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Photodegredation of metformin: Starting out

This week, I began my internship at OHSU in the Institute of Environmental Health. The project I will be working on is Distribution and Fate of Emerging Contaminants in Oregon Rivers. More specifically, I will be trying to understanding the fate of metformin, a type II diabetes drug and its breakdown product guanylurea in the environment. Despite metformin being the most commonly prescribed drug for this disease, it is surprising that there is very little about its environmental impact.

The first week of the internship involved meeting my senior mentors, Joe Needoba and Tanya Peterson, and my frontline mentor, Brittany Cummings, along with other members of the lab. I am hoping to learn a great deal from all of them. I started by reading primary literature relating to the project, understanding the relevance of the project to both environmental and human health. After gaining a better understanding of the project, I began writing an experimental design for studying the photodegredation of metformin. Metformin is excreted by the human body unchanged, a thus, passes through the sewage system, eventually entering rivers and lakes. Most sewage and water treatment plants do not treat for pharmaceuticals when processing water, and there is not yet evidence that metformin is entirely removed by current water treatment procedures, so understanding metformin’s ability to breakdown in the environment is important, especially in light of evidence showing its ability to disrupt the endocrine system in fish.    

I was also introduced to high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) for the first time. I am still learning more about this analysis method, but I am hoping to use this method to analyze my results eventually to determine the change in concentration of metformin due to solar radiation from the solar simulator.

This may just be the first week, but I have a feeling this will be a really fun and enlightening learning experience. I’m looking forward to what comes next!