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Symposia: soap, health and the environment; bugs and breast milk

By Andy Fell on September 2, 2011 in

The potential downsides of fragrances in personal care products, and microbes, milk and the infant gut, will be the topics of two student-run symposia at UC Davis in September. Both events, including nationally recognized experts, are the outcomes of yearlong collaborative research projects by student teams.

On Monday, Sept. 12, undergraduates in the CLIMB program will hold a workshop on “The infant gut microbiome: prebiotics, probiotics and establishment” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition on the UC Davis campus.

Recent research shows that healthy gut microbes are important for healthy babies. In fact, UC Davis scientists recently showed that one of the major components of breast milk does not directly nourish the baby but feeds a type of gut microbe, Bifidobacteria, which in turn produces nutrients that feed other microbes.

Speakers will include Ruth Ley, assistant professor of microbiology at Cornell University, and Professor David Relman of Stanford University as well as professors Jonathan Eisen, Bruce German and Mark Underwood from UC Davis.

The following Friday, Sept. 16, graduate students in the REACH training program will present a workshop on “Fragranced personal care products and environmental change” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., again in 1022 Life Sciences.

Use of fragrance chemicals in soaps, shampoos and lotions has become widespread in the past decade, but research on their impact on health and the environment has lagged behind. As part of their training, the students in the program have conducted a yearlong research project on how people in the U.S. perceive these products.

At the workshop, the trainees and experts from academia, government agencies, nonprofits and the private sector will discuss their perspectives on fragrance chemicals in personal care products and how to investigate other nascent environmental issues.

Speakers include Anne Steinemann, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and public affairs, University of Washington; Professor David Epel, Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University; Dan Schlenk, professor of aquatic ecotoxicology, UC Riverside; Rik Rasmussen, Water Resources Control Board; and Rebecca Sutton, Environmental Working Group. Representatives from the Personal Care Products Council and Research Institute for Fragrance Materials are also expected to attend.

Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the CLIMB (Collaborative Learning at the Interface of Mathematics and Biology) program exposes a small group of undergraduates in mathematics and biology to a wide range of tough scientific problems that draw on both disciplines.

The REACH program is an Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program, also sponsored by the National Science Foundation. It supports UC Davis graduate students studying scientific and social issues related to rapid environmental change.

Both workshops are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Carole Hom,

Media contact(s)

Andy Fell, Research news (emphasis: biological and physical sciences, and engineering), 530-752-4533,

Carol Hom, Evolution and Ecology, (530) 754-9733,

Rick Grosberg, Evolution and Ecology, 530-752-1114,

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