Zuzana Majkova, Ph.D.
Superfund Research Program
Originally from the Czech Republic, Zuzana came to the University of Kentucky in 2003 where she studied under Bernhard Hennig, Ph.D. She is now a post-doctoral trainee in the lab of Bruce Hammock, Ph.D., in the Superfund Research Program at UC-Davis, where she has just completed her first year of research.
Zuzana calls her career choice "straightforward". Her father is a science teacher and her mother works in plant protection, so she spent a lot of time outdoors while growing up. When she started her undergraduate studies, she learned of a new program in Ecotoxicology at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic.
The Ecotoxicology program was progressive and diverse. Zuzana explains: "During communism, any information about environmental contamination was non-existent. After the Velvet Revolution in '89, there was a lot of interest in assessment of existing contamination and developing new legislature that would prevent exposures in the future. Our department was formed as a Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment (RECETOX)." According to Zuzana, it was "people with different background from all over the country who specialized in various aspects of environmental sciences, such as environmental analytical chemistry, biostatistics, assessment of biodiversity, various ecotoxicological tests, and human risk assessment."
Zuzana's master's thesis advisor, Miroslav Machala, Ph.D., knew Hennig from previous collaborations. He suggested that she explore the possibility of working in his lab after her graduation. She moved from the Czech Republic to Lexington, Kentucky, and after a year as a technician, joined the Toxicology program to pursue a doctoral degree.
In Hammock's lab, Zuzana is working to develop novel analytical methods to measure levels of environmental pollutants. Recently, Zuzana and the other researchers in Dr. Hammock's lab have focused on immunoassays based on camelid "nanobodies". These are small and very stable antibody fragments that can be expressed recombinantly and therefore result in more robust and cost-effective assays. Zuzana is working on assay for triclocarban (TCC), a high production volume component of personal care products and an endocrine disruptor. We are combining anti-TCC nanobodies with nanoparticles containing fluorescent lanthanide complexes to make a rapid lateral flow immunoassay.