Lake Superior State University students have demonstrated once again that they can be formidable competitors among their peers when it comes to research. Recently, three LSSU chemistry students received top awards in the undergraduate part of a competition that examined student research in their field.
Christopher Gravatt is exploring a method of scrubbing petroleum hydrocarbons from soil and groundwater. Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) associated with petroleum become trapped in soil due to their insoluble nature. These contaminants slowly leach out of soil to contaminate groundwater. One common method of removing these contaminates is by pumping out the groundwater, treating it at the surface, and then returning it via a spray application. This is a long, repetitive process. Gravatt's study proposes the synthesis and deployment of novel biodegradable organic surfactants that would isolate insoluble soil contaminants near the groundwater layer for rapid and safe removal. Gravatt is a senior in environmental chemistry from Escanaba, Mich.
Megan Keway, left, eyes a sediment sample from Ashmun Bay with Professor Ashley Moerke of LSSU’s Aquatic Research Laboratory. Keway was helping Moerke’s team collect samples that are important to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study of the ‘health’ of the St. Mary’s River. LSSU’s School of Biological Science and Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science is involved in the three-year, $715,000 project.
"Our students received the top awards in the undergraduate competition," said Prof. Barbara Keller Ph.D., chair of the department of chemistry and environmental science. "They really did an outstanding job and seemed to surprise the competition."
Titles of a few of the senior research projects include:
- Analysis of 2,4-D in Sediment Samples Taken from Paradise Lake, MI – Ben McPhail
- A Spatial Analysis of Greenhouse Gasses and Household Income – Scott Sowers
- Alternative Management of Anaerobic Landfill Bioreactors for Improved Energy Potential – Josh Kuzimski
- Trace Metal Biogeochemistry in the Munuscong River Watershed, MI – Jordan Ernst
- Atmospheric Deposition of Acid Species and Heavy Metals in Sault Ste. Marie, MI - Alan Bloch
Student researchers collecting sediment cores on the St. Marys River.