exposure are often due to human activities. In the United States it comes mainly from materials such as paint, caulking, and pipe solde in older homes. In China, lead exposure is more often related to air pollution. Whatever the source of exposure, lead is a neurotoxin that can affect neurocognitive development in children. It is important to understand the mechanisms by which lead can have a negative impact on IQ in order to assuage the problem. Through my research, we know more about how dietary lead can affect cognition. This offers insight into a preventative measure, diet monitoring, that could help mitigate the effects of lead exposure.
What new skills have you gained through your research?
The STEER program this year was entirely remote, but I had the opportunity to gain new research skills. First, I learned how to conduct a literature synthesis to look for gaps in the existing scholarship. I also learned to write a manuscript that has the potential to be published in a journal. By working with Dr. Liu, I was exposed to the process of submitting articles and posters for publication and presentation, which was very exciting.