While every beach-goer’s concern is to lather up in sunscreen as their first defense against harmful UV ray exposure, a biology student at the University of North Texas (UNT) is looking to get to the bottom of how accumulated residue from swimmers’ sunscreen and cosmetics affects the sea’s ecosystem.
Alexis Wormington from UNT’s biology program is only in her junior year, but already she has been selected to undertake a highly esteemed undergraduate fellowship under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Greater Research Opportunities. This US EPA fellowship will give her an opportunity to advance her work on the possible toxic effects of titanium dioxide on aquatic ecosystems. An associate professor and aquatic toxicologist at the university, Aaron Roberts, will be Wormington’s advisor.
Wormington is one of the 30 students selected for this fellowship. Every year for two years, she will be receiving $20,700 worth of academic and research funding, and complete a paid summer internship with the US EPA come 2015.
Wormington explained that titanium dioxide is a common component of cosmetic products, sunscreen, and dyes and paint. It should not be a challenge to detect and measure this substance in seawater, but more specifically, she will be looking at how different levels of UV radiation can alter titanium dioxide’s toxicity.
While majoring in biology, she also has minors in chemistry and secondary education, and is a member of the Honors College and the Green Brigade Marching Band. After earning her Ph.D., she shared that she plans to pursue a career as a toxicologist and continue her research on the many toxicology concerns in different parts of the world.
Just recently, another proud affiliate of UNT was given an opportunity to contribute to nationwide research efforts. Richard Dixon was recently appointed by the National Research Council to be a member of a committee focused on understanding the truth about GMOs.