School or College:
My research focuses on investigating the body's response to developmental exposure to certain toxicants. Primarily, our lab works with perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These compounds are often found in household items like non-stick pans and cleaning products, and are a key component in fire-fighting foams used commonly in air force bases. PFAS have been an increasing concern in the past few decades as more and more communities are discovering a high level of PFAS contamination in their local water supply. Past studies have linked exposure to PFAS to neurotoxicity, developmental disruptions, and many other associated lingering health concerns. Understanding exactly how PFAS exposure affects the body is extremely important - especially when considering the nature of PFAS to bioaccumulate and persist. My hometown of Westfield, MA discovered a PFAS contamination several years ago, with levels of up to 4-6 times the accepted level in the town's water supply. This was directly linked to the Barnes Air National Guard Base using a fire-fighting foam containing a mixture of several PFAS compounds. The compound
PFHxS was found to be the second most abundant in this mixture. As a relatively understudied compound I decided that I would focus my research directly on the effects of PFHxS. Understanding how this toxicant affects different tissues in the body during development can further our understanding of the long-term health issues that may face these communities where PFAS contamination occurs.