C-MEDS Interns Focus on Dispersant Research and Community Outreach

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C-MEDS undergraduate interns presented their work at the 2012 Summer Research Academy Symposium.  From left to right, front row: Julie Kaiga, Elise Mills, Sinead Holleran, Melanie Sebastian; back row: Ta’Ryan Lloyd, Aurielle Modster, Brian Broom-Peltz, Steven Nguyen. Not pictured: Tyler Nesmith, Nicholas Altieri, and Rebecca Tamayo. Photo Credit: David Maag, Tulane

(Click to enlarge) C-MEDS undergraduate interns presented their work at the 2012 Summer Research Academy Symposium. From left to right, front row: Julie Kaiga, Elise Mills, Sinead Holleran, Melanie Sebastian; back row: Ta’Ryan Lloyd, Aurielle Modster, Brian Broom-Peltz, Steven Nguyen. Not pictured: Tyler Nesmith, Nicholas Altieri, and Rebecca Tamayo. Photo Credit: David Maag, Tulane

Ten undergraduate students from Louisiana spent their summer conducting research with expert scientists who are actively pursuing advanced understanding of dispersants for improved oil-spill response. These interns also helped local elementary school students with hands-on experiments to spark interest in pursuing science that matters to their communities.

The students had a valuable experience in learning the science behind the design of dispersants, visualizing oil breakup by dispersants through advanced imaging, and in understanding the translation from laboratory scale experiments to application in ocean environments. – Dr. Vijay John

With support from a Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GOMRI) award, the Consortium for the Molecular Engineering of Dispersant Systems (C-MEDS) hosted a ten-week Summer Research Academy program. Dr. Vijay John, Director of C-MEDS, and his outreach team worked with the Tulane Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching and the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates Program at Louisiana State University to select interns and pair them with established scientists in their field of study. A high school educator participated in their research to learn additional teaching methods.

The ten-week program culminated with two events:  a Science Demonstration Day with elementary school students and the Summer Research Academy Symposium with presentation on research results and learning.

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K-7 students from St. James Methodist Church Summer Camp in New Orleans, LA participated in the Science Demonstration Day. The goal of this outreach activity was to introduce young students to the field of science and show that it plays a part in everyday life.  The C-MEDS interns discussed the importance of research and then led students in hands-on science experiments about chemical reactions using “Baking Soda and Vinegar Volcano” and “Oil and Water Don’t Mix” demonstrations.

As one of the program coordinators, I saw first-hand the hard work and enthusiasm of the undergraduates while preparing for and engaging the elementary school students.  As a parent of two campers, I witnessed the excitement of the campers who loved the “hands-on” lab experience and the unique opportunity to learn from young scientists. – Bennetta Horne

The core of the interns’ work was their dispersant-related research.  At the August symposium, these undergraduate students presented their work:

Meet the 2012 C-MEDS Summer Interns
and their Mentors

Nicholas Altieri, Tulane
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Dr. Henry Ashbaugh

Brian Broom-Peltz, Tulane
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Dr. Vijay John

Sinead Holleran, Tulane
Chemical Engineering and Physics
Dr. Henry Ashbaugh and
Dr. Lawrence Pratt

Julie Kaiga, Tulane
Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Vijay John

Ta’Rayan Lloyd, Louisiana State University
Chemical Engineering
Dr. Louis Thibodeaux

Elise Mills, Tulane
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Dr. Papadopoulos Kyriakos

Aurielle Modster, Tulane
Environmental Biology
Dr. Roshir Pesika

Tyler Nesmith, Louisiana State University
Chemical Engineering
Dr. Krishnaswamy Nandakumar

Steven Nguyen, Louisiana State University Chemical Engineering
Dr. Louis Thibodeaux

Melanie Sebastian, Tulane
Biochemistry,
Dr. Noshir Pesika

Rebecca Tamayo, Tulane
Public Health
Dr. Vijay John

Modster and Sebastian: Replicating Surface Chemistry and Topography of Marshland Grasses via Polymer Molding Techniques

Broom-Peltz: Synthesis and Characterization of Ultra-Thin Shell Hollow Silica Microspheres for Pickering Emulsions of Oil in Water

Mills: Oil and Bacteria Transport in Porous Media via Packed-Bed Capillary Microscopy

Kaiga and Tamayo: Microbes Eat Gulf Oil Spill – Electron Micrographs of Indigenous Oil-Degrading Bacteria at the Oil-Water Interface

Altieri: Investigations into Molecular Volumes of Sodium Decyl Sulfate (SDeS)

Holleran: Primitive Hydrophobic Interactions from Analysis of Spontaneous Formation of Atomic-Scale Cavities in Liquid Water

Nguyen: Soluble Chemical Dissolution-Produced Sinker Oil (Solute-Sinking) from Seep-Sea Spill with and without Dispersant

Lloyd:  Volatile Chemical Evaporation-Produced Sinker Oil (EVAPO-SINKING) from Sea-Surface Slick with and without Dispersant

Nesmith:  Mass Transfer Characteristics of Organic Drops in Water

The C-MEDS Summer Research Symposium was held in conjunction with the annual NSF-sponsored Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program, Enhancing Diversity in Environmental Biology (EDEB). At the symposium, five students in the EDEB program presented their research on breast cancer (Diari Gilliam and Karry Wright); reconstructing seed bank profiles (Jeremiah Jackson); marine diversity and water quality in the Tana River System, Kenya (Maya Patterson); and temperature impacts on northern cricket frogs (Tammy Vo).

The C-MEDS project includes twenty-two research institutions in seventeen states.  Together, scientists from these institutions lead a focused effort to understand the role of dispersants and related chemical compounds in mitigating the effects of deep-sea hydrocarbon releases and in designing the next generation of dispersants.  Their overall research objective is to address the question, “What needs to be done if a Deepwater Horizon type spill happens again?”

This research is made possible by a grant from The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI).  The GoMRI is a 10-year, $500 million independent research program established by an agreement between BP and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon incident and the potential associated impact of this and similar incidents on the environment and public health.

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