The Charger Blog

Charger Blogger Discusses Her Research and Career Goals

Beatrice Glaviano ’26, a nutrition sciences major, explains her research exploring microplastics, as well as the impact she hopes to make as she continues her research and powers her passion for examining the impact of nutrition on the human body.

March 13, 2024

By Beatrice Glaviano ’26

Beatrice Glaviano ’26.
Beatrice Glaviano ’26.

Greetings, everyone, and welcome to another addition of the Charger Blog with yours truly, Beatrice. While I know some readers have stuck with this blog from the very beginning (albeit I have no clue who you are), I’d imagine many of you aren’t familiar with how this blog came to be, and, well...

I melted a bunch of fish.

Yep. Fish melting. That’s how I got here.

Audience: [......]
Author, taking a sip from her coffee: [.........]
Author: “Okay let me explain – ”

To set the record straight, I ran a research project last year titled “The Estimated Concentration of Microplastics in Humans Due to the Consumption of Branzino (Dicentrarchus labrax) & Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata).” Lots of fancy words, I know. The study itself looked to find microplastics in the white tissue of two differing species of fish found in separate parts of the globe. The main concern behind my proposal was that if fish are accumulating microplastics (MPs) through the consumption of primary producers such as algae, then anyone who eats fish will also be eating plastics.

Crunchy, no? (I’m so sorry).

Given my position in nutrition, as well as being an advocate for the environment, I couldn’t just let this slide. The microplastic pandemic is a public health and marine wildlife crisis that must be acknowledged by the greater whole. At the end of the day, we rely so heavily on nature: our environment doesn’t only provide us with an adequate food source or means to produce food, but also shelter, building materials, and critical life factors such as oxygen and water.

In recent years, I’ve come to notice that human beings don’t tend to care about the environment until they’re affected by it, like getting a sunburn...or going through the dust bowl before getting slam-dunked by the Great Depression.

Beatrice Glaviano ’26 (right) with her friends.
Beatrice Glaviano ’26 (right) with her friends.

But that’s just me. If any successful CEO wants to eat their bodyweight in Target Tupperware, so be it. I’m sure the BPAs and PEs in there are gonna be real tasty.

As of recently, there have been multiple studies announcing the sickening discovery of microplastics (MPs) in human placentas. People have been sending me articles about it (i.e., my dad and professors), and I’m just standing here like:


I know I did research. I proved MPs are in our food – commonly eaten food, I may add. Yet, I cannot do anything without proper funding, equipment, and a lab to work in. For this upcoming SURF at UNew Haven, the steps of my new proposal are fairly simple:

  1. Determine the main types of plastics floating around in our oceans (i.e., PET, PE, etc.)
  2. Determine the chemical compounds of those plastics
  3. Test those chemicals on living cell or tissue cultures and observe the response

While this seems quite simple, I’m going to kick things up a little bit (who would I be if I kept things simple?). Lately, as I’ve written about at least twice, the gut microbiome has been kicking around in my mind a little bit. Sooooooo:

Bad plastic chemical + reaction of gut bacteria species =?

When the microbiome of the body is disturbed, not-so-great stuff tends to happen. This includes general dysbiosis, inflammation, change in bowel patterns, etc. Nothing very user friendly, if you catch my drift. What’s worse, conditions such as Type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer have been linked to the presence of microplastics, or at least the chemicals that comprise them.

For a long time, I never quite wanted to do research into cancer, as many people are working on a cure for it, but now... well, now I’m curious. What if we re-worked the human body through its own inhabitants (gut microbiome)? Bacterial species are amazing when it comes to breaking things down. Yeah, they can break down glucose and ferment things, but, dudes, there’s a species that can eat uranium.

Surely, if a species of bacteria can eat a literally radioactive element, we can find one that may target, prevent, or slow cancer cells from spreading in the body. The only issue with this is that one would need to make sure the bacteria would not harm other cells within the human body or cause a homeostatic imbalance of any surrounding organ system. Honestly, it’s all fairly theoretical and will probably take years to refine but...

It’s an idea.

And I really, really want to make this my life’s work.

People don’t believe nutrition is very important, as I’ve come to realize. Yet, when you realize that what you eat is the equivalent of using a power-up in a video game, that changes the game a little bit. Preventative care such as nutrition is all about changing the game for patients, helping to increase the quality of life in the least-invasive and painful way for them.

For this research in particular, I’d like to see what chemicals cause the worst, most adverse effects in tissue and do further research on those compounds. Certain things such as BPA (Bisphenol A) plastics have been linked to breast cancer, and these are chemicals found in menstrual products, which is a little ironic when you think about it. They can also be found in eyeglass lenses, toiletries, canned foods, and, of course, plastic containers.

I’m not saying this to tell anyone that we’re doomed,
Things aren’t looking fantastic currently.

[One week later]

Author, on her laptop at 10:15 p.m. “So...uh, updates?”

I cannot do anything gut microbiome related. Yet. Big on the “yet.” One of the quote-unquote “annoying” things about research is the fact that in order to get to the big things, you must accomplish the little things that will grant you reason to get to the bigger things. If I am to work my way up to study the gut microbiome’s interaction with different concentrations of microplastic-based chemical compounds, then I need to start where my research began:


But not the same fish, oh no: tetras, baby.

Tetras are a species of freshwater schooling fish. They’re about an inch long or so, and they’re decently easy to keep. When it comes to passing the proposal through the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, I need to have enough reasoning to justify the death of roughly one hundred tetras (or more) via toxic chemical dosing. Many times, the intelligence of a species can be determined by how bumpy the brain is. The more bumps and ridges (gyri vs. sulci), the more surface area, meaning more brain power.

If anyone knows the TikTok “smooth brain” audio, that’s what we’re going for here. Smooth brain = less brain power = less chance of being a ‘sentient’ organism. Given that tetras are:

  1. Small
  2. Smooth-brained
  3. Easy to keep alive
  4. Relatively cheap

I have reason to use them as my lab rats. Well, aquatic lab rats. Yeah.

Anyhow, the main reason for my research project is to look at the behavioral and morphological changes that could happen in tetras that are administered different doses of BPA or other chemical concentrates that are in association with microplastics. Currently, I believe either grinding up the plastics and administering it into the fish’s food would be most ideal, but I may have to add the plastics into the water in the form of a liquid solution (I’d probably use Xylene as my solvent). Then I pray I don’t mess with my equipment or commit accidental mass fish genocide in twenty-four hours or less.


I’ve gone from melting fish to becoming a fish death ray. Did I ever think this would be my life path? Absolutely not. Not in fifty gazillion years, even as a nutrition major.

Beatrice Glaviano ’26 was excited to visit New Hampshire.
Beatrice Glaviano ’26 was excited to visit New Hampshire.

Before leaving for New Hampshire for Spring Break, I was talking with Prof. Maggie Lyon and she mentioned that once you get into the “current” of something, it’s incredibly hard to get out. She compared this to white water rafting, in which if you fall out of your canoe, you keep your feet up and try not to drown. While I don’t believe this is drowning, I’ve definitely been caught into this river of research, and, boy do I never want to leave it. Research keeps me on my toes, both educationally and in a way, spiritually. Who I want to be, what I want to do with my life...research is not the entire answer to that, obviously, but it’s enabled me to be where and who I am now.

And who I am, where I am – those are pretty cool, guys. Like. I am literally going to a school that has allowed me to find who I am, what I’m meant to study, and given me such great opportunities to pursue and people to meet. In another lifetime, maybe this would’ve all happened at another college somewhere in a galaxy far, far away, but I doubt it. Too much has happened – heartbreak, falling, getting up, laughing, crying, getting annoyed at my chem homework, or not understanding why I couldn’t understand something – for this to just be another “thing.” I refuse to make my life mundane. Am I overworking myself? I don’t know, maybe. But you know what? I’m having fun.

I’m having fun, I’m learning, I’m doing, and I’m growing. That sounds like a pretty good college experience to me.

(I am choosing to ignore the ever-looming shadow of student debt. That is a later problem in all regards).

Anyhow, I’m going to get back to my regularly scheduled train schedule, and I will see you all after break!

Take care everybody, and safe travels.
Peace, love, and peanut butter,

Beatrice Glaviano ’26 is a nutrition sciences major at the University of New Haven.