Meet Lisa, PhD Candidate in the Rochman Lab

Meet Lisa! Lisa is a PhD Candidate in the Rochman Lab studying the effects of microfibers in fathead minnows, rainbow trout and invertebrates (chironomids) in freshwater systems.

Interestingly enough, the concentration of microplastics in the Great Lakes and Great Lakes fish is just as high, or in some cases slightly higher than the concentration of microplastics found in the oceans, according to Lisa’s research. Both synthetic and natural microfibers are common in the Great Lakes and come from the individual fibers used to make textiles, such as polyester and cotton. While these fibers do degrade over time, it’s important to consider whether these fibers were chemically treated, for example, with phthalates, dyes, flame retardants, bisphenols (BPAs), etc. Today, microplastics can be found just about anywhere, not just in seas and beaches, but also in rivers and soils around the world.  

We met up with Lisa (virtually, of course!) to get to know her a little better and ask her some questions about her research.  

Q:  Where has your research taken you? 
A: Many wonderful places on the Great Lakes! When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy spending time in streams and lakes. 

Q: What drew you to pursue a career in research? 
A: I’ve always loved the water, and grew up on the Great Lakes. I’m now studying contaminants so we can better understand the effects of pollution, and ways to improve water quality for habitat and drinking water. 

Q: Have you made any discoveries you weren’t expecting? 
A: I was surprised to see how common microfibers are found in freshwater. In the Great Lakes, for example, we’re finding microfibers in almost every fish. We know washing machines are a source of microfibers to the environment, and there are solutions to prevent this pollution from entering waterways. 

Q: What are some challenges you have come across and/or overcome in your research?  
A: In any job, sometimes what you do is smooth sailing, and other times you need to weather a storm (for me, sometimes quite literally, like when I’m doing research on a boat!). One thing I have always carried with me during challenging times is staying positive. It’s easy when you enjoy your work to face challenges that come with it.

Q: Tell us about your research and any ongoing studies and/or projects. 
A: For my PhD, I’m looking at the effects of microfibers on different animals. When labs open back up, we will be continuing research on the Fathead Minnow to look at effects of microfibers on individuals and populations. 

Lisa recently shared her research in more depth with the vivarium staff through the Lab Animal Lecture Series hosted by the Clinical Veterinarian, Dr. Deb Pakes. Her presentation is readily available on our website under the News & Events tab – Lab Animal Lecture Series (login through the User Platform required). If you would like to know more about Lisa’s research, please feel free to speak with one of us at the BSF and we would be happy to connect you.  

Thanks for sharing your research with us, Lisa!