MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Andrea Armstead, a graduate student in the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy’s Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences program, recently received a first-place podium presentation award for her research on the effects of hard metals on lung cells.

Armstead presented her research at the 4th Annual American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) Pittsburgh Chapters Student Research Symposium.

Student chapters of AAPS provide career development opportunities for graduate students interested in the field of pharmaceutical sciences, and the annual symposiums give post-doctoral researchers, pharmacy and graduate students a chance to showcase their research. Armstead was one of six abstracts selected to provide an oral presentation.

“Abstracts were selected in a competitive review process for the podium presentation,” Armstead said. “Being selected to discuss my research was an honor in itself.”

Armstead’s presentation, “Hard Metal (WC-Co) Nanoparticles Induce Cellular Toxicity and Apoptosis in a Dose-Dependent Manner,” dealt specifically with the effects of tungsten carbide cobalt (WC-Co), a hard metal often used as a coating for tools in the mining and drilling industries. As tools break down over time, particles containing tungsten carbide cobalt are released into the air and can create hazardous health effects if breathed in.

This type of research — referred to as nanotoxicology —  is an emerging field as the use and production of nanomaterials and nanoparticles in industry and consumer products continues to increase.

“I am interested in nanotoxicology not only because I think nanoparticles are fascinating and have a huge potential for applications, but because I am concerned with what happens to people when they are exposed to these materials,” Armstead said. “It was great to have a chance to present my research to people outside of WVU and to be recognized for all of the hard work I have put into my project for the last two years.”

Armstead’s tungsten carbide cobalt research is supported through the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education (AFPE) 2012 Pre-Doctoral Fellowship she received. AFPE Fellowships are awarded to outstanding pre-doctoral students nationwide, who have completed at least three years of graduate study, to encourage them to continue their pursuit of pharmaceutical sciences.

Armstead says she plans to continue her research to help improve public understanding of nanotoxicity and establish guidelines.
“I want to be an expert in nanotoxicity so that I can help drive the research which will ultimately improve healthcare, determine guidelines for occupational exposure limits and help develop effective policies regarding the use of nanomaterials in the future.”

Armstead conducts her research under the guidance of her mentor, Bingyun Li, Ph.D., associate professor in the WVU School of Medicine Department of Orthopaedics.

Armstead is a native of Topeka, Kan. She received her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Washburn University. She will graduate from the WVU School of Pharmacy’s Ph.D. program in May 2014.

For more information: Amy Newton, School of Pharmacy, 304-293-7192