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A Passion for Science

Brittany Daws - College of Natural Science and Mathematics Student

Brittany Daws realized early in high school that her curiosities and interests in the sciences were something she wanted to pursue into her university education, and beyond.

So during the remainder of her high school years, she acted on those interests, devising and carrying out several research projects ranging from chemical toxicity testing of lawn chemicals to investigating the range (flora) of bacteria found in the human mouth. From these projects, she placed in several science fairs and participated in the California State Science Fair. She completed her years at Desert High School at Edwards Air Force Base with an identity as a scientist and as valedictorian.

With outstanding grades and accomplishments, she had many universities to choose from. Not surprisingly, she came to CSULB as a Presidential Scholar. She was particularly attracted to CSULB’s reputation as a university where students engage in original research with faculty members and students often become authors in scientific literature, an accomplishment more expected of graduate students, postdocs and faculty. Her choice has proven highly beneficial to her educational and career pursuits.

Daws is majoring in Biochemistry and Chemistry, and not surprisingly, she is in the Honors program. She engaged in research early in her undergraduate career, working in Dr. Stephen Mezyk’s laboratory. She states that her passion for science has grown even more through her studies and research, and that her eyes have been opened even more by the beauty and complexity of biology and chemistry. Daws plans to graduate from CSULB with Honors in 2016 and then enter a M.D./Ph.D program. Her ultimate goal is to perform biomedical research, searching for new and innovative ways to heal and combat life threatening diseases.

Brittany Daws in the lab

Researching Carcinogenic Chemicals

In Dr. Mezyk’s laboratory, Daws has contributed to research on a group of carcinogenic chemicals that can be found in a variety of consumable products (including tobacco) and which are present in municipal wastewater and currently pose challenges to water recycling (e.g., for re-use in landscape and agricultural purposes, or even as drinking water).

She is particularly interested in the nitrosamine family of chemicals and their transformation into dangerous radicals that can lead to carcinogenesis. She is working to understand the mechanisms of how these chemicals become carcinogenic, and perhaps find ways to avoid this from happening. Her research involves measuring the kinetics of the radical reactions using a linear accelerator at the University of Notre Dame—she has been there several times already and works relatively independently, a responsibility rarely, if ever, afforded to an undergraduate.

As a result of her important contributions to this research, Daws has already earned co-authorship on one paper recently published in one of the most important international journals in her field (Environmental Science & Technology), and she is in the process of submitting a paper to the Journal of Hazardous Materials on which she is the first author. And, according to Dr. Mezyk, by the time she finishes her undergraduate degree at CSULB, there will be at least two more. In part, this is due to her involvement in other research projects in the laboratory, a reflection of the confidence Dr. Mezyk has in her abilities to contribute to multiple scientific directions. This kind of ability and productivity is at a level that even a Ph.D. candidate would be proud.

Daws has also given multiple conference presentations to professional audiences of national/international importance, including at the American Chemical Society Meetings in San Francisco (2014) and in San Diego for the Association for Environmental Health and Sciences Foundation (2015).

Brittany Daws enjoying a bungee jump

A Beckman Scholar

As a result of her research accomplishments and her outstanding grades in a highly challenging area of study (>3.8 GPA), Daws was recently selected as a Beckman Scholar at CSULB. The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation established these awards to provide unique opportunities through research for a group of our nation's most talented and gifted undergraduates in chemistry and biological sciences.

CSULB is one of only 12 universities selected nationwide to host a Beckman Scholars Program over the next three years, alongside Yale, UCLA, Columbia, William and Mary, among others. With the support of the Beckman Scholars Program through Summer 2016, Daws will leave CSULB as one of the most productive and prepared graduates to continue into doctoral studies and make a difference in science and society.

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