2022 Undergraduate Research Showcase


Challenges and Opportunities in Human Subjects Research: Assessing Glyphosate Exposure in Pregnant Women

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Student Presentation


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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Cynthia Curl


The herbicide glyphosate has become the world’s most popular agricultural chemical, the use of which has risen more than 12-fold in the last two decades. Recent epidemiologic research suggests that exposure to glyphosate may lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes. Despite the widespread use and potential toxicity, little research exists to quantify human exposure to glyphosate. This study aims to measure long-term glyphosate exposure in pregnant women and to attribute that exposure to agricultural and dietary sources. We recruited 40 women from whom we collected 1,395 urine samples throughout their pregnancies. We conducted quality assurance checks on the collected data and are working with the CDC to analyze glyphosate concentrations in a subset of the samples. Here, we aim to describe challenges and opportunities in conducting human subjects research in a vulnerable population – particularly during a global pandemic. Challenges included the need to revise protocols to eliminate “in-person” contact; inherent logistical obstacles to maintaining long-term contact with hard-to-reach populations; and difficulties with accurately and consistently assessing and resolving database issues. Opportunities included the collection of real-world data; the chance to provide aid to study participants; and the potential to build unique connections with those participants.

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