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Lindsay Piraino receives a Roiser award at CMSR

Friday, October 25, 2019

Lindsay Piraino

(From Left) Dr. Schwarz, Lindsay Piraino, and Dr. Awad

At the Annual Center for Musculoskeletal Research (CMSR) Symposium 9/26/19 Lindsay Piraino received a pre-doctoral Rosier award for her talk entitled, “Engineered Salivary Gland Tissue Chips.” Congrats Lindsay!

Towers of styrofoam turn from trash to recycling

Monday, September 30, 2019

Group photo


Styrofoam is one of the most popular plastics. It is easy and cheap to manufacture. Styrofoam is one of the most commonly used ways to keep items cool in the medical field. It is also something that cannot be recycled in a recycling bin.  

One group at the University of Rochester Medical Center is hoping to do their part in getting rid of the mountains of Styrofoam.

“We’ll get a shipment of a tube about this size,” said Francesca Agobe, referring to a small tube around the size of a pinky finger. “That will be the only thing in something super big.” 

Agobe is a grad student at URMC and found that getting rid of them properly is not as easy as it seems. “I was trying to clean out my lab and I asked where can I recycle the Styrofoam, and I was told I just have to throw it in the trash,” said Agobe. 

While many Styrofoam boxes are recyclable plastic, curbside recycling will not take them because of the type of plastic. The only way to properly recycle them is to visit the Eco Park in Monroe County if you are a resident there. 

Agobe was tired to see so much head into the landfill, or worse, in the environment. A major problem with Styrofoam is its ability to easily break apart into small beads, called micro-beads. So small that they become completely invisible to the naked eye.

Post-doctoral Associate Greg Madejski is studying impacts of microplastics that end up in our bodies. He says that it is everywhere, for example all drinking water.

“The smaller it is, the more likely it is that it will stay inside you and cause long term damage,” said Madejski.  

Some of his work focuses on filtering out microbeads that are a few microns in size. A clear glass of water can produce many microplastics. Enough was enough, and a team at the University posted in the hallway collecting clean Styrofoam boxes. 

The group brought them to a private company that was willing to accept the Styrofoam and recycle it.

Read More: Towers of styrofoam turn from trash to recycling

DeLouise Lab Organizes Styrofoam Recycling Event

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Monday, September 30 | 10:00 am-12:00 pm | Sarah Flaum Atrium, URMC

Does your lab have stacks of styrofoam taking up space? Recycle it! To combat the harmful effects of microplastic particles on human health and the global environment, the University of Rochester Medical Center invites you to bring unwanted styrofoam for recycling. The recycling drive will accept all kinds of styrofoam, but please remove any tape, stickers, or labels before dropping it off. There will be a raffle for Finger Lakes Coffee Roaster gift bags. For information about this event, please contact Francesca Agobe.

Read More: DeLouise Lab Organizes Styrofoam Recycling Event

URMC researchers focus on potential health impact of microplastics in drinking water

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

What's in your drinking water? Plastic polluting our waterways is a growing health concern. 

Researchers with the University of Rochester Medical Center are focusing on the smallest of particles, invisible to the human eye.

The concern about pollutants is also changing how they want to set up their labs for the research. When one graduate student saw how much Styrofoam was being used, she decided to make a change.

"This tiny tube will come in a box like this," Francesca Agobe said. "This is all that's in the box. It has to be kept cold. It's a huge waste of space to have this amount of Styrofoam that can't be recycled and is thrown away, degrades into the environment. 

That's just one example of the Styrofoam littering labs, so Agobe decided to do something about it. She's organizing a hospital-wide collection of Styrofoam, partnering up with local company Thermal Foam.

The challenge is in how expensive it is to recycle the material, but it's an important mission as researchers learn just how many microplastic particles, including Styrene from Styrofoam, are in our drinking water.

"If you hold up a glass of water, you'll never see any of this stuff," Greg Madejski, a postdoctoral associate of biomedical engineering, said. "But because we have this filter, we can concentrate all the debris in that space, lay it out flat, and open our eyes to the diversity of particles that are possible."

The biomedical engineering team at URMC is developing tools to put in the hands of researchers to look at the tiny particles and the potential impact they have on your health.

The team is also trying to track the pollutants to find where they start in the water source and how they move through the water filtration stages. 

Read More: URMC researchers focus on potential health impact of microplastics in drinking water