Biochemistry Undergraduate Research Poster Wins Award

A current Loyola Marymount University senior won a top research prize at a prestigious environmental and chemistry meeting in examining how artificial turf affects the atmosphere at Drollinger Field. Erica Choe’s journey to the award began with her application for a grant, which then led to an invitation to present her work.

Choe, a biochemistry senior, won the “Best Undergraduate Student Poster” at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry meeting on May 6, 2019, in La Jolla, California. The research team included Nicole Bouvier-Brown, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, along with current fellow students Oriana Strieleman, biochemistry senior, and Catherine Machado, biochemistry sophomore.

“My time at LMU has allowed me to better understand biochemistry, environmental and analytical chemistry,” said Choe.

The poster presentation, “Analysis of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons Presents in Loyola Marymount University’s Artificial Turf Field,” developed from Choe’s desire to understand how artificial turf fields affects the air we breathe.

“We wanted to analyze the off-gassing of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from the artificial turf field on LMU’s campus with the goal to identify and quantify, determined in concentration,  of these compounds present in the atmosphere surrounding Drollinger Field,” said Choe. Drollinger Field is an intramural and club field atop a parking structure at LMU.

“The research is still ongoing but our preliminary results found many polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and phthalates in the turf granules and the atmosphere surrounding the turf field,” said Choe.

In the summer of her sophomore year, Choe started working with Dr. Bouvier-Brown at the LMU Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). She applied for a research grant through SETAC and awarded the grant in her junior year. SETAC then asked Choe to conduct her research project and present the student poster at the next annual meeting.

Choe’s future goals have remained the same, but this experience solidified her interest in her major. “I have had Professor Bouvier-Brown for three classes and as an adviser, she has been my biggest mentor since freshman year,” said Choe.

After LMU, Choe plans to pursue a career in the medical field. She believes students should take advantage of all the opportunities LMU presents them.

“I got out of my comfort zone and became a stronger scholar and passionate individual. People are intimidated by chemistry and biochemistry, but they shouldn’t be,” said Choe.

Creative Writing major Nina Gibson is a graduate student with the Department of English in LMU Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts.