Van Ortega


PhD Candidate

The nanotechnology industry has grown substantially in recent years with the development of newer more stable nanoparticles (NPs). This growth has led to an estimated 1000+ consumer products that currently use NPs, but it has also provoked increasing concerns over the potential and unknown toxicity of these small (<100 nm) engineered particles that possess novel physico-chemical properties. Furthermore, with expanding production, it is inevitable that many will end up in both terrestrial and aquatic environments, either during the production stage or when products are disposed into landfills, and while data on the effects of NPs on fish have been generated for some NPs, it has lagged behind industrial production and diversification of NPs leading to a growing disparity between the development of regulatory guidelines and the release of NPs into the environment. The immune system has proven to be a highly sensitive endpoint of nanoparticle exposure with effects ranging from over-activation to suppression of inflammatory processes. My research focuses on the potential for NP to modulate immunity using various model systems such as cell lines, primary cell cultures and whole animals. My interest in this research program stems from a fundamental curiosity in the science of environmental contamination, and of the effects that contaminants have on biological systems. This interest led me to pursue a MSc. that examined the physiological and behavioural changes in fish when exposed to environmental ammonia. I also have several years of experience working in the turbid waters of environmental consulting. When not in the lab, I enjoy traveling, the outdoors and training for endurance races.