Safer Chemicals: Fact or Myth?

The Molecular Design research Network received a grant aimed at educating people on safer chemicals.  Karolina Mellor and Jason Lam developed a program under Yale Pathways to Science to discuss safer chemicals with local New Haven high school students. The weeklong course, held in the newly renovated environmental science building teaching labs at Yale, introduced concepts covered in this grant while offering a relevant and engaging approach to consumerism. Targeting multidisciplinary skill training and perspective building “at the nexus of toxicology and chemistry,” Mellor and Lam headed a group of 13 students from various backgrounds in this ambitious and explorative course.

Lysol and GreenWorks, common household all purpose cleaners, were analyzed as case studies to tackle the question: “How do chemicals in daily consumer products impact our everyday lives?” Students designed chemical exposure experiments with Daphnia Magna, model aquatic organisms well studied by toxicologists analyzing possible impacts of different chemicals on living organisms. From observing the anatomy of Daphnia Magna to extrapolating mortality rates and dose response curves, these 13 students embarked on a hands-on interdisciplinary learning experience. “We wanted to emphasize the fact that many people take for granted the information offered to them in advertisements,”Mellor and Lam beamed when discussing the thought process behind their curriculum, “we wanted to teach them to be active conscious consumers in the products that they buy and to see the effects it has on the world around them.”

In just 5 days, Mellor and Lam also put together a career panel featuring center members: Tamara De Winter, and Hanno Erythropel. Together they shared their research interests and their journey to where they are now working with green chemistry. The panel offered key advice on academic and career choices and the value of sustainable science. All in all, Mellor and Lam expressed great appreciation for the yale program and admiration for their experience with their students.