You may think that the last thing you’ll ever ingest, inhale, or absorb is the antifreeze that goes into your car. However, every year, hundreds of people are poisoned through exposure to ethylene glycol, a core ingredient of antifreeze, brake fluid, paint, and the ink used in ballpoint pens. It’s also been found in improperly prepared moonshine. Exposure to the odorless, colorless, sweet-tasting substance sometimes occurs by mistakenly drinking, breathing, or even touching it. It can lead to brain and nerve damage, kidney failure, shock, coma, and lung or liver damage. If not treated quickly, it can lead to death.
Junior chemistry student Jesus Cedillo,’20, wants to reduce incidents of accidental ingestion of ethylene glycol in common drinks such as orange juice and milk. He followed the lead of his mentor, FVSU instructor Dr. Robin Bright, and conducted research over the summer to detect concentrations of the substance using liquid chromatography. His paid experience was funded through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program. Ultimately, he hopes the work being performed by his research team will lead to prevention methods.
“Currently there is no quick and easy way to detect ethylene glycol before it enters the human body, so we hope to develop a method to do just that,” said Cedillo.
Cedillo was born in Perry, Georgia but grew up in Fort Valley. His FVSU experience has included networking, professional development, and academic opportunities. He’s presented his research finding at conferences in Washington, D.C. and Texas, and participates in the American Chemical Society and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. He’s gained confidence and ultimately plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry. He’s giving back to his peers by tutoring in chemistry and mathematics. He credits the faculty with helping him grow as a scholar.
“I was able to work with talented individuals and learn a lot about what it takes to do research in chemistry,” Cedillo said. “It helps you build confidence in yourself and allows you to experience what it is like to work in your chosen field before graduating.”