Supporting an Undergraduate Air Quality Researcher at the University of Mississippi

By Courtney Roper posted 06-16-2022 10:17


I’m an Assistant Professor of environmental toxicology in the University of Mississippi (UM) BioMolecular Sciences Department. Our lab focuses on air pollution toxicology. As a lab, department, and university, we are invested in undergraduate research opportunities, including the work completed by Allie Sidwell, an undergraduate in the UM Biology Department. This work was generously supported by an SOT Undergraduate Faculty Research Grant.

Allie’s research involved combining toxicology and chemistry research to study air quality. She learned techniques in both fields, including preparation of samples for inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) analysis, measurement of oxidative potential in samples, and data analysis. She was very productive in our lab and presented her research at four conferences, including the 2022 SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo in San Diego, California.

In addition to improving her presentation skills, Allie also successfully wrote and defended her Honor’s Thesis in May 2022 and plans to publish a portion of her work in a peer-reviewed journal. It has been a pleasure to watch Allie flourish, in part, from the support of this grant.

Faculty who are mentoring undergraduate students can greatly benefit from this funding opportunity to support their mentees’ research experiences.

Allie Sidwell and her 2022 SOT poster presentation

An Undergraduate’s Perspective

By: Allie Sidwell

I’ve learned a great deal from my three years of conducting toxicology research, such as how to critically analyze papers, design and conduct experiments, and write succinctly. However, the most essential reward of research has been the cultivation of my confidence. Growing up, I struggled to believe that what I had to say was worth anyone’s time, which often manifested in public speaking anxiety. In the sixth grade, I was so self-conscious that I actually cried while presenting a paper to my class. As I grew academically and personally, I learned methods to calm myself while public speaking and slowly improved. However, a voice in my head continued its deprecating appraisals. When I started conducting research, that voice began to vanish. I realized my work was expanding our knowledge of air pollution toxicology and could improve public health down the line. Through writing and presenting at conferences, such as 2022 SOT, my self-assurance has grown, and consequently, so has my ability to convey information and present confidently. My interest in toxicology ignited a passion for public health and gave me the confidence to pursue a career in medicine.