Monika Roy

Monika Roy, 1st Year
Program: Environmental Health Sciences
Advisor: Alicia Timme-Laragy, PhD.
Education: University of California, Berkeley (BS); Tulane University ( MS)
BS in Environmental Economics & Policy, Conservation & Resource Studies (2009), MS in Environmental Health Sciences (2015)



Demand for safe drinking water will increase as world population grows, and innovative strategies are needed to efficiently and safely handle water resources. Through my experiences working in
the water and sanitation sector in both the U.S. and Haiti, it is clear that this research and development need is pressing. In the U.S., water and wastewater treatment systems were not
originally designed to effectively remove pharmaceuticals and other chemical residues from raw water. In developing countries like Haiti, municipal water treatment systems do not exist, and
individuals treats their own water with iodine or chlorine-based methods. There are considerable human health concerns over exposures to known and unknown water disinfection byproducts
(DBPs) from these treatment methods, particularly as they interact with organic matter loads. For instance, in epidemiological research, iodinated DBPs are an unregulated chemical class that is
associated with increased colon and rectum cancersi. In cell toxicity research here at UMass-Amherst, of six tested iodinated DBPs, Iodoacetic Acid (IAA) proved to be the most cytotoxic by
severely impacting cell proliferation and cell apoptosis processesii. I am excited to study and explore how environmental biotechnology can help us understand and ameliorate human health impacts associated with water DBP exposure risks.

Research Summary

In my first year at UMass in the Timme-Laragy developmental toxicology lab, I became proficient in the zebrafish care protocols and microscopy imaging techniques relevant to our research interests. These interests primarily include understanding how environmental contaminants impact cellular and organ development of the pancreas and impact subsequent metabolic disease outcomes. I contributed to one invited review and one research paper that are in review, and led two preliminary trials in my area of interest for understanding how water disinfection byproducts impact human health. I presented my research in poster format for the School of Public Health & Health Sciences’ (SPHHS) annual Research Day, as well as at the annual Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) North Atlantic Chapter meeting. My abstract has also been accepted to the National SETAC meeting in November. The practical experience I have gained in my lab doing research design, data collection, and research communication have prepared me to take my research direction and newly acquired skills to a deeper level.

Relevance to Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Collaboration:
Biotechnology plays an important role in water quality monitoring. Over the last two decades, DNA and RNA-based molecular methods have helped characterize community structure and function of water-based microorganisms and pathogens. For example, the MinION is a portable DNA sequencer for rapid identification of pathogens and other applications such as antibiotic resistance
monitoring, among others. The use of biotechnology has resulted in the development of pollution abatement strategies, resource recovery, water conservation, and energy generation. There are
many opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, particularly in areas such as biology and engineering. Some of our established and potential collaborators work in these identified fields,
and we have already communicated with some of them about this project’s direction.