Ian Penwell, a Health Science Studies major, received a Higher Education Research Council (HERC) fellowship from the Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives. Penwell will work with Cynthia Curl, assistant professor in the School of Allied Health Sciences Department of Community and Environmental Health, on an eight-week research project.
Curl conducts agricultural health research, with a focus on measuring and reducing chemical exposures to farmworkers, agricultural communities and the general public. She currently has two active research projects, one of which aims to quantify dietary exposures to pesticides to pregnant women with organic and conventional diets and a second project aimed at measuring crop uptake of inorganic bromide subsequent to methyl bromide fumigation. While many don’t think of health sciences as a traditional component of STEM research, her research projects include traditional bench chemistry and biology components — including measurements of hydration and chemical constituents in urine, crop tissue and soils — and aim to improve our understanding of the effect of environmental contaminants on human health.
The goal of the HERC Fellowship is to provide students who have not previously engaged in undergraduate research with an opportunity to stretch their knowledge and skills in their chosen science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) discipline. There were 174 student applicants and 48 faculty applicants.
“Ian is a fantastic non-traditional student who is already a practicing mid-wife, and who ultimately wants to earn his M.D. to better serve his community,” Curl said. “By providing him with hands-on experience in conducting rigorous health-related research, this HERC award will make him a better prepared, more qualified and more competitive candidate for medical school.”