Merck/AAAS Summary

Drs. Catherine Chan, Elisabeth Harrahy and Paul House, three faculty members from the Biological Sciences and Chemistry Departments at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, received a grant from the Merck/ AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program to conduct summer research with six undergraduate students each year for three years (2009 – 2011). Special efforts were made to diversify the participants of this program and > 90% of the students supported by this award came from groups under-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (ethnic minorities, female, first generation college students, and non-traditional students). The project applied distinctly different, but complementary techniques to study the influence of chlorination during wastewater treatment on select high-volume pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), such as the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen and the antimicrobial triclocarban, and the effects of these select PPCPs and their by-products on aquatic organisms and land plants. The increasing presence of PPCPs in the environment, and the limited knowledge of the effects of these chemicals on the health of plants and animals make this a particularly interesting and pressing research question. Results from these studies may provide a more comprehensive view of how some commonly used PPCPs impact the environment.


Student Comments

“This experience has helped me with lab experience and has taught me so much over the last couple of months. The influence it has made on my major is exponential.
“This experience has pushed me farther down the road and I am so glad I received this opportunity.”

“This experience greatly impacted my future career goals. I was unsure of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do after college, but after becoming a part of this experience I am positive that I want to pursue a career in research. There is almost always a new, fun and exciting procedure or technique to learn about. I am currently looking towards getting a job in a hospital, but plan on attending graduate school in the near future. Graduate school was always a maybe, but now I know that I will eventually be working towards an advanced degree.”

“This research did change the way I look at the degree I’m pursuing to a certain degree. I am a chemistry major looking to become a pharmacist and now if I decide against becoming a pharmacist I could see myself working in a lab setting such as this one. I really enjoying trying to figure things out that are unknown and if I were to discover something new I think that would be extremely exciting.”

“I would say that this research experience strengthened my desire to pursue this career path. I knew when I began this degree program that I wanted to work in the aquatic biology field in some capacity. This summer’s experience has confirmed that this area of study is where I want to place my emphasis.”

“Personal gains I achieved as a result of this research experience include disciplinary skills, teamwork, the ability to collect and analyze data from the field and other pieces of information, improvement on my reading and understanding of primary literature, and improvement on my communication skills. I also learned methods for research design, how to think and run independently, and how to convey my results to the public. Another personal gain is the sense of accomplishment because I have learned how to think like scientist. Scientists have a great deal of respect, and I feel honored to be a part of that category. This experience has not only prepared me for some of the tasks I will be responsible for in the near future, but it has made me confident and optimistic to take the next step towards pursuing my career.”

“There are many things that I gained from this research experience. A few to note would be the extensive lab and lab equipment experience that you would not receive in a normal class setting, the opportunity to present research that YOU conducted, and in general the research experience itself is a personal gain if it is something you are truly interested in.”

“I would recommend this to my friends because it offers an opportunity to work in a lab setting and gain familiarity with both scientific techniques as well as some of the professors from different departments. Not only do you end up with great experience that looks good on a resume, but you also set yourself up well for references/networking in the future.”

“This experience was a great introduction to research and real life applications of chemistry.”

“I will definitely recommend a Merck Summer Research Program to my friends. It is a great opportunity for students to work individually with other students and the professors and to get some good hands on experience in more than one way.”