Emily Knipper ’18 spent her summer conducting research with a team of scientists at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., one of the most well respected cancer hospitals and research centers in the nation. The research project, titled “How Do You Like Them Apples? Comparing Nicotine in Popular Flavored Hookah Tobacco Products,” focused on waterpipe (hookah) preferences and the nicotine concentration in the most popular flavored hookah tobacco products.
“While smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, when people think of smoking, they primarily think of smoking a cigarette,” Knipper explains. “However, hookah smoking is becoming very prevalent, especially among college students.”
After determining the most popular flavored hookah tobacco – known as shisha – using a continuous survey of nearly 46,000 participants in the U.S., local retailers and online hookah chatrooms, Knipper and the research team tested each for nicotine concentration. For all tested shisha products, the team found that the nicotine concentration exceeded .05 percent – the maximum amount of nicotine that companies claim their tobacco products have.
“Clearly for these products, the nicotine concentrations claimed by companies is incorrect,” says Knipper, a biochemistry major and double minor in English and dance.
The research findings not only have a positive impact on the public by raising awareness on a topic of increasing importance, but Knipper herself has benefitted from the experience of conducting a comprehensive research study.
“I gained new perspectives on real-world issues, a new understanding of scientific methods, new approaches to research fundamentals, and a greater fascination for oncology, epidemiology and public health,” she says.
These insights build on the experience Knipper has gained through her research opportunities at HWS.
“The information I learned in my ‘Cell Biology’ course with Professor of Biology Sigrid Carle, and my summer 2016 research experience with Professor of Chemistry Walter Bowyer taught me the skills that allowed me to excel in my research at Roswell,” says Knipper. “[Associate Director of Health Professions Counseling and Fellowship Advising] Scott MacPhail’s continuous support and guidance throughout the application process also helped me earn my internship at Roswell.”
At the end of the program, Knipper received two awards from Roswell for giving one of the best elevator talks and one of the best scientific talks. Previously, Knipper presented the results of her summer 2016 research on the effects of estrogen mimics on Blacknose Dace minnows in the Finger Lakes region at the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy in March 2017, and also at the HWS Research Symposium last fall.