January 17, 2019
The Global Change Center at Virginia Tech, with support from the Fralin Life Science Institute, is proud to sponsor undergraduate students and their research projects that align with our mission for advancing collaborative, interdisciplinary approaches to address critical global changes impacting the environment and society. Supported projects address basic and/or applied aspects of global change science, engineering, social science and the humanities and are sponsored by a GCC Faculty mentor.
This year’s research grant funds total $11,500, spanning 11 projects across 6 departments. Students will present their research findings as a poster at either the VT Experiential Learning Conference (April 2019 or 2020) or the VT Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium (July 2019).
Congratulations to the following students awarded this year’s GCC undergraduate research grants!
Project Title: Equilin does not affect thyroid hormone signaling in the developing Xenopus laevis tadpole brain
- Robert Bass, Junior majoring in Experimental Neuroscience
- GCC Faculty mentor: Christopher Thompson
The Thompson Lab is in the process of evaluating putative thyroid hormone disrupting compounds identified by the Tox21 and ToxCast federal programs. One putative disruptor is equilin, a naturally occurring estrogen used in the menopause drug Premarin. Robert is the primary researcher for this project, assessing the effects of equilin on thyroid hormone sensitive changes in the developing brains of tadpoles. Robert is leading every stage of the experiment, including design, treatment, euthanasia, staining, imaging, RNA extraction and analysis, and final quantification and figure preparation. Robert will be presenting date previously collected at the annual Society of Toxicology meeting in March. His plan for spring semester is to analyze the effects of equilin on expression of thyroid hormone and estrogen sensitive genes in the developing tadpole brain. The GCC fellowship will provide Robert with the resources he needs to complete the remaining experiments. When those data are in place, he will be writing the paper for this project and will be lead author – a huge accomplishment for any undergraduate!
Project Title: Quantifying Nucleic Acid Association with Nanoparticles
- Ethan Boeding, Junior majoring in Nanoscience
- GCC Faculty mentor: Peter Vikesland
Ethan is been working in the Vikesland Lab on a project to examine whether micro- and nano-plastics can serve as vehicles for the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes. This project brings together two generally unrelated topics that the Vikesland research group investigates: nanomaterial fate in environmental systems and the dissemination of antimicrobial resistance. Nanoplastic wastes potentially originate from consumer products such as personal cleaning and cosmetic products as well as weathering of larger plastics. These nanoscale plastic particles can potentially interact with their surrounding environment when they are discharged to wastewater treatment facilities and ultimately to water bodies. In wastewater treatment, there is potential for the creation of recombinant genetic material that propagates antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The results from this project will provide a greater understanding of the adsorption behavior of DNA onto these nanoparticles in the environment.