Skip to main content

Biology major’s research on parabens presented at national conference

Share on:

Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2023

A Westminster College biology major was able to present her undergraduate research project at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) annual conference in Austin, Texas, in January. 

Caroline Fox ’24, an honors student from Acton, Calif., presented “Exposure to Butyl-parabens Results in Developmental Abnormalities in Zebrafish.” Fox used Zebrafish embryos as a model organism to find if parabens—a chemical commonly used as a preservative in cosmetic products such as mascara, lip gloss, lotions and body scrubs—influenced fetal development. 

The parabens act as an endocrine disruptor in the human body, which interferes with the nuclear receptors for androgens, estrogens, progesterone and influences enzymes that metabolize natural hormones. 

Parabens have been found in fetal blood, indicating that they have the ability to cross the uteroplacental barrier—meaning that they are absorbed through the skin during pregnancy. 

Fox exposed zebrafish to different concentrations of butyl-paraben and were placed into two control groups—the E3 solution and the E3 with 0.1% dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). She found that there was enlargement of the pericardial sac and yolk sac during treatment, especially in the higher concentrations, and also a curved, deformed body. 

Her results indicated that parabens must interfere with the fetal developmental process. 

Dr. Marosh Furimsky, associate professor of biology at Westminster, served as Fox’s faculty mentor. 

“This experience allowed me to see other students’ research from different master’s and Ph.D. programs,” said Fox, who attended the conference with a travel aid grant from the Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research. “I found myself much more interested in the presentations about research more relevant to humans and medicine rather than plants and animals. This personally solidified my medical school choice as I found that human biology stood out more to me than the other fields.”

After graduating with the class of 2024 next year, Fox plans to attend Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine to become a physician. 

For more information on the Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research, contact director Dr. Karen Resendes at

For more information on the biology department, click here.??