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Biochemistry major worked on endocrine disruptor project with Art Kney, assistant professor of environmental engineering

At Lafayette, students don’t just study environmental issues, they seek to make an impact and often present their work at national or even global conferences. This spring Ilvira Mardanova ’09 (Tashkent, Uzbekistan), a biochemistry major, presented research at the 2007 World Environmental & Water Resources Congress in Tampa, Fla.

Mardanova’s presentation was based on research she conducted with Art Kney, assistant professor of environmental engineering, as part of a volunteer project through Lafayette’s Society for Environmental Engineers and Scientists Environmental Club (SEES). The research focused on the effects of prescription and over the counter drugs dumped into the environment.

“This is an emerging environmental issue, specifically drugs and other chemicals that disrupt our endocrine system,” explains Kney. “Endocrine disruptors are drugs and chemicals that replace hormones within the mammalian endocrine system causing abnormalities. These drugs and chemicals enter the environment through wastewater from homes, businesses and industry.”

Mardanova and Martin Tjioe ’09 (North Sumatera, Indonesia), who is pursuing a B.S. civil engineering and A.B. with a major in mathematics-economics, worked on characterizing various working conditions for a bioanalytical method with faculty at Lafayette and DeSales University to streamline experiment time and equipment.

Mardanova is impressed with the level of dedication Kney has toward his students.

“Professor Kney is very enthusiastic about the idea of the undergraduate research experience,” she asserts. “As a result, he devotes a lot of time and effort to the SEES club, which provides the opportunity of independent research to Lafayette students. I have been working with Professor Kney for about a year and a half. Professor Kney encourages responsibility and independence in the projects the students are involved in. Rather than telling us exactly what to do, he wanted us to think of the possibilities and come up with the ideas on our own.”

Kney is equally impressed with Mardanova.

“Ilvira is a hardworking, serious student,” said Kney. “I find it inspirational when working with students like Ilvira; students who do research for the sake of intellectual growth. Ilvira worked with Martin Tjioe, another student who volunteered a lot of time on this project. This experience will provide them a strong base from which to work from in any graduate program.

“Lafayette is an excellent environment for such projects because so many students and faculty have the same personal mission – intellectual growth. It is this sort of mind set that makes doing serious research projects possible.”

Mardanova plans to pursue a Ph.D. in molecular pharmacology. She says the project not only provided her with laboratory experience, but also contributed to her ability to think scientifically.

Last summer she participated in EXCEL research exploring how the field of protein folding can help with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease with Yvonne Gindt, assistant professor of chemistry. This summer she is conducting cancer research at Mayo Graduate School Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics working on sensitization of cancer cells to the chemotherapeutic drugs.

She is also a member of SEES, Syncromotion, the American Chemical Society, and Lafayette Outdoors club.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Twenty-one students have been accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

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