My name is Alterra Sanchez. I am in my third year in the Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences doctoral program in environmental chemistry at the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) under the guidance of Dr. Alba Torrents and Dr. Lance Yonkos. My research is supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program award and an internship with DC Water's Blue Plains, the largest advanced wastewater treatment plant in the world. This support enables me to study the fate and transport of organic pollutants and microplastics in the wastewater treatment process and rivers. I have developed a method to make "weathered" microplastics for more realistic and standardized toxicology and sorption experiments. I have also created a method to measure the sorption of pharmaceutical and personal care product chemicals that sorb to microplastics during wastewater treatment using UHPLC/MS/MS. Currently, I am working on developing a method using micro-Raman spectroscopy to identify and count microplastics from wastewater effluent. This summer I will be studying the sorption of caffeine, venlafaxine (the antidepressant, Effexor), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), and DEET (mosquito repellant) to microplastics.
During my undergrad I was a research fellow in the Maximizing Access to Research Careers program funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences at San Diego State University (SDSU). I studied the effects of copper contamination on seagrass community structure for my undergraduate honors thesis. I found that seagrass and associated algae absorbed and retained significant amounts of copper long after exposure had stopped. I also found that seagrass epifauna (small organisms that live on the seagrass) were preferentially attracted to copper contaminated algae, which presents a possibility for bioaccumulation in higher trophic organisms that consume the epifauna. My research challenges the current dogma that heavy metals always deter and/or harm marine organisms.
Outreach through science education is my other passion, especially to youths in underserved communities. I also consider myself a public science advocate. I am a co-founder and past member of Making Waves, a student run organization at SDSU created to spread awareness about the marine environment to K-12 students through research and/or science based activities. I have been a mentor with the Native American Recruitment program at SDSU; whose goal is to promote academics in the Native community, as they have the lowest college enrollment rates in the nation. For the last four years, I have participated in the Learning Engineering and Design Program (LEAD), where I mentor high school girls at Elizabeth Seton High School through email about how to prepare for and survive college, how to get into research, and sharing what it’s like being a graduate student in science.
I am the social media coordinator for the Chesapeake Potomac Regional Chapter (CPRC) of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC). You can connect with CPRC SETAC on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin! Here you'll find info on funding opportunities, job postings, and CPRC news and meetings. Whenever there is a CPRC event, you can find live photos and videos on our Instagram!
My hobbies and interests include, but are not limited to (and not really in any order): yoga, baking, reading fantasy and science/action thriller novels, swimming, playing Dance Dance Revolution, Magic the Gathering card game, Goddess studies, neurological diversity, quantum physics, trying new foods, and metal concerts.
I have participated in multiple projects; for more information about myself, and my research, please see my C.V.