Buena Vista University Student Receives EPA Research Fellowship

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Derek Simonsen is one of only 30 U.S. students to be awarded fellowship, which provides financial support for undergraduate study and an EPA facility internship, and plans to research emerging contaminants.

Derek Simonsen has received a research fellowship from the EPA

Buena Vista University student Derek Simonsen has received an undergraduate fellowship from the EPA to further his toxicology research on triclosan.

Derek’s desire to pursue studies in the field of toxicology will allow him to apply his outstanding critical thinking skills and intellectual creativity toward important local and global issues.

Derek Simonsen, a Buena Vista University (BVU) junior biology major from Quimby, has received a Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Undergraduate Fellowship from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Simonsen is one of only 30 students from throughout the country selected to receive the fellowship. He will receive financial support of $20,700 per academic year for his junior and senior years of undergraduate study and $8,600 of support for a 12 week long internship at an EPA research facility during the summer of his junior year.

Simonsen plans to use the fellowship to further his interest in research regarding triclosan, which is an antimicrobial found in soaps, toothpaste and cosmetics. “Triclosan is known to affect hormones and results in antibiotic resistance in bacteria. UV radiation is known to convert triclosan into a species of dioxin, a known skin irritant that also has the potential to increase the risk of cancer,” said Simonsen. “My research looks at whether an organism’s metabolism, in this case mice, can also convert ingested levels of triclosan into the same species of dioxin and whether it can then enter the amniotic fluid of pregnant mice. Because measurable levels of triclosan are found in freshwater systems, this type of metabolite production may be occurring where high levels of triclosan are observed both among freshwater animals and terrestrial animals using these freshwater systems for drinking water. Overall, the metabolite breakdown in utero may affect the survivability of wildlife.”

“Derek’s desire to pursue studies in the field of toxicology will allow him to apply his outstanding critical thinking skills and intellectual creativity toward important local and global issues,” said Dr. Melinda Coogan, associate professor of biology and Simonsen’s research advisor. “He is currently involved in two separate chemical bioaccumulation projects at BVU, one as an honors research project and one to complete his primary research requirement as biology major. It is an honor for me to mentor Derek as he works through the planning and implementation stages of both projects, and I look forward to observing how the EPA GRO Fellowship broadens his experiences and extends his opportunities.”

After finishing his undergraduate degree, Simonsen plans to enter into a doctorate program and focus on environmental chemistry or aquatic toxicology.

About Buena Vista University
Founded in 1891, Buena Vista University delivers 40 majors and 15 pre-professional programs that blend liberal arts with real-world experiences, preparing students for lifelong success, especially in the areas of elementary, secondary, and special education; business and accounting; and biological and chemical sciences. BVU stands behind its students and their degrees with TruePromise, which promises that students will locate a meaningful internship, earn at least one major within four years, and secure a job or entrance to graduate/professional school within six months of graduation. BVU is an affordable option for all students and, combined with its academic programs, has led U.S. News & World Report to rank BVU as the third best value school among Midwest Regional Colleges. Visit http://www.bvu.edu.


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Jill Heisterkamp
Buena Vista University
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