Justine E Nelson, BS

My research focuses on identifying potential silver and bighead carp toxicants through a novel method that resembles a modified medicinal chemistry approach for the development of human pharmaceuticals. This selective toxicant could be used to control these invasive species populations in the streams and rivers that lead to the Great Lakes. 


Generally speaking, I consider myself a chemical biologist. Currently, I am using biological assays to identify a small molecule that effectively harms bigheaded carps at low concentrations and is nontoxic to native species and the environment. This concept is applicable to the experiments biologists confront when developing a drug for cancer; it is important to be able to target and kill only the cancerous cells with the compound without harming the neighboring healthy cells or the body overall.

The modern screening paradigm designed for fish toxicant discovery, adapted from a medicinal chemistry model for human drug development, involves an initial determination of physical properties that lead to bioavailability in fish, followed by three phases that successively generate a cycle of optimization. The processes include: pre-screening of a chemical databank to select molecules possessing characteristics identified as predictive criteria for potential fish toxicity, initial cytotoxicity screening of selected compounds using in vitro cellular assays, and in vivo whole fish assays for toxicity screening of chemicals that showed potent cytotoxic effects. Using this technique provides a high-throughput method for identificiation of a species-specific piscicide. 


2015, BS, majors: Chemistry and Biopsychology, Viterbo University, La Crosse, Wisconsin