Elani Fourie is an undergraduate student at the University of Kentucky pursuing a B.S. degree in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry. She spent her summer in Dr. Dibakar (D.B.) Bhattacharyya's lab studying the cell uptake and toxicity of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) adsorbed onto nanoparticles. Previous research indicates that although aluminum oxide nanoparticles are relatively benign, they still have the ability to enter human cells passively due to their size. Because of the large surface areas of nanoparticles, PCBs (which are known to be toxic) may potentially adsorb onto the nanoparticles and more easily enter the human bodyenter the human body easier, causing increased cytotoxicity. The effects of these PCB-modified nanoparticles on human tissue will be investigated and compared to tissue exposed to only PCBs.
Elani's interest in research started during her high school years. She was part of a small research group that won a Youth Water Prize competition for research dealing with water quality analysis.Her research experience ties in very nicely with Elani's overall goal to study toxicology in graduate school. PCBs have been a concern for decades, and nanotechnology has its own concerns that need to be investigated. Delving into how these interact with each other, as well as with biological and environmental systems, not only introduced her to basic and more complex laboratory skills in her field of interest, but also builds a foundation of knowledge for her future Ph.D. work.