Erin Baker of Pacific Northwest National Library is featured in this video discussing her research. She wants to learn more about xenobiotics - substances that enter our bodies, and how they affect our health. They may come from anywhere in the environment or our food.
In her lab, she is able to detect foreign substances like pesticides or pollutants in samples taken from the human body and from the environment. A routine detection technique called ion mobility is used to separate the molecules from each other when they are in the gas phase.
This is an important area of research; we are affected by the world around us, and the interactions between the molecules in our body and the stuff outside of it is not always positive. Many researchers study their areas of interest with a specific focus that is often required to understand precise mechanisms, but doesn't always take the greater context of physiological processes and our broader environment into account. This work aims to improve that understanding of how our health fits into a big picture.