Science Café Oct. 26 Focuses on the Impacts of Environmental Toxins

Sheryl Smith, biochemist and expert in environmental toxins.

Sheryl Smith, biochemist and expert in environmental toxins.

Las Vegas, N.M. – A free public science café at Highlands University Oct. 26 at 5:30 p.m. features a scientist who will shed light on how daily exposure to common environmental toxins can affect body size and development.

Sheryl Smith, a biochemist and expert in environmental toxins, will lead the science café. She is a professor at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania.

The science café will be in the university’s Lora Shields Building, Room 215, adjacent to Donnelly Library. The university’s chapter of Sigma Xi, an international scientific research society, is sponsoring the event. There will be light refreshments.

“Sheryl Smith’s research focuses on common environmental toxins using drosophila, the common fruit fly, which is an extremely valuable model organism used for research,” said Highlands University biology professor Carol Linder. “Dr. Smith uses a variety of biochemical and genetic approaches to investigate the underlying growth and development in humans.”

Smith investigates common toxins like Bisphenol-A (BPA) that is used in plastic water bottles and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), a compound used in products like electronics and flame-retardants.

Linder, a cell and reproductive biology scientist, met Smith at a June 2015 workshop aimed at bringing innovative new DNA-sequencing technologies to smaller universities like Highlands.

“I was excited to learn that Sheryl Smith is active in the Genomics Education Partnership based at Washington University in St. Louis that provides undergraduate research opportunities in genomics,” Linder said. “Genomics is the branch of biology that studies the structure, function and evolution of genomes. A genome is all the genetic information found in the DNA of a species.”

Linder said the Genomics Education Partnership relies on bioinformatics, which combines genomic research and computer science databases.

“I think Dr. Smith will get our students excited about the growing opportunities for careers in bioinformatics, as well as research opportunities with the Genomics Education Partnership,” Linder said.

Sigma Xi is also sponsoring a number of talks Smith will give when she is on campus including one for Highlands University science students. She will also meet with Highlands science faculty, as well as faculty, staff and students associated with ARMAS (Achieving in Research, Math and Science).

In addition, Smith will meet with Highlands biology professor Mary Shaw’s senior research students who are working on Genomics Education Partnership research projects. Shaw has been active with the partnership for a number of years.

Luna Community College science faculty and students will also participate in the programming for Smith’s visit to Highlands.