Weekly WISE #4

Welcome back! This week, our SSEP reflections were written by participants Alexa and Nawar. For more information about this week’s events, check out the 2022 Program Highlights page!

Alexa B, Chemistry Research Assistant

Hello! My name is Alexa. I just finished my third week of the Student Summer Employment Program with WISE. I am currently working at the new Core Science facility as a Chemistry Research Assistant with Dr. Lindsay Cahill. We are currently researching the effects of microplastics on pregnancy. We use mice in our clinical studies to mimic how microplastics could have effects on human pregnancy. This week I started helping out with a review paper on other research groups that are studying microplastics/nanoplastics in mice. Hopefully if all goes well my name will be eventually published on the paper! I also started helping out in the lab. We are using NMR to see if the brains of the fetus that have been exposed to nanoplastics throughout the pregnancy are being affected by these plastics. An NMR instrument allows the molecular structure of a material to be analyzed by observing and measuring the interaction of nuclear spins when placed in a powerful magnetic field. We have up to 80 mice fetus brains to be put through the NMR to collect all of the data. It is pretty cool, especially seeing the brains! Finally, I had the opportunity to collect a woman’s placenta and take samples from it to support our study. I have never seen a placenta before…or held one in my hands. This was by far the best thing I have done here so far. It has been a very exciting week! I am loving this experience and I cannot wait to continue learning! 

Nawar A, Chemistry Research Assistant

Hello, my name is Nawar. I just finished my fourth week with the Women in Science and Engineering Summer Employment Program. I work in the chemistry department as a research assistant in materials science. During my time here, I have been working on Raman spectroscopy to scan different materials like iron oxides, placenta, and micro plastics. A Raman spectroscope is a machine that looks like a microscope that is connected to a software. Samples are put under the microscope then scanned with the laser. Each material gives a different pattern of peaks on the software, which helps us identify it. I work with a  student completing his master’s degree who scans different medias like naphthenic acid and 10.5Tan oil for corrosion products, mainly iron oxides. I have been helping him make the samples in the wet lab, run tests and scans, and observe results. Another very fun part about my placement is that I got to lead a project with people from ocean sciences to scan micro plastics collected from the ocean. I got to scan those micro plastics and help identify similar peak patterns with plastics like PET or PP. This helps to identify what plastic contaminants are present in bodies of water. Another project I worked on is scanning rat placenta samples: a control group; one injected with micro plastics, namely polystyrene, and two placenta that were exposed to polystyrene through water. I was able to find the polystyrene peak at around 1000 cm-1 on the Raman spectrum in the exposed group. The last very exciting project that I’m now working on is making surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) substrates. These substrates enhance the peaks or signals of substances on the Raman spectrum. Reasons why the peaks could be small or unclear is low concentrations of the material. These substrates enhance those signals so that they are clearly visible. 

I’m extremely happy and grateful for this opportunity because I got exposed to so many different aspects of science and research and got to learn very valuable information and skills. I also got to work with and learn from some very brilliant people. I sure hope to be able to do this again in the coming years! 

Weekly WISE #4
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