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Showcasing Student Research

School of Public Health graduate student Austin Roberts was one of 75 students who presented research at the 27th Annual Student Poster Day.

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 10, 2018) — After a semester of collaboration with their faculty mentors, fellow students and internship supervisors, 75 School of Public Health students filled the halls of George Education Center at the 27th Annual Student Poster Day last month.

Research discussions spanned all departments and topics ranged from the effects of corn production on greenhouse emissions, immunotherapy, childhood lead poisoning, gun violence prevention and e-coli.

“The Student Poster Day showcases the depth and breadth of research and practice based opportunities available for our students, and demonstrates what makes this School of Public Health a national leader in practice-based research and education,” said SPH Dean David R. Holtgrave.

Among the research presented was that of Austin Roberts, a fourth-year environmental chemistry graduate student mentored by Patrick Parsons, professor of Environmental Health Sciences. Roberts studied the impacts of arsenic exposure on the Chinese community in Albany by looking at the levels and type of the arsenic species found in foods, traditional Chinese medications and cosmetics.

Noting that there are more than 100 types of arsenic in existence, one sample in particular that caught Robert’s attention was that of dried baby shrimp, considered by many to be a staple in the Chinese diet. Looking specifically at the range and species of arsenic it contained, Roberts found that the seafood, heavily processed and suspected to contain high level of arsenic, actually contains a type of arsenic that is non-toxic.

“This is really good news,” said Roberts. “A lot of times people hear about this type of research having undesirable results or finding that something is toxic, but in this case, we found that the high levels of arsenic found in dried baby shrimp is not toxic because of the specific species of arsenic,” he continued.

However, a not-as-desirable finding that Robert’s research touched on is the mislabeling of seafood. Though he noted that past studies have found that it’s not uncommon for fish to be labeled as being from one country when it was actually from another, he was astonished at just how much mislabeling he found when he would peel back seafood labels to reveal its original “product of [country]” marking.

“Consumers should know where their food is coming from and support companies that are using good practice, and unfortunately it’s clear that not all seafood companies are using good practice.”

At the conclusion of the poster presentations, some students, including Roberts, were presented with awards for their research. Additional award winners were Mina Tehrani, Valerie Stanson, Christina Calabrese, James McDowell, Patrick Murphy, Annette Highley, Ryan Chin, Nishat Fatima, Andrea Flood, Candice DioGuardi, Maggie Smith, Alexis Russell, Lauren Davis, Amanda Volk, Kathryn Mishkin and Shuo Chen.

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