Studying the Forever Chemicals in Our Fish as Food: Postdoctoral Work by Daniele de Almeida Miranda

Author: Lily Brouder

Postdoctoral researcher Daniele de Almeida Miranda has had a career spanning several countries and scientific disciplines, but has one goal in mind: to keep the environment safe. 

Miranda received her bachelor’s degree from the Catholic University of Salvador in Brazil. While there, she completed an internship in environmental microbiology. She then went on to obtain her master’s degree in oceanography from the Federal University of Pernambuco and her doctoral degree in ecology from the Federal University of Bahia, both in Brazil. 

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Her international career path included an internship during her doctoral studies that took place at Stockholm University in Sweden. There, she examined per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in different environmental settings. The training during this internship included learning how to analyze these compounds in a variety of environmental matrices: aquatic and marine animals, soil, and pesticides.

When a job opportunity arose to examine PFAS in the Great Lakes, Miranda jumped at the opportunity to study the bioaccumulation of the compounds in fish from the Great Lakes. She does this working in combination for the department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Physics at the University of Notre Dame, under Professors Gary Lamberti and Graham Peaslee. 

“I applied everything that I had learned with those different environments to my first time working with the lakes here,” Miranda explained. “I applied my background to a different system.” 

PFAS is a group of 5000 compounds, but the classical techniques only have the capability to identify fewer than 100 of them. They are substances that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water, and are found in a variety of common household items, from fire extinguisher foam to non-stick pans, and cosmetics.

“PFAS are everywhere, and they are called ‘forever chemicals’ because they don’t degrade in the environment.” Miranda described.

Because they are carcinogenic and related to immune system deficiencies, it is important to understand the quantity of these compounds in the environment. In her work at Notre Dame, Miranda receives fish samples from the Great Lakes from collaborators at the United States Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She and others in the lab then analyze the amount of PFAS in the fish in order to assess human health risk. 

After her time at Notre Dame, Miranda hopes to become a professor to run her own lab focusing on the study of PFAS in these systems. “I want to keep studying them,” Miranda says of PFAS, “because I want a safe environment for all of us.”