Hi! My name is Ayah El-fahmawi and this summer I was working under Dr. Jianghong Liu on research about early childhood exposures and adult behavioral outcomes. Our research mainly focused on early, low-level lead exposure in children living in the greater Philadelphia area. The study that I mainly worked on was a follow-up on the Healthy Brains and Behavior Study, which was set up in 2009 by a Penn collaborative team in which Dr. Liu was a part of. This study sought to identify environmental and biological risk factors for aggression in late childhood and to reduce aggression through psychological and nutritional treatments. In 2009, the participants initially recruited were around 8-10 years old. This summer, we invited the original subjects to return to our lab to conduct follow-up interviews with the aim of better understanding how early exposure, including lead exposure, correlates with adult lifestyle and behavior.
This research will be valuable in better understanding the effects of early environmental exposure such as toxic lead on later health outcomes. This can help us to develop and incorporate prevention measures as well as inform behavioral treatments to mitigate the effects of exposure.
This summer was both challenging and eye-opening for me. As a biology student who has worked in a microbiome lab throughout college, I was unfamiliar with public health and behavioral research. It was refreshing to interact with human participants regularly and delve into the literature. I learned firsthand what running a follow-up study entails and was lucky enough to work with a team of helpful and talented undergrads to navigate these challenges. We were involved in the entire research process. We started by attempting to reach out to all 451 of the original participants of the study, which resulted in a lot of filing, phone calls, emails, and letters. Since it was almost 10 years since the original study and several participants had moved or changed their phone numbers, tracking them down was a long and tedious process, but proved worthwhile in the end. Additionally, we all had roles to play in choosing the instruments and developing the protocol for the appointments for the study, as well as interviewing the participants. Involvement in this project pushed us to think like scientists and experience firsthand what a career in research could look like.
My name is Nia Akins and I am a rising junior in the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. I am currently pursuing a double major in nursing and nutrition. At a glance these two majors seem to have little to do explicitly with the environment, but everyday environmental exposures and toxins have a way of finding themselves in our food and ultimately our bodies. Environmental toxicology can be traced to numerous pathologies. Because of this, understanding environmental science can contribute in a positive manner to treatment and nutritional intervention strategies. Under the mentorship of Dr. Jianghong Liu and in collaboration with fellow STEER student, Ayah El-fahmawi. I worked on recruitment and project design for the Healthy Brain and Behavior follow-up study involving local young adults between the ages of 18 and 20 Specifically, we focused on omega-3 and blood lead levels and how that pertains to aggression.
Being part of the STEER program this summer has been such an enriching experience. For the study I was working on specifically, I gained valuable research experience with respect to organization, interaction with research subjects, and the synthetization of results into a cohesive literature review. From the STEER program, I learned a lot about how waste and water is handled, as well as about the repercussions of not preserving the natural environment. I am really appreciative of the exposure to environmental science and issues that the STEER program provided, as I’m positive it will help place clinical and nutritional issues in the context of a bigger picture.