EPA Star: Science to Achieve Results Graduate Fellowship

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

My experiences in science have been unique and diverse. My undergraduate research in physical organic chemistry sparked my interest in analytical techniques. As a forensic chemist, I learned about the importance of science communication with the public. My graduate studies have taught me about the impacts of anthropogenic activities on our atmosphere, and have integrated my enthusiasm of analytical chemistry with the necessity for improved public outreach. All of my experiences have prepared me for a career in atmospheric science, performing research that will shape public policy and improve our countrys health and well-being.

Background Information
As a student at Barnard College of Columbia University, I was fortunate to obtain a liberal-arts education that boasts the benefits and challenges of a large Ivy League university. I was very successful in my chemistry major and received multiple awards, including The American Chemical Society Excellence Awards in both Organic and Analytical Chemistry and the American Institute of Chemists Award given to an Outstanding Senior Chemistry Major. I was funded to perform my research as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Intern in my junior year, and I was on the Deans List for my entire tenure.
After receiving my bachelors degree, I was employed as a forensic scientist by the New York City Police Department. I was exposed to the enormous disconnect between science and its public perception: Television shows about forensic analysis are wildly exaggerated, and reports in news media about misconduct rarely paint an accurate picture of why forensic laboratories close and what is done to improve quality control and assurance. I realized that scientific education and communication is extremely important in allowing the public to understand scientific methods and results so that policy decisions based on science can be thoughtfully and appropriately made.
The opportunities afforded to me at Arizona State University have allowed me to apply my passion for analytical chemistry to studying atmospheric processes. I was funded by ASUs Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in my first semester, and then received funding through ASUs College of Liberal Arts and Science for the following year to develop compound specific stable isotope analysis methods. Due to the ongoing success of my research, I have been nominated as a Roche/ARCS Foundation Scholar for two years, I was awarded a scholarship from the Grand Canyon Section of the Air and Waste Management Association (A&WMA), and I was recently a recipient of the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Graduate Excellence Award. I also received a Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award from the ASU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. While succeeding as a graduate research assistant and teaching assistant, I have also been able to maintain a 4.00 GPA.

Academic and Environmental Career Goals
I am currently studying the processing of organic compounds in fog and clouds using carbon stable isotope analysis. Atmospheric models tend to underestimate the amount of particulate organic carbon, and a possible reason for this is improper accounting for the formation of particles in aqueous phase reactions. I want to determine the full effect that these reactions have on the atmospheric carbon budget and clarify questions that still remain regarding secondary organic aerosol formation.
My academic work is preparing me to achieve my career goal of working with environmental agencies performing collaborative research with local air pollution agencies that would ultimately improve air quality in highly polluted regions and shape policy decisions. I am using instrumentation that is ubiquitously used in atmospheric analysis, and my research group has previously collaborated with local (Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Pinal County Air Quality Department) and national (EPA, NPS) stakeholders as well as private companies (Intel) in environmental studies.

Broader Impacts
In addition to laboratory work, outreach activities have been an important component of my chemistry studies; I have always felt that exposure to the excitement of chemistry at a young age would help students develop an interest in science. As an undergraduate student, I founded Barnard Colleges student affiliate chapter of the American Chemical Society and served on the executive board for three years. Our most notable efforts had been in creating fun and interactive science experiments for children and demonstrating them at ACS National Chemistry Week events, Siemens Science Day at Columbia University, Nano Day in New York, and public schools in New York City.
In the spring of 2015, I led a team of graduate students in developing a museum demonstration kit that explains the urban heat island effect. The kit is aimed to encourage participation and discussion of the topic with all age and education levels. The kit was first demonstrated by my group at the Arizona Science Center in March, and since then, the Center has used the kit as a supplement to their in-house urban heat island exhibit. Through ASUs Center for Nanotechnology in Society, I have participated in workshops to help build communication skills of scientists with the public, and I will be participating in a course this fall that will allow me to create a museum demonstration kit based upon my own research. I am hoping that these kits will allow the public to understand problems in atmospheric chemistry, think about the effects of anthropogenic emissions on our health and environment, and learn ways that they can aid in ameliorating the effects of pollution on air quality.
I am currently working with undergraduate students at Arizona State University, showing them proper care and handing of field samples and teaching them how to use our instrumentation and interpret their results. I am hoping that their research experiences will be as rewarding as mine and will aid them in pursuing gratifying careers in atmospheric science after graduation.
I am affiliated with several professional organizations, including the ACS, A&WMA, Association for Women in Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and American Association for Aerosol Research. All of these affiliations allow me to network with scientists in a variety of disciplines and keep abreast of new advances in my field.

Conclusion
Receiving an EPA STAR Fellowship would be an immense benefit to my graduate studies. The fellowship would allow me to work full-time on my research project, expand my sample analysis capabilities, and present my research at academic conferences, such as those of the American Association for Aerosol Research and the American Geophysical Union. I will also be able to attend technical courses focused on new developments in stable isotope analysis, such as the Advances in Stable Isotope Techniques and Applications Conference.
All of my academic and career experiences have provided me with the skills necessary to begin a successful career as an atmospheric chemist. I have knowledge of how particulate matter created by pollution affects our health, expertise in instrumental techniques needed to perform research in atmospheric chemistry, and an understanding of the need for better scientific outreach to the public. I have always brought great focus and enthusiasm to all of my laboratory experiences, and I am confident that my background and experience makes me a strong candidate for this opportunity.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date3/31/168/31/18

Funding

  • US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): $51,000.00

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