My Name is Juliet Kohli and I am currently a rising Junior at the University of Pennsylvania. My major is Health and Societies with a concentration in public health. I got involved in environmental health during my Sophomore year, working as a volunteer research assistant for the Penn SRP Center’s Community Asbestos Exposure project. Researchers from CEET recommended the STEER program to further my experience in the field. The STEER program has helped me explore different aspects of public health and given me the opportunity to get involved in my community. I now look forward to taking the knowledge I have gained and utilizing it in my undergrad and post-grad endeavors in the field of public health.
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-Famawi. 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 a 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.
I am a rising senior at the University of Vermont studying Environmental Science with a concentration in Public Health and minor in Chemistry. I am interested in the impact of environmental toxins on public health and environmental health disparities.
This summer I am working with Dr. Heather Burris investigating the association of blood arsenic concentration with birth weight-for-gestational age categories in a longitudinal birth cohort study in Mexico City. Common pathways of arsenic exposure include drinking water and vegetables/crops grown in arsenic-contaminated groundwater, which is common in many regions of the United States. Understanding arsenic’s effect on human health will have important implications for regulations on water and food sources.
I have spent much of my time this summer learning how to analyze data using R programming, which will prove useful in any of my post-graduate endeavors. In my research, I have used R programming to analyze the role of arsenic as a risk factor for poor fetal growth by comparing log transformed maternal arsenic levels with birth weight-for-gestational age categories. We have found that there is a significant positive association between arsenic levels and small-for-gestational age and large-for-gestational age (versus appropriate-for-gestational age). Additionally, I was able to attend meetings with my mentor and shadow her at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to understand the full extent of life as a physician-scientist.
I am a rising senior at Florida State University studying Biology. From a young age, I’ve had an affinity for the environment and animals. I have previously conducted research with the FSU UROP program, studying the marine Caribbean fire sponge in the Florida Keys. Having explored my curiosity and passion for animals in a research setting, I wanted to better understand and immerse myself into Environmental Science Research. I was able to this, and much more, through the STEER program at the University of Pennsylvania.What is your summer research project Identifying Sources and Measuring PM 2.5 in Center City, PAIn collaboration with Dr. Howarth and Dr. HimesThis summer, I walked throughout Center City with a portable air monitoring device to take measures of the Particulate Matter 2.5 levels. I did research on emission sources found in the area I took my measures from and found that due to a lack of industrial zoning, the major contributor of PM 2.5 comes from all the traffic that is prevalent in the area.
Particulate Matter 2.5 is one of the six criteria air pollutants with National Ambient Air Quality Standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. PM2.5 has a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or smaller, allowing it to travel deeply into the respiratory tract and cause Asthma exacerbations, among other health problems. Withbetter understanding of how much PM2.5 is present in Center City and where it is coming from, actions to reducethese levels and protect community health in Philadelphia is more feasibleand actionable.What new skills have you gained through your research?STEER gave me the opportunity to not only designand carry out a research project but also provided me with great mentorships, resources, and opportunities to learn, beyond my research topic. With the help of the Penn community, I have learned valuable skills in map data analysis and developed my abilities using ArcGIS and R. Weekly field trips and seminars provided me with a hands-on and very interactive learning experience that gave me both perspective and insight into the field of environmental science, policy, and research. Field trips included visiting various water treatment and trash incineration facilities. The trip that impacted me the most was when I had the opportunity to sit in on Chester’s community environmental meeting. Seeing first-hand how an Environmental Justice Neighborhood was filled with ambassador community members that are passionate about working towards improving was something amazing to see. Their commitment to solving the many problems that exist in these communities was very eye-opening and inspiring.
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 from previous research conducted by Dr. Liu in 2012 when the participants recruited were around 8-10 years old. This study was called the Healthy Brains and Behavior Study and sought to identify environmental and biological risk factors for aggression in late childhood and to reduce aggression through psychological and nutritional treatments. An important part of this research is what is called the Biosocial Model for Childhood Aggression which explains how biological predisposition and psychosocial influences can exacerbate or attenuate the impacts of health risk factors (such as environmental toxicants) on brain dysfunction and behavioral outcomes. Our work this summer looked to better understand how these factors correlate with adult lifestyle and behavior.
My name is Akua Temeng and I am currently a rising Sophomore Chemistry student at Spelman College. I am interested in diversifying my experiences as a budding scientist, and I am honored to have an opportunity to do that this summer at Penn. Participating in STEER has introduced me to having a research mindset in an “informal” lab environment, which I had never done before.
This summer, I had the opportunity to measure levels of fine particulate matter, known to exacerbate asthma, in different Philadelphia neighborhoods, and compare those sensor results with EPA particulate matter data. Working with two exceptional mentors in different environments proved challenging but rewarding, as I learned research skills and technical skills, including coding R. Dr. Howarth and Dr. Himes gave me valuable knowledge and skills that will transfer in my future explorations.
Particulate matter, one of six air pollutants the EPA monitors closely, can vary massively in different Philadelphia neighborhoods, especially those vulnerable to high particulate matter emissions sources. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is linked to respiratory issues and heart disease. Sparsely placed EPA sensors might not measure neighborhood to neighborhood differences in Philadelphia. Measuring by walking with sensors throughout specific neighborhoods will give a better idea of varying neighborhood fine particulate matter levels relative to their emissions sources.
In Dr. Himes lab, I was fortunate to learn R coding, which was beneficial to creating maps and analyzing data. In addition, with Dr. Howarth and Tom Mckeon, I learned ArcGIS Mapping and learning how to research on a deep level. The STEER Program has awarded me valuable skills overall.
I am a rising senior at Penn majoring in molecular and cellular biology with plans to apply to graduate school after graduation. I became interested in environmental toxicology during the course of my research junior year on cigarette smoke in lung adenocarcinoma in Dr. David Feldser’s lab, which I continued as a STEER participant this summer.
Cigarette smoke is known to be a substantial risk factor for Kras-driven lung adenocarcinoma. Amplification of the Raf/Mek/Erk (MAPK) pathway has been shown to drive both initiation and progression in murine Kras-driven lung adenocarcinoma. As lung adenocarcinoma is frequently caused by insults to the lungs, we were interested in probing whether smoking-related lung adenocarcinoma is a MAPK amplification-mediated process. It has been previously demonstrated that immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs) with expression of oncogenic KrasV12 and loss of p53 do not achieve complete malignant transformation (Sato et al 2006). We hypothesize the extent to which MAPK is driven in this model (by endogenous oncogenic Kras expression) is insufficient for transformation so we look to investigate the potential of cigarette smoke to drive MAPK signaling in HBECs and if that increase in signaling increases transformation.
To go about probing this, we set up a system where HBECs were seeded on transwell permeable inserts and exposed to the air/liquid interface (ALI) before being exposed to cigarette smoke. I tested the air/liquid interface (ALI) cell culture setup used throughout these experiments by forced air exposure and demonstrated viability by flow cytometry. I then exposed HBEC cells to whole smoke with a Vitrocell VC1 smoking machine. I assessed viability post smoke exposure by flow cytometry and compared viability to forced air and incubator controls. Going forward, I plan to assess MAPK signaling activity and the transformative ability of HBECs post smoke exposure.
My name is Nancy, and I am a rising sophomore at Rutgers University studying Public Health and Environmental Policy! My hometown is Pennington, New Jersey, but I loved getting the chance to spend the summer conducting research in Philadelphia. My research interests include using the lens of GIS to visualize health disparities. This summer I spent time in Dr. Field’s lab conducting research on hydraulic fracturing. One part of my research focused on using analytical chemistry in order to test water samplesfrom Susquehanna County and the greater Philadelphia area for potential contaminants. Following these tests, I worked with the Community Outreach and Engagement Core to draft a letter in order to best inform those who volunteered their water. In addition to that work, I used geographic information system mapping technology (GIS) to map potential health implications of fracking.
Using public data, I investigated potential associations between fracking sites and health impacts. Theses health impacts includedbirth anomalies and hospitalization rates. In order to better understand the significance of the data, I also utilized statistical programming such as R and Stata. Using more publically available data, I was able to find some support for existing publications, although not to the same degree of significance. This may reveal the limitations of using public data, which has been pushed by the Environmental Protection Agency recently to be the primary basis for regulations. Past regulations have mostly been based on studies based on privatized data. Ultimately, my work this summer supports the need for additional research on the subject of hydraulic fracturing.