My name is Sara Hartenbaum and I am currently a rising junior at the University of Maryland. My major is Environmental Science with a concentration in Environmental Health. Although my plans for after graduation are still undecided, I have considered everything from medical school to law school to a master’s in public health or even pursuing a career in the field of environmental science. Participating in the STEER program allowed me to add biomedical research to this list of possibilities. This summer, I had the opportunity to work at Airways Biology Initiative as part of the STEER program. Although this was my first time working in a research lab, my coworkers and mentors were very helpful in teaching me essential lab procedures and techniques. By working with researchers in both Dr. Krymskaya and Dr. Panettieri’s lab, I gained valuable knowledge and experience in the field of asthma and rare lung diseases such as Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM). Additionally, attending weekly lab meetings allowed me to learn about all of the research that is taking place at ABI as well as the discoveries that my peers and mentors are making. The project that I worked on involved observing the expression of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 genes in response to electronic cigarette smoke exposure. These genes respectively encode for the CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 enzymes, which, as part of the cytochrome P540 enzyme family, are responsible for metabolizing drugs and other toxins within the body. Although the activity of the CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 enzymes has already been studied in traditional cigarette smoke, research on the effect in electronic cigarettes is still relatively new. With the STEER program, I attended weekly field trips and lectures that addressed various topics in Environmental Health. These experiences enhanced what I learned in the lab at ABI by allowing me to see first-hand how the research being conducted there applies to the real world. Overall, my experience in the STEER program has been extremely valuable and rewarding.
My name is Brian Gross and I am a rising junior in the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State pursuing a double major in Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. While both of these majors don’t explicitly involve the environment, I still have a personal interest in environmental issues, specifically those pertaining to human health. Both of my parents are employees of the Environmental Protection Agency, and they have always stressed the importance of keeping the Earth clean. My mom worked on hazardous waste site cleanup and taught me the importance of keeping soil and water clean. My dad worked on air quality and pollution issues in the Philadelphia area and taught me the importance of keeping our air clean. This summer, I had the opportunity to work under Dr. George Gerton and Dr. Jeffrey Field in the STEER Internship program. I spent the summer using geographic information systems (GIS) software to create maps pertaining to fracking in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. I mapped locations of fracking wells, waste facilities, landfills, drinking water withdrawal and more with the goal of identifying areas that might have higher exposure to chemicals used in the fracking process. Using these maps, we hope to research health records in areas identified as vulnerable to chemical exposure. My summer in the STEER program has been extremely rewarding. I have learned how to use powerful new software tools including ArcGIS and Filemaker Pro, and I have learned a great deal about fracking, one of the most controversial environmental issues in the country right now. For me, STEER was a fantastic introduction to research, the environment, and how the environment impacts human health. I am extremely grateful for the places I’ve gone, the people I’ve met, and the lessons I’ve learned through STEER.
I am a rising sophomore at Cornell University, studying biology with plans to go to medical school. My interest in environmental health began in middle school. I was a member in the Technology Student Association (TSA) where I competed in the environmental category. My team researched electronic waste and set up our own electronic waste drive where we had over 500 computers recycled. Our efforts lead us to the national TSA conference where we won first place in the entire nation. Since then I have been interested in asthma research, which I have been conducting in the laboratory of Dr. Blair, a faculty member in the Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania. This summer I am working in the laboratory of Dr. Ian Blair as a participant in the STEER program. I will be researching the metabolism of inhaled synthetic glucocorticoids (ISG) that are used in the treatment of asthma – a disease with substantial environmental etiology. I will be developing a liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) method that will be sensitive and specific enough to track the therapeutic response to these synthetic glucocorticoids. Furthermore, I will develop a method to observe the levels of endogenous corticoids in order to see how inhaled glucocorticoids affect endogenous ones. Current research methods lack the sensitivity and specificity required to adequately track inhaled corticosteroids together with the endogenous ones. Most of the methods focused in measuring the cortisol to cortisone ratio. Cortisol and cortisone could be further metabolized to the dihydro- and tetrahydro- metabolites, so is important to measure all the isomers in order to have a more accurate ratio. If our experiment proves to be successful we will have provided a method for all types of future research dealing will asthma treatment. Therefore, our findings can prove to be instrumental in future asthma research. If we can better understand how synthetic steroids are metabolized in the human body then we will be better equipped to determine their systemic effects. By participating in the STEER program I have gained vast knowledge in a variety of laboratory techniques. I had the opportunity to develop my own individual project, while having the privilege to work with a mentor who is an expert in his field. The vast majority of my time was spent learning how to develop a LC-MS method. This involved testing different columns and solvent systems that gave me the best sensitivity. I also learned that besides just running samples, the instruments need to be maintained in the best shape by cleaning and calibrating them routinely. After the LC-MS method worked beast on standards, I gained more experience in cell culture, as I used two different cell lines to look for the metabolism of the budesonide and flunisolide, two of the major ISGs used in the asthma treatment.
I am a rising senior at Oberlin College, with an interest in how we as humans affect and are affected by the environment. I am a neuroscience major, with English and Chemistry minors. I became interested in environmental effects after taking a class in Neurotoxicology and Neurodegeneration last year under Professor Gunnar Kwakye at Oberlin. I learned about the established symptoms and consequences of lead(Pb) exposure in class; Pb is a potent neurotoxin, which remains prevalent in our environment despite regulatory efforts. There is no safe limit of the element, and as lead is still used in petrol in many developing countries, lead still presents a major global health risk. Recent studies suggest that Pb exposure might increase the risk of sleep and metabolic disturbances, later in life. The Simmons lab, in conjunction with the Veasey Lab, is trying to identify the mechanisms by which Pb causes residual damage to the nervous and metabolic systems after exposure in utero. This summer, I examined whether a specific population of neurons that influence both sleep/wake and metabolism, the orexinergic neurons, are injured by lead exposure. My work suggests that there are lasting changes in the projections of orexinergic neurons. Additionally, I have begun to explore lasting effects of Pb exposure on glucose regulation. I have learned so much this summer and am excited to follow this project as it progresses.