Summer Experience by Sara Frawley

By Sara Frawley

Completing and communicating research has been an amazing experience. This summer, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to intern at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai through HBCAC. Our project focused on the researching effects of glyphosate specifically and communicating the risks of pesticides in general to the public. We worked with Dr. Jia Chen, Dr. Yula Ma, and our mentors Maya Kappil and Corina Lesseur to research glyphosate, the active ingredient in the common pesticide RoundUp, and its effect on liver gene expression. They were all very helpful and amazing to work with. To communicate pesticide usage to the public, we worked with Dr. Sarah Evans. She explained the most beneficial ways to communicate our ideas to the public as we created an outreach project to assess our community's pesticide knowledge and usage.

We began our week in the lab to develop primers and pipette trays of samples to test. Here, I was exposed to the trial and error that goes into lab work and the many different aspects that are involved in developing results. From running gel electrophoresis tests to learning the code that is used to process data, every day was something new. On the second day of the week, we worked with Dr. Sarah Evans to brainstorm project ideas and sit in on Pediatric Environmental Health Specialties Unit (PEHSU) meetings where public health problems such as lead exposure and smoking would be discussed. These meetings were very informative and gave me a new understanding of what goes into public health communications. It was insightful to watch as they took large ideas with many details and simplified them to a few impactful points which would be communicated to the public. It was very interesting to see that, despite pesticides being an issue that has been previously addressed in many campaigns, there is still a lot of work that can and needs to be done. On the third day of each week, we went back to the lab to obtain our results and continue running tests. It was extremely interesting to examine pesticides from these different lenses at the same time.

Coming from an internship with a grassroots organization, The Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, provided yet another perspective on this issue. With HBCAC, I had previously learnt about the problems that pesticides can cause for our health and the environment while also trying to educate our community, so it was interesting to begin the summer with that perspective. It was spectacular to learn and become a part of the behind the scenes work that allows grassroots organizations to do what they do. As the summer went on, I truly felt in my element. I greatly enjoyed performing the research while also knowing the research we were doing was purposeful and would be communicated to so many people in our community. I am extremely thankful for this experience and know that it wouldn’t have been possible without HBCAC and all the wonderful people at Mount Sinai who let us embark on this journey with them.