Students present at international environmental science summit

Margaret Back ’16, Morgan Dashko ’15 and Tasneem Islam ’15

Three Brandeis University students recently presented research findings on nail salon air quality at the 2014 International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology in Houston.

Margaret Back ’16, Morgan Dashko ’15 and Tasneem Islam ’15 reported that workers in 15 nail salons in Greater Boston were exposed to high levels of harmful chemicals which are common in nail polishes, polish removers and acrylic and gel nails. 

The students’ findings were from a study they conducted with colleagues in professor Laura Goldin’s Environmental Health and Justice Program, which is offered through the Justice Brandeis Semester (JBS).

The Justice Brandeis Semester program is part of Brandeis’ commitment to creating and supporting intensive learning experiences with enduring impact, a central goal of the university’s strategic plan.

The students conducted their research in collaboration with Viet-AID, a Vietnamese-American community development organization based in Dorchester, Mass. (many of the estimated 350,000 nail salon workers in the U.S. are Vietnamese women and other immigrants), the Boston Public Health Commission, the Healthy Cosmetology Committee, and Talena Thu Ngo, a Vietnamese business directory.

The trio, the youngest to present at the conference, said their findings were well received. “The attendees were very impressed with our age and student status,” said Islam. “When we first got up to present, it felt as if people we skeptical, but after we started, people seemed to change their expressions to those of genuine interests.”

In addition to gaining experience presenting to a professional audience, the students met environmental health professionals from around the world, including the director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Pollution Prevention and Control Division. “It was such an exciting experience, [especially] hearing about all the environmental research that is being done in the world,” said Islam.

Categories: Research, Science and Technology

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