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Student Story

Joshlyn K. Mensah '22, Biology

Biology major Joshlyn Mensah may attend college in Brooklyn, but she recently spent time with another storied New York City institution on the upper west side of Manhattan.

The Columbia Undergraduate Science Journal (CUSJ) – published by Columbia University – chose Joshlyn as one of nine students to present their original scientific research at its Spring Research Symposium, this year held online on April 3, 2021. She was joined there by David Albro '23, another SFC biology major also selected.

An annual event, the CUSJ Spring Research Symposium features poster presentations summarizing work by undergraduates at Columbia and other colleges.

Joshlyn's presentation – on the health effects of fish consumption – is available for viewing online, as is David Albro's, on water quality testing. Joshlyn, who lives on Long Island, recently reflected on her research and her (virtual) path uptown to Columbia.

How did you connect with Columbia University for this symposium?

I usually have meetings with Dr. [Kathleen] Nolan, [Chair of Department of Biology and Health Sciences], weekly...and she told me that she would like for me to apply [to the symposium]. In a matter of a [little more than a] week after I applied on March 5th, they told me that I got accepted and they would like for me to present my work at their conference.

What was presenting there like?

The conference gave students the platform [to present] undergraduate research via zoom. The interesting thing was that we all had breakout rooms, and the judges and whoever else was interested could go into our breakout rooms to listen to us present.

What is the research that you shared?

My research is on the relationship between fish consumption and human health. I conducted a benefit and risk observational study on how consuming fish affects the human body, whether contaminants, such as methylmercury PCBs and other things present in fish offset its benefits. I was looking at fish from the Great Lakes and the Hudson River.

Results from my study showed more favorable outcomes when consuming fish. There is a negative association with the risk of osteoporosis, so we have to be careful with that. But we get nutritional benefits including calcium, vitamin D and omega 3 oils.

How did you originally embark on this research?

I started my research in late December [2020]. It was for an independent study with Dr. Nolan. I wanted to find something to do as a biology elective, and she gave me options. The interesting thing about research is the opportunity to present at conferences. That's why I wanted to do it.

I definitely want to continue doing research throughout my undergraduate years. I've been doing research since I was a freshman.

Have you presented at other conferences?

Yes. I did one at [Marymount] Manhattan College [the Eastern Colleges Science Conference in April 2019].

I also presented my work at Monmouth University in New Jersey at the 52nd MACUB (Metropolitan Association of College and University Biologists) in October 2019.

What are your plans after you graduate?

My interest is to go to medical school. I'm interested in studying adolescent medicine and in continuing to do research.

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