Women's History Month Celebration at the NNI

Today for Women’s History Month, the NNI is celebrating Christie Sayes. Professor Sayes of Baylor University studies the human and environmental health effects of engineered materials. Her group specializes in characterizing the physical, chemical, and biological properties of nanoparticles in simulated intentional and unintentional exposure scenarios.

Read about all of the women celebrated by the NNI here.

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Group Members Walk Away with 3 Presentation Awards from TSM 2019!

On Friday, February 22, five Sayes Group members attended and presented at the annual Texas Society of Microscopy meeting held in San Antonio, Texas. Desirae Carrasco (Junior ENV major), Sahar Pradhan (1st year graduate student), Thelma Ameh (1st year graduate student), Marina Mulenos George (2nd year graduate student), and Henry Lujan (PhD candidate) participated in either the “Biology” or the “Materials” divisions. The group members received outstanding presentation awards! Thelma received Best Poster Presentation in Materials; Henry received Best Poster Presentation in Biology; and Marina received Best Platform Presentation in Materials! Congratulation to everyone for an outstanding job well done!

Pictured left to right: Henry Lujan, Marina Mulenos George, Dr. Bernd Zechmann, and Thelma Ameh.

Pictured left to right: Henry Lujan, Marina Mulenos George, Dr. Bernd Zechmann, and Thelma Ameh.

Toxicology graduate discusses how toxic elements in drinking water can be reduced

Dr. Vicki Liu, a post-doctoral fellow in the Texas A&M toxicology program, conducts reserach with both Professor Virender Sharma at TAMU and Professor Christie Sayes at BU. She studying the chemical interactions between metal species and chlorination processes as well as the toxicological effects of DBPs in human gut cell test systems.

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Sayes Lab Member Wins 1st Place in "Let Cells Glo" Micrograph Contest

Congratulations to Sayes Group member and Graduate Student, Henry Lujan, who was awarded 1st place in a micrograph contest. The contest was called, "Let Cells Glo," and was hosted by Thermo Fisher. The image taken and submitted by Henry was called “A cluster of Caco-2 cells,” which stained for the nucleus, F-Actin, and mitochondria. Winners were determined by the amount of votes each picture received. The Sayes Group is proud of Henry for his achievements and hard work.

To see more information about the contest and other contest winners, please click here.

66th Annual Conference for the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) 2018

The 66th Annual Conference for the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) was held in San Diego, California on June 4-7, 2018 at the San Diego Convention Center. Member of the Sayes Group, Marina George, had the opportunity to attend and present at the conference. One of Marina's favorite activities at the conference was the opportunity to interact with the different stations offered in the hospitality suites. At the stations, conference attendees could engineer marshmallow towers, build molecules, and learn about the recent innovations in instrumentation.

Marina presented her poster, "Proteomic analysis of gold nanoparticle surface functionalization influence on protein corona complex formation." Marina intends to continue her research on the project and to present this project at more conferences in the future. More information about the conference can be found here

Attending ASMS in San Diego this year was a blast! I was able to participate in breakfast seminars, talks, poster sessions, and workshops. My favorite part about the conference was getting to go to the workshops and hear what people from all different backgrounds with different levels of expertise had to say on interesting topics. I look forward to implementing the new ideas I learned this year into my work!
— Marina George

Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Achievement (URSA) Awards 2018

URSA 2018 Awards

Congratulations to the 2018 Department of Environmental Science Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Achievement outstanding poster presenters!  Students presented their research during URSA Scholar’s Week on March 28 & 29, 2018.  From left to right, those included in the photograph are: Dr. George Cobb (Environmental Science Professor and Department Chair), Marina George Mulenos, Madison Stewart, Saskia Henery, and Dr. Christie Sayes. Winners not pictured include: Andreanna Burman, Liana DeNino, Grace Hutchinson, Julia Frandesen, Jonah Salazar, Clark Coneby, Hannah Dye, Jasmine Stovall, Dr. Susan Bratton, and Dr. Trey Brown. We are so proud of each of these hard working researchers!

American Chemistry Society (ACS) Conference 2018

The 255th American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting & Exposition was held in New Orleans, Louisiana on March 18-22, 2018 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.  Christie Sayes attended and presented data in the Special Session: Shaping Activity through Structural Modification Small Molecules to Nanoparticles. A Symposium in Honor of Professor Bing Yan.  The Program can be found here (https://plan.core-apps.com/acsnola2018/customScreen/about_show).

The theme of this year’s meeting was The Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water.  This topic is relevant to The Sayes Group because Dr. Sayes, Henry, and Marina are collaborating with with Professor Virender Sharma and Dr. Vicky Liu of Texas A&M University on a unique project that studies drinking water chlorination and chloramination in the water distribution system (Release of lead (Pb), formation of disinfection byproducts (DBPs), and cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of tap water).

At the ACS conference, Christie Sayes, Ph.D. presented:
“Impact of Advanced Materials on the Formation and Toxicity of Disinfection Byproducts during Drinking Water Chlorination” 

To read about this and other related work, please see:


Celebrating Professor Bing Yan at the American Chemical Society annual conference.

Celebrating Professor Bing Yan at the American Chemical Society annual conference.

Society of Toxicology (SOT) Conference 2018

The Society of Toxicology's 57th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo was held in San Antonio, Texas on March 12-15, 2018 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.  Members of The Sayes Group who attended and presented data were: Christie Sayes, Henry Lujan, Marina Mulenos George, and Andreanna Burman.  Other research groups from Baylor University also attended the meeting, including Dr. Bruce’s team and Dr. Brooks’s team.  The program for the conference can be found here.

The plenary speaker, Matthew H. Porteus from Stanford University, set the stage for a thought-porvoking week of exploring the utility of new tools and techniques for toxicology testing by presenting on "Developing Genome-Edited Stem Cells for Therapy of Patients: Assessing Efficacy and Toxicology".  This topic is especially relevant to The Sayes Group, as Dr. Sayes was recently named a 2018 AFRL (Air Force Research Lab) Faculty Fellow and will study "Next generation toxicological model systems for advanced materials and beyond: Application of gene-editing technology”.

Presentations by The Sayes Group at the Society of Toxicology conference included:

“Contemporary Considerations: Nanomaterial Characterization, Aerosol Generation, and Exposure” by Christie M. Sayes 

"Cell Cycle Alterations After In Vitro Exposure To Pegylated Gold Particles In Cancerous Vs. Non-cancerous Lung Cells” by Henry Lujan

"Physicochemical Features of Gold Nanoparticle Protein Corona: Using Analytical Methods to Detect and Identify Proteins” by Andreanna Burman and Marina Mulenos George

“I had an amazing time at this year’s SOT meeting in San Antonio! I was able to attend informative workshops, talks, and specialty section meetings. I had a one-on-one discussion with an expert in toxicology and was able to attend mentor meetings as part of the Hispanics of Toxicology (HOT). During my poster presentation, I was able to speak with a large group of students and professors who gave me helpful tips and things to think about to improve my research. What I enjoyed most about my time at SOT this year were my meetings with experts in academia, industry, and government agencies. Their advice is invaluable as I progress in my career as a toxicologist. I’m already looking forward to next year’s SOT conference!”
— Henry Lujan

Texas Society for Microscopy (TSM) Conference 2018

Henry Lujan (left),  Dr. Bernd Zechmann (center), and Marina Mulenos George (right) at the TSM conference. Dr. Zechmann is the director of the Center for Microscopy and Imaging (CMI) at Baylor University and is the President of the Texas Society for Microscopy (TSM). 

The annual Texas Society for Microscopy (TSM) meeting is a microscopy-lover's dream conference. People from all over Texas come together to share their research, for which microscopy was one of their main tools. Dr. Sayes, Henry Lujan, and Marina Mulenos George attended this year's TSM conference, which was held in Denton, Texas on Friday, February 23, 2018. 

Graduate student Henry Lujan has been a member of TSM for two years now, and he was afforded the opportunity to give a platform presentation discussing "Synthesis, Characterization, and Preservation of Submicron-Sized Liposomes as Carriers for Drug Delivery” at this year's TSM conference. His research focused on the synthesis and characterization of liposomes for RNA encapsulation. To characterize the liposomes, Henry used a myriad of microscopy techniques, including bright field microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Henry enjoyed presenting his research to other Texas microscopists and receiving valuable feedback throughout the two-day conference as well as learning more about various microscopy techniques.

"The Nikon microscopy workshop put on at the UNT Discovery Park was exciting, fun, and informational. I especially enjoyed the confocal microscope and hope to use this technique more in the near future!"  -Henry Lujan
Marina Mulenos George presenting her poster on physiochemical characterization of cellulose materials  at the TSM conference

Marina Mulenos George presenting her poster on physiochemical characterization of cellulose materials  at the TSM conference

Though they were all excited to attend the TSM conference, perhaps none were as thrilled as microscopy-enthusiast, Marina Mulenos George. Marina, a current graduate student in The Sayes Group, presented a poster entitled "Elucidating Morphological Characteristics of Cellulose Materials”.  

This conference was a great experience and helped each of The Sayes Group members connect with others in their field, share their research and experience, and further their knowledge and understanding of current microscopy techniques.

Is the environment to blame for your food allergy?

Erin Benton presenting her research at the 2017 Texas Society for Public Health Education Annual Conference in Waco, Texas.

Erin Benton presenting her research at the 2017 Texas Society for Public Health Education Annual Conference in Waco, Texas.

Erin Benton, a second-year Master's of Public Health student, is no stranger to food allergies. Erin, along with her father and brother, have all experienced at least one food allergy in their lifetime. Though she considered genetics a reason for her family's food allergy susceptibility, Erin considered other causes for these all too common afflictions. Why didn't her mom experience a food allergy? Why are some people born with allergies, while others develop them later in life? Are food allergies an emerging public health issue?

During her first semester of graduate school, Erin took an environmental health course taught by The Sayes Group founder, Dr. Christie Sayes. After listening to a lecture about how the environment has been associated with the onset of celiac disease (i.e. an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye), Erin felt inspired to further investigate the correlation between the environment and the onset of food allergies. She collaborated with Dr. Christie Sayes to write and publish a journal article in order to define the role of the environment as it relates to food allergies. 

Key findings from their research:

  • Food allergies diagnosed often appear in children under the age of three.
  • Children tend to have more than one food allergy present at a time.
  • People diagnosed are shown to have the following similarities: manifest symptom(s) at age < 20 years old, reside in industrialized environments, inflicted with predisposing health sensitivities, and originating from developed countries.
  • Environmental factors that can play a role in food allergies include: ethnicity and genetics, weight, exposure to air pollution and sunlight, asthma or eczema.
  • Highly urbanized areas, air pollution and food surplus will contribute to the growing environment-food allergy nexus.
  • The most cited adverse human health outcomes include multiple allergies, psychological effects, and death.
  • There are currently no proven methods to overcome a diagnosed food allergy, but there are known ways to overcome a sensitivity related food illness.
  • Environmental factors contribute to the onset of food allergies; therefore, this epidemic could be labeled as an emerging public health issue. 

You can access the journal article here: Benton EN and Sayes CM. (2017). “Environmental Factors Contribute to the Onset of Food Allergies”. Journal of Environmental Science and Public Health 1(1):35-55. Open Access (http://www.fortunejournals.com/articles/environmental-factors-contribute-to-the-onset-of-food-allergies.html).

Erin Benton (left) and Dr. Christie Sayes (right) presenting at the 2017 Texas Society for Public Health Education Annual Conference in Waco, Texas.&nbsp;

Erin Benton (left) and Dr. Christie Sayes (right) presenting at the 2017 Texas Society for Public Health Education Annual Conference in Waco, Texas. 

After publishing their paper, Erin and Dr. Sayes presented their research on environmental factors contributing to the onset of food allergies at the 2017 Texas Society for Public Health Education (TSOPHE) Annual Conference in Waco, Texas. This year's TSOPHE conference focused on public health education topics relating to the advancement of population health through diversity, innovation, and collaboration. Dr. Sayes and Erin presented their research to a group of public health professionals from all over the state of Texas. Their work serves as an example of a successful collaboration between two professional sectors (i.e. public health and environmental science) to achieve a common goal (i.e. risk factors of food allergies). 

Erin is expected to graduate from Baylor University with her MPH in May 2018. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Health Education and Behavioral Sciences and continue to teach health education. Her research interests include sexual health and the risk factors of food allergies.