Macalester students Mady Chen ’24 and Ahlaam Abdulwali ’25 earned first place at the Underrepresented Students in STEM Symposium—Twin Cities. “It was exciting to share our work with other researchers in the STEM field while also connecting with other undergraduate students and learning about their diverse research projects,” said Chen and Abdulwali. “It was particularly meaningful to participate in a symposium that was centered around supporting underrepresented students.”

Chen and Abdulwali are investigating the effects of MI—a chemical preservative widely used in household products such as hand soaps and shampoos—on mast cells. These immune system cells play an important role in inflammation and allergies. “Repeated exposure to MI-containing products has been linked to an increased risk of developing vulvodynia, a chronic pain condition in women,” Chen and Abdulwali said. “Thus, we are trying to understand what happens at a cellular level when mast cells are exposed to MI.”

The students work in the on-campus lab of Biology Professor Devavani Chatterjea and Professor Elena Tonc, a visiting faculty member in biology, who serves as their research advisor.

October 7 2023

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