Emily Knipper ’18 and Sydney Smilen ’18 will present the results of their summer 2016 research at the upcoming Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon), the world’s leading annual conference and exposition on laboratory science. This year’s conference will take place in Chicago from March 5 through 9.
Under the guidance of Professor of Chemistry Walter Bowyer and Director of Introductory Biology Laboratories Susan Cushman ’98, Knipper and Smilen – who are both biochemistry majors – spent last summer on campus studying the effects of estrogen mimics on Blacknose Dace minnows in the Finger Lakes Region. The research is a continuation of estrogen mimics research that Nicolette Andrzejczyk ’16 began for her Honors project.
Estrogen mimics, which can arise from pollution, are molecules that replicate estrogen functions. In male fish, they can alter reproductive organs by causing fish testes to produce ova, while in female fish, they can over stimulate estrogen receptors.
“The purpose of our research was to seek evidence for estrogen mimics in the Finger Lakes Region’s freshwater streams by looking for ova in male Blacknose Dace,” says Knipper.
After tissue processing, microtomy and staining, the research duo found ova in some male Blacknose Dace, suggesting that estrogen mimics may be present. Knipper explains that “it’s important to determine the effects of this on fish in order to develop a plan that minimizes the detrimental consequences of this pollution.”
To further support their conclusion, Bowyer and his research team will continue the study by observing the gonads of Blacknose Dace minnows through the summer of 2017. Knipper and Smilen are hoping to turn the research into an independent study.
“Conducting field research has given me the wonderful opportunity of taking knowledge gained from a classroom setting and applying it to a study that is directly associated with a real-world issue,” Knipper says. “The skills and insight I gained throughout this experience are academically beneficial and forever irreplaceable.”