It’s easy to understand that chemical spills and other hazardous situations pose dangerous risks to human health; however, when it comes to everyday objects, most people don’t even think twice. Not so for Kerestin Goodman. Ever mindful that canned food offers a potential pathway for tin to enter the body, Goodman has dedicated her summer to studying the health effects of consuming this metal.

A Ph.D. student in chemistry and a Graduate Engineering Degree for Minorities (GEM) Fellow at Florida State University, Goodman participates in research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). This summer, Goodman is constructing a model to predict the absorption and excretion times of tin in the human body.

ORNL Graduate Student Research Profile: Kerestin Goodman

At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Kerestin Goodman, a Ph.D. student and GEM Fellow, studies the possible health effects of consuming heavy metals during her 10-week summer appointment.

The National GEM Consortium Program provides minority students opportunities to experience STEM-related research in national laboratory settings. The GEM program at ORNL is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy. Goodman studies uptake and effects of tin in humans within the Risk and Regulatory Assessment Group under the guidance of her mentor, Dr. Michael Bellamy.

“Our group focuses primarily on the health effects and risks of human ingestion, inhalation or injection of heavy metals and more importantly the dosage needed to cause minor to severe health effects within the body,” Goodman explained.

Goodman’s research will not only provide federal agencies, health facilities and food manufacturers with information about the recommended intake of tin, but it will also inform factory workers exposed to tin of the metal’s effects and treatment timelines.

She spent the early portion of her 10-week appointment collecting data, leaving the remaining weeks to organize the information and construct a comprehensive model of tin in the human body.

Goodman attributes her progress to the equipment, mentors and diversity at the lab.

“Having scientists from so many different backgrounds allows for different perspectives on a research project or a different way of solving a problem,” Goodman said. “I think having such a diverse group allows me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and have a more complete understanding of my research.”

The knowledge she gained during her participation in the GEM Program will allow her to find new methods of incorporating tin into the drug delivery research she is involved with at Florida State University, with her major advisor there, Dr. Geoffrey Strouse.

“I plan to use tin as a target metal for making more stable and durable platforms that can aid in the delivery and targeting of drugs to cancer cells as an alternative option for therapeutic treatment,” Goodman said.

Goodman recognizes the experience at ORNL as life-changing.

“I would strongly encourage incoming graduate students and first year graduate students to apply for this program, because it truly is a unique opportunity for students to see first-hand the type of research that they can be involved in after graduation,” Goodman said.

After completing her Ph.D. in chemistry, Goodman hopes to find a career that would allow her to work at ORNL full time. For now, she will continue to explore tin-related research. 

“I know fundamentally I have grown as a student, and I know I will be able to use my knowledge that I have gained here to further my doctorial research at Florida State University.”