VIMS Department: Environmental and Aquatic Animal Health
Degree sought: PhD
Advisor(s): Stephen Kaattari and Michael Unger
Undergraduate degree and alma mater: Carnegie Mellon University – BS in Biological Sciences with College Research Honors
My research interests broadly include biology, chemistry, and environmental science. My dissertation research entails developing an antibody-based biosensor for the rapid detection of environmental pollutants in water. Specifically, I am focusing on the detection and quantification of water-soluble polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are found in petroleum or from the incomplete combustion of organic matter. They are toxic and carcinogenic to humans and aquatic organisms. Conventional PAH detection methods are labor-intensive and often only conducted in a laboratory. The aim of this biosensor tool is to be rapid, portable, and sensitive. Since its development, I have employed the biosensor in field applications where I have monitored creek/pond water during a storm event and estuarine water (Elizabeth River, Norfolk, VA, USA) during the dredging of PAH-contaminated sediments. With rapid, reliable methods for environmental monitoring, more information can be obtained to help make more informed decisions about the world around us.
I am a strong advocate for experiential learning. I chose to be involved in the GK-12 program because it affords many opportunities for experiential learning for all participants – students, teachers, and Fellows. The GK-12 program has provided me an excellent platform to actively engage students in my research and to provide me with the experience of teaching and communicating my research to more diverse audiences.