Research has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my undergraduate career. My initial interest in this project began in the Spring of 2013 when I started a research project under Dr. Gregory Foster. We investigated the Bioaccumulation of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in the Potomac River Fishery, including levels, species differences and the proximity to wastewater discharge for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. I was thrilled when Dr. Foster approached me with another research opportunity that would allow me to work alongside him as well as a way to continue my previous research with him. After further discussion on the topic, we found that a lipid profile is vital to assess the mechanism in which PCBs bio-accumulate in organisms. In order to do so, we must first isolate, characterize and analyze the various lipid classes found in the fish tissue. From this data we will be able to correlate the lipid composition to PCB concentrations. I was overly excited when I was able to get an OSCAR research grant for the Spring 2015 semester! My project primarily focuses on understanding the relationship between PCB bioaccumulation and lipid composition in fish. Further, we can gain insight into how this correlation affects populations of aquatic organisms, and has the potential to show how it affects humans who are consuming these organisms.
This week I completed the first part of our experimental procedure. I spent over eighteen hours in the laboratory prepping and preforming the experiment. This included my least favorite part: the physical homogenization of the fish samples in a blender. This week I processed samples of Blue Gill that were collected from Gunston Cove, Virginia. So far I have been able to isolate the total lipids, neutral lipids and polar lipids from the fish tissue. Next week I will be able to separate out the free fatty acids from the isolated lipids. Once this procedure is finished, I will be able to run my samples through the Gas Chromatography Mass Spectroscopy (GC-MS) at the Prince William Campus to get my lipid profile of the Blue Gill species. I am very excited to see the outcomes and compare these results to the data I collected from the previous semester!