Scientist Profiles

Photograph of Dana Avram
Dana Avram, Research Specialist
In high school, Dana Avram was interested in chemistry. She liked the reactions and equations, the opportunity to explain with pen and paper that which seemed to have no order in reality. In fact, there was much in the real world that must have seemed chaotic to Dana when she was in high school. Her homeland, Romania, like the rest of Eastern Europe was undergoing significant changes. Caged by the brutal communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu for decades, Romania was ridding itself of the dictator and of communism. Relief is still palpable as Dana recalls December 1989: “I will never forget those days--it was history in the making!” In fact, it would be the change in government that allowed Dana to enter the career she is in today. Read More.

Mark Riley, Associate Professor
In his laboratory at the Department of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering, Mark Riley is working on producing devices that can sense toxins and pathogens in the environment. With the uncommon mixture of scientific curiosity and the problem solving tenacity of an engineer, he is interested not only in detecting them, but in understanding how cells respond to their presence. The sensors that Mark is engineering began as relatively simple devices and have evolved in complexity and sensitivity over the years. The focus of his research, airborne particulate matter, is a complex mixture of chemicals, some of them more toxic, some less. Mark hopes to use the sensors he develops to help determine what the “bad actors” in particulate contaminants are. Read More.
Photograph of Mark Riley

Photograph of Ornella Selmin, Ph.D.
Dr. Ornellia Selmin, Associate Professor
In her laboratory in the Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology, Dr. Ornella Selmin is using a technique called micro-array analysis to get a series of snapshots showing how much each gene is working in the developing heart. Using this technique Ornella can sift out those genes that are affected by TCE and its metabolites. She will do this by providing some pregnant rats with drinking water laced with TCE, while giving control rats pure drinking water. Dissecting the developing hearts from rat pups will enable Ornella to purify a class of chemicals called messenger-ribonucleic acids or mRNA, from the tissue. Read More.

Matthew Jefferson, Environmental Engineer
"We have only one earth and if we trash it, we lose it" is Matthew Jefferson’s favorite quote taken from the movie Global Warming done by Al Gore. Mr. Jefferson is an environmental engineer with the Environmental Health Protection Agency (EPA) who realized as a child what his destiny was going to hold when coming back from a family trip to Bakersfield, California, coming down over the mountains, a haze was clearly visible all over the valley. “Pollution gets trapped in the environment and I realized I am breathing this stuff” stated Jefferson, as his realization point. The thing that Jefferson loves most about his career with the EPA is working with people; he loves hearing their stories and loves seeing the picture being painted. Jefferson thrives on “seeing something that was ugly and helping to make it clean.” Read Miore.
Photograph of Matthew Jefferson

Photograph of Dr. Jay Gandolfi
Dr. Jay Gandolfi, Department Head of Pharmaceutical Sciences
“Everything is toxic. It’s the dose that makes the poison” says Dr. Jay Gandolfi to his toxicology class. As Program Director of the Superfund Basic Research Program at The University of Arizona, he is interested in finding out exactly when the chemicals we use become poisons, how we can best live with the poisons we have created for ourselves, and how we can get rid of them. To determine when contaminants become toxicants Jay is looking at how the body processes Arsenic. People have known for centuries large doses of Arsenic is deadly. The Superfund is investigating the long-term effects of Arsenic found in drinking water at or near the federally accepted levels of ten parts-per-billion. Some forms of arsenic are more toxic than others and some people respond differently to Arsenic. Jay’s interest in this area is how the body metabolizes and excretes Arsenic, discovering that once inside the body Arsenic is chemically modified in a variety of ways. Read More.



PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: March 8, 2007
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