Humans, plants, and animals all live in a chemically rich environment. Most of what we’re exposed to is harmless, but some toxins can cause disease.
Arsenic, for example, occurs naturally in groundwater. In places where water is unfiltered, people can be exposed to levels that exceed the safety threshold set by the World Health Organization.
Patrice’s interest in environmental toxicology stems from childhood growing up on an island - City Island - located in the Bronx of New York City. “I’ve always been interested in marine life,” she says.
As a young biology major at college in New York, Patrice chanced upon an internship at NYU Abu Dhabi with Associate Professor of Biology John Burt, who works on coral reef ecology research in the Arabian Gulf. The internship at NYUAD solidified Patrice’s interest in pursuing environmental biology. So she finished college in New York and applied for the Global PhD Fellowship at NYU Abu Dhabi.
In terms of resources for science, NYUAD is a no brainer for me.
NYUAD’s five-year fellowship programs unite students with experienced faculty advisors from both Abu Dhabi and NYU New York.
Face-to-face time with faculty and constant feedback is particularly important in the lab environment, Patrice says. She and Professor Kirsten Sadler Edepli connect almost daily to review data and see how things are going. Easy access to advanced research equipment is helpful too.
A study from NYU Abu Dhabi shows that exposure to arsenic — a common compound present naturally in the Earth’s crust that is lethal to those exposed to high levels — causes fatty liver disease in zebrafish.
NYU Abu Dhabi, on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, sits only about a kilometer away from a massive coral reef that's trying to survive some of the most extreme environmental conditions in the world.