Environmental Health Laboratory Fellows Make a Difference
By Erin Morin , MHS , specialist , Environmental Health
The Environmental Health Laboratory Fellowship
trains and prepares scientists for public health and environmental laboratory careers and supports human exposure projects through targeted environmental or biomonitoring surveillance . Its mission is to provide a high-quality training experience for the fellow , and expand public health laboratory workforce capacity . During the first round of recruitment , four fellows were placed in laboratories across the country .
Isabel inserts samples into the HS-SPME GC-MS for analysis . Photo : NJ DOH
I am developing a method to quantitate terpenes in medical cannabis to support a new state regulatory requirement that medical cannabis does not exceed 10 % of the product . Terpenes , which may be a danger in high concentrations , are volatile compounds found in plants , fruits and vegetables that can provide health benefits — including anti-inflammatory , anti-fungal , and analgesic properties — at low concentrations . They are a naturallyoccurring compound responsible for the aromas , flavors and colors associated with vegetation and are what give certain cannabis strains their distinct smell or taste . My method identifies 36 of the most common of terpenes found in cannabis by using headspace solid phase microextraction gas chromatography mass spectrometry ( HS-SPME GC-MS ).
The fellowship program is a perfect fit for me as I start my professional career . I received my bachelor ’ s in chemistry with a focus in forensic science and was fortunate to be placed in the Chemical Threat Laboratory , which tests Schedule One drugs . I am driven by this field because it allows me to obtain a variety of analytical and technical skills I can apply to future research projects in my forensic chemistry career . I also feel that , by developing this terpene method , I am helping doctors and prescribers have access to data that allows them to know the quality of the cannabis they are prescribing .
“ Isabel ’ s position has been invaluable in adding to our workforce and developing the terpene method . She has made great progress in developing the terpene method for our cannabis program . She is a fast learner for GC-MS and she will be trained on liquid chromatography quadrupole time-offlight as well . I would like to personally thank APHL for supporting this program .”
– Daniel Wene , MS , research scientist 3 and mentor , NJ DOH
My overall project goal is to optimize , validate and use a digital polymerase chain reaction ( dPCR ) method for the quick identification and enumeration of Legionella pneumophila
. Extraction platforms will be compared to assess DNA recovery and the influence of PCR inhibitors , which are commonly found in water . An internal / extraction inhibition biocoid control is used to identify
Burabari prepares a plate for extraction of Legionella DNA . Photo : NC DHHS
inhibitors to ensure the best data . Finally , a dPCR system will increase sensitivity due to discrete measurements of nucleic acid amounts and allow for quantification . This new method is less time-consuming than the previous one and will allow for a quicker turnaround time , producing results in 24 hours compared to several days .
The fellowship program has been a good fit for me because I wanted to work on something complex but not overly well-known , and Legionella falls into this category . When I read about the project , I was intrigued . Additionally , North Carolina ’ s weather is similar to that of Georgia , which was a win . I am driven to do this work because people tend to forget that public health affects each one of us every day .
“ Burabari allowed us to optimize and validate a test that might not have otherwise seen the light of day . Short staffing leaves little time to bring on new methods , and Burabari has produced an amazing amount of data in a short period of time . It ’ s awesome to see Burabari walk into the laboratory every morning excited and looking forward to making progress on the validation , knowing that this method will allow for a more timely response to Legionella outbreaks and could ultimately save lives .”
– Chris Goforth , MS , environmental sciences manager and mentor , NC DHHS
12 LAB MATTERS Winter 2022