GradImpact: Better Understanding Disease Progression A Single-Cell at a Time

    Sondrica Goines, a doctoral student in analytical chemistry at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, says she’s been math and science oriented since high school. Identifying her passion early has definitely paid off. She’s in her third year of the doctoral program and is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship recipient, the winner of the Winifred Burks-Houck Graduate Leadership Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, a member of the Department of Chemistry’s Graduate Committee for Professional Development and the Graduate Recruitment Committee, a student mentor, and hosts her own podcast, Curly Headed Chemist. Her research focuses on a group of synthetic chemical compounds called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which may sound complicated, so for a bit of context, we’ll start with a specific kind of PFAS.


    In 1938, a chemist accidentally discovered a chemical compound called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which was ultimately trademarked by DuPont as Teflon™ in 1945. The new product was revolutionary for its extremely high melting point and was used in a variety of applications, most notably, non-stick cookware. By 1948, DuPont was producing over 900 tons of Teflon brand PTFE.


    This is where Sondrica Goines and her research come in. PTFE is perhaps the best known of the PFAS, which are found in food packaging, commercial household products (e.g., Teflon), drinking water (because of the production process), and living organisms (animals and humans). In the 1990s, researchers discovered that this groundbreaking compound is absorbed into the body and can cause a long list of adverse health effects, including reproductive and developmental problems and cancers. Goines’s research focuses on exactly how PFAS molecules affect our health at the single-cell level. “They are a very persistent class of micropollutants,” Goines says. “If we can understand them at the single-cell level, we can better understand disease progression due to these pollutants.” To learn more about Sondrica’s work, visit the UNC-Chapel Hill website.


    Visit the GradImpact Feature Gallery to learn more about the amazing, innovative research being done by graduate students and alumni across the world.



    Photo Credit: Submitted by Sondrica Goines



    The CGS GRADIMPACT project draws from member examples to tell the larger story of graduate education. Our goal is to demonstrate the importance of graduate education not only to degree holders, but also to the communities where we live and work. Do you have a great story to share about the impact of master’s or doctoral education? Visit our WEBSITE for more information.


    CGS is the leading source of information, data analysis, and trends in graduate education. Our benchmarking data help member institutions to assess performance in key areas, make informed decisions, and develop plans that are suited to their goals.
    CGS Best Practice initiatives address common challenges in graduate education by supporting institutional innovations and sharing effective practices with the graduate community. Our programs have provided millions of dollars of support for improvement and innovation projects at member institutions.
    As the national voice for graduate education, CGS serves as a resource on issues regarding graduate education, research, and scholarship. CGS collaborates with other national stakeholders to advance the graduate education community in the policy and advocacy arenas.  
    CGS is an authority on global trends in graduate education and a leader in the international graduate community. Our resources and meetings on global issues help members internationalize their campuses, develop sustainable collaborations, and prepare their students for a global future.