Air Pollution and Brain Diseases (HS)

Lesson Overview


Students will have an opportunity to understand the research of SD scientist, Dr. Paula Mazzer. Dr. Mazzer has a PhD in Chemistry and has spent several years studying the relationship between environmental pollution and diseases. This unit is related to the Disciplinary Core Idea of Life Science and Earth Science in the South Dakota Science Standards, and focuses on the concepts of human impact on the environment and changes of an ecosystem affecting populations. It is connected to the science and engineering practices of analyzing and interpreting data and constructing explanations and designing solutions, along the cross cutting concept of cause and effect.

About the Scientist

Paula Mazzer

Institution: Dakota Wesleyan University

I was born in Michigan, while my father was finishing a PhD in biology. He was a mycologist, who studied mushrooms. My mother taught middle school life science, too, so I guess I was always destined to be interested in science. As a middle-school student myself, I read Dr. Eugenie Clark's books "Lady with a Spear" and "Lady with the Sharks" about working as a field biologist in the South Pacific and Florida. I was hooked, and was certain I wanted to study fish. I got an undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Delaware, and went to the University of Miami to study fisheries biology. However, while there, I took a class in toxicology, and discovered that was my greatest passion. The only problem was, there is an awful lot of chemistry in toxicology, and I had avoided chemistry like the plague all through school. So I did the only thing I could, and went and got a PhD in chemistry from Kent State University. My thesis research was on how the metal chromium could cause damage to DNA. Surprisingly, the movie "Erin Brockovich" came out while I was working on my dissertation. Not many chemistry graduate students have a major Hollywood movie released that is about their dissertation research! Then I did post-doctoral work at The Ohio State University, working at their Environmental Molecular Sciences Institute, looking at the aquatic toxicity of "black carbon" a pretty generic term which includes everything from charcoal to particulate air pollution. It was that work which inspired me to study particulate pollution - first in the lungs, and, more recently, in brain cells.