BROWNWOOD – March 2, 2023 – At the conclusion of the fall 2022 semester, Howard Payne University organized a research excursion for three area students to Baylor University’s Center of Microscopy and Imaging. The research performed was a continuation of HPU’s Summer Research Symposium, which focused on determining if microplastics were leeching from various food containment vessels.
Yesenia Brunette, an HPU freshman from Bangs, and Aishwarya Nigalye, a senior at Brownwood High School, performed research with HPU’s Department of Physical Science in July 2022. While initial studies at HPU revealed that fragments of microplastics were present, further verification was needed. To verify their presence and conclude the study, HPU collaborated with Dr. Bernd Zechmann, director of Baylor’s Center of Microscopy and Imaging and associate research professor, and utilized several cutting-edge microscopes.
“The instruments the students were able to use are very difficult to gain access to,” commented HPU’s Dr. Dennis Gibson II, associate professor of chemistry and department chair. “Even when they are located on your campus, there may be several barriers preventing user access. Our collaboration with Baylor allowed us to bring students to work with these instruments for three days.”
Currently, the collected data is being analyzed with hopes of publication in a leading scientific journal. High school juniors and seniors interested in being considered for the second annual Summer Research Symposium should contact Dr. Gibson by emailing email@example.com.
Photo #1: The HPU research group in the laboratory at Baylor’s Center of Microscopy and Imaging. Pictured from left to right are Aishwarya Nigalye of Brownwood; HPU’s Dr. Dennis Gibson II, associate professor of chemistry and department chair; Taylor Jefferis, HPU senior; Yesenia Brunette, of Bangs; and Dr. Bernd Zechmann, director of Baylor’s Center of Microscopy and Imaging and associate research professor.
Photo #2: A microplastic fragment was imaged with a confocal laser microscope. The sample is dyed and fluoresces under the presence of ultraviolet light.
Photo #3: The surface of a plastic containment vessel after common household treatment was imaged with a scanning electron microscope.