Senior Erica Holland Already an Experienced Toxicology Researcher

“In order to succeed, you must fail,” motto drives star student to tackle tough real-world problems through science.

Sep. 11, 2019

After maintaining a 4.0 grade point average during her first few semesters at FVSU, senior Erica Holland was ready for another challenge. She joined FVSU’s Toxicology Research Internship Program, and soon was working with Dr. Robin Bright on a summer research project, determining whether l-lysine, an amino acid which helps move fat across cells to be burned for energy, was found in dietary products at the levels advertised. While generally considered safe for most people at appropriate levels, it can cause stomach pain and diarrhea and is reportedly linked to kidney disease and osteoporosis.

Holland tested the levels of l-lysine in several different dietary supplements by dissolving the supplements in either distilled water or hydrochloric acid and using a Raman spectrometer to determine the wavelengths of the samples. The hydrochloric acid, in particular, mimicked the conditions within the stomach. Her research found higher amounts of lysine in the products than were stated on the package.

“Dietary supplements are products that are not directly regulated by the government,” Holland said. “The responsibility of ensuring the product is safe is placed on the companies making the dietary supplements, healthcare professionals, and the consumers. This type of research is important because it shows a need for government to regulate dietary supplements as it would with other medical drugs.”

Holland enjoys research because it helps her utilize the information she is learning in her classes and apply it in solving real-world problems. Her relationship with the faculty are a key part of her FVSU experience, she said, because they go above and beyond expectations to help students. If she were at another school, she noted, she may be limited to time within scheduled appointments with faculty, whereas at FVSU, the faculty members she interacts with have open-door policies.

Holland doesn’t expect her work to be easy, however, and knows that success requires determination.

“In order to succeed, you must fail,” she said. “FVSU has made realize that everything is not going to turn out the way I want it. Although I can’t control the situation, I can control my reaction to it.”

“Nothing in life worth having comes easy,” she added. “You will have put in the work in order to find opportunities, but those endless hours of studying and talking to your professors will pay off.”

Main image caption: Erica Holland, ’20, and Dr. Robin Bright

Fort Valley State University