Health Sciences Center, Room 292
1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3375
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-6120
Fax: (307) 766-2953
B.S. Microbiology, University of New Mexico, 1998
B.A. Foreign Languages, University of New Mexico, 1999
M.S. Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, 2005
I was a member of the 2001–2002 Larimer County Conservation Corps in Fort Collins, Colorado. We constructed and maintained hiking trails for Larimer County and surrounding areas. We also tutored first graders in reading and math and performed cultural awareness presentations in local schools.
From 2005–2007, I was a member of the U.S. Peace Corps in Tanzania, Africa. I taught freshman, junior, and pre-college level biology at an all-girls boarding school. I was responsible for classroom management, lesson planning, including practical sessions, and preparation of exams. I also worked within the community teaching HIV/AIDS, life skills, and basic health education.
My work deals with the new technologies for decontaminating water. Nanoparticles are being used in many industries due to their small size, but high surface area, giving them enhanced binding capacity. Removal of contaminants from water is a common practice, but often times the treatment causes unintended consequences. Common water contaminants are metals from erosion or mining and colloidal bacteria from humans.
Historically, when we test for metal contamination we look at the amount of each metal ion in water before and after treatment. If the metal ion concentrations fall below the EPA maximum contamination limits (MCL) then the water is considered drinkable. EPA MCL are set by testing one or two contaminants at high concentrations in both in vitro and in vivo models as well as consulting epidemiological data for disease rates in people exposed to those contaminants. This type of testing looks at high level short term exposures but, in reality, we are chronically exposed to mixtures of multiple low level contaminants. Characterization of the toxicity of complex mixtures is difficult due to antagonistic and synergistic reactions between the contaminants.
Removing priority contaminants with nanoparticles has shown promise but it has been criticized because they often remain in the water and their toxicity to humans and then environment is still in question. Another criticism of metal contaminant removal is that after the metal is removed, the bacteria grow better because the metals were inhibiting their growth. Our study researches both of these questions.
Finding a research topic:
After arriving at UW, I attended the Future of Uranium Production conference in July 2011 with my adviser Suzanne Clark, assistant professor of pharmacology. At this conference I was made aware of the continued public concern about the possibility of waste water from in situ leaching contaminating drinking water resources. I was introduced to KJ Reddy, George Duke Humphrey Distinguished Professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. He was interested in expanding his research of nanoparticles and assessing their effectiveness in a different way.
Defining our research question and finding funding:
My committee and I worked on a proposal submitted to the School of Energy Resources to look at applying in vitro toxicological techniques to assess the toxicity of the water decontaminated by nanoparticles. We wanted the research to benefit Wyoming so we looked at applying the nanoparticles to removing priority contaminants from uranium ISL waste water. The goal of this project is to develop a treatment system that can be economically incorporated into the uranium extraction process in order to remove contaminants allowing unrestricted use of water which is now a waste stream.
Research on this project is in progress. Preliminary results are encouraging and were presented at the 12th Annual International Conference on the Biogeochemistry of Trace Elements (ICOBTE) in Athens, Georgia, in June 2013.
I decided to come to UW to do the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. Program because I wanted to work on an interdisciplinary applied research project. Applied research is designed to answer a specific question aimed at solving a practical problem. Knowledge acquired from applied research has commercial objectives in the form of products, procedures or services. Interdisciplinary research is the wave of the future and has long been recognized as a force pushing research to look at challenges in innovative ways.
Throughout my work experience and volunteering, I realized that people coming from different disciplines bring fresh ideas to any project. Working with chemists and engineers only strengthens your ability to solve complex problems. The Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. Program at UW supports collaborations between different departments and independent thinking in project development.
UW is a small school, but it has amazing opportunities. UW has given me many opportunities for career development that I may not have gotten at a larger school. As a graduate student, I was encouraged to attend an NIH workshop on writing grants as well as participating in a course development seminar designed for faculty where I was awarded a small grant to develop a hybrid class. The UW Biomedical Sciences Department supported my decision to spend half of my next year on science outreach to students with the Science Posse while finishing my research. The BMS program at UW is a unique program which encourages personal and professional development and it was the right program for me.