Every day before the sun rises, Loreen Lamoureux is already working in the lab.

“I try to start work by at least 5:30 in the morning,” she said. “I usually start work very early in the morning, and when I am there, I tend to work extremely hard.”

Lamoureux, a biomedical engineering graduate student at UNM, is currently researching early detection methods for E. coli in beef that is sold in stores for general consumption.

“Right now the (United States Department of Agriculture) requires screening for six different types of E. coli in beef samples from the slaughterhouse,” she said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have ways to rapidly detect E. coli in those samples. It takes a minimum of three days — essentially, from the time you take a sample and process it — to confirm whether you have one of those different types of pathogenic E. coli in the beef.”

Lamoureux, 32, said this research will have an integral effect in food safety nationwide.

“My research is important not only to UNM, but to everyone,” she said. “We are essentially trying to increase the safety of the food chain through these early detection methods. It is important to each of us individually all across the United States.”

Sickness from E. coli is particularly aggressive in children, which is one reason the development of better early detection methods is critical, she said.

“Children tend to be primarily affected by genotoxin producing E. coli,” Lamoureux said. “When they are affected they tend to develop kidney failure, so it’s actually one of the primary causes of acute kidney failure in children.”

The technology made accessible by this research is beneficial to the University as well, she said.

“The machine that I work with, the Waveguide Biosensor, is only currently licensed to be used at Los Alamos National Labs,” said Lamoureux. “It is very possible we may be able to license it for use elsewhere in the future, and UNM is one of those places.”

Having graduate students from UNM working at Los Alamos National Laboratories is great for enhancing communication between the two institutions, she added.

“It’s really good to have graduate students who are associated with UNM because of our collaborative relations,” she said. “We need work on talking with each other as researchers instead of isolating ourselves into small groups.”

Lamoureux said that she strives to enjoy what she does for a career, and that every day is a new experience in the workplace.

“I feel like, at this point in my life, I do enjoy my work immensely. It is very rewarding regarding what I learn every day,” she said. “No day is like the previous day, and I really enjoy that. It’s good to know that I am contributing to the overall good and benefit of mankind.”