Two Elizabethtown College Biochemistry and Molecular Biology students are gaining valuable experience this summer in the Musser labs, working hand-in-hand with a Chemistry faculty mentor to research an inexpensive method of detecting lead in water.

The independent student research and collaboration with an Etown faculty mentor, is part of the Summer Scholarship, Creative Arts and Research Projects (SCARP) program.

Learn more about SCARP.

Title of Research
Optimization of Simple and Inexpensive Paper-Based Assay for Lead

Student Researcher
Sagar Patel ’23 – Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Kyla DeWittie ’24 – Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Faculty Mentor
Lauren Toote, Associate Professor of Chemistry

What are you researching?

Sagar: We are synthesizing polymer nanoparticles to detect lead in water. When these are produced, these can be made up with the paper strip test and then detect lead in water, similar to a pH test in its design.

Kyla: We’re trying to design and make a lateral flow assay to detect lead in water by synthesizing nanoparticles that will go through a colorimetric change when lead is present.

Why did you choose this topic?

Sagar: I chose this topic because it caught my interest immediately. I felt that if I could start helping people, this was the project that I wanted to start with.

Kyla: The application of this project really drew me in. The science is really interesting, and the fact that our test could be produced and sold to help people worldwide is really cool.

What is the most interesting aspect of this research?

Sagar: The most interesting aspect is that I am surrounded by great mentors and peers that help push me to understand the material. The support I am getting from Dr. Toote has been phenomenal. Understanding how I can apply my knowledge in research to the real world is also very interesting.

Kyla: Nanoparticles are really interesting. There are so many factors that affect how they turn out. It’s interesting to change one variable at a time to see its effect on the particles and determine how we can make our particles the most effective.

How has Professor Toote helped you throughout this experience?

Sagar: Dr. Toote has been very helpful in teaching us how to perform research. I have learned so much from her, and it is only the beginning. I am happy with what she has taught me.

Kyla: Dr. Toote has been extremely helpful. As a rising sophomore, there are a lot of lab techniques that I’m not familiar with and knowledge/classes that I haven’t had yet, but she doesn’t let that get in the way. I’ve learned so much already.

Hear from the Faculty Mentor – Lauren Toote

“This project is all focused around the EPA’s goal of helping people and the planet and also promoting prosperity,” said Toote. “I think that aligns really well with Etown’s values in that through this project we really get to teach our students how to take their book knowledge of chemistry and get to apply it.”