Meet the PRAs: Chloe Zampetti

Meet Chloe Zampetti ’22, an OUR Peer Research Ambassador (PRA) majoring in Natural Resources.

Meet the PRAs - Chloe.What is the focus of your research?

My research is focused on interactions between elements mercury and selenium in fish. There is a theory that when there is more selenium present than mercury within a fish, the selenium can cancel out mercury toxicity by binding up all of the mercury, making it safe for human consumers. This is a really cool concept and would have lots of implications for human health, but there are some aspects to the research that could use updating and further attention.

With my research, I want to see how measures of human health risk based on selenium and mercury concentrations compare to metrics based on mercury concentrations alone. This way, I can emphasize the importance of understanding selenium’s potential ability to mitigate mercury toxicity before it is considered an official metric of human health risk via fish consumption.

Why did you get involved in research?

Throughout my first year at UConn, I was Undecided/Exploratory in the ACES Program until my sophomore year when I finally discovered the Natural Resources major under the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources. Once my major was official, I wanted to get involved in as many ways as possible to figure out my strongest interests. Research is a component of all majors, and I wanted to understand how scientific investigation was conducted in the context of natural resources and the environment.

What advice would you give to new students?

Try not to view research as something you have to do. For STEM majors, there is a huge stigma around research as a requirement. While it is true that a lot of graduate and professional programs require research experience, it’s really important to take advantage of the flexibility you have. With research, you can explore something that you are interested in within your field, an opportunity that is not as accessible in normal coursework. If you focus on a question or project that you are genuinely curious and passionate about, it takes away a lot of the feeling of obligation.

What do you enjoy the most about participating in research?

My undergraduate research journey started with UConn’s Ecotoxicology Lab (ETL) which has been my favorite aspect of undergraduate research. I joined the lab during one of its first semesters on campus and it has been interesting to see how a lab establishes from the ground up. However, the best part of the lab has been the people. The Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Brandt, has pulled together a great team of graduate and undergraduate students, and I am very appreciative that they have made me feel welcome, appreciated, and supported.

Describe the impact your research experience has had on you.

My research experience has had a very tangible impact on my undergraduate experience. Prior to receiving funding for my project from a UConn IDEA Grant, I served as an undergraduate research assistant in the Ecotoxicology Lab where I learned a great deal about contaminants and their impacts on the environment, specifically mercury and selenium. This process was very rewarding because I got to build a foundation of knowledge in a more experiential way that I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to in my classes. Additionally, the IDEA Grant has given me the opportunity to pursue my own research question. This experience has taught me so much about scientific communication and the research process as a whole. Over the course of Summer 2021 when I completed my IDEA project, I have grown to consider myself to be a scientist and positive contributor to the literature.

Click here for more information on Chloe and other OUR Peer Research Ambassadors.