In my first semester of Bowdoin College, my introductory chemistry class ignited myinterest in studying science. I became fascinated with the connection between observablemacroscopic properties and the underlying microscopic rules that govern them. To satiate mycuriosity, I pursued a degree in chemical physics and explored research projects in ProfessorsSoren Eustis and Kana Takematsu’s physical chemistry labs at Bowdoin College. My senior yearinternship with the Environmental Health Strategy Center (EHSC) focused these scientificinterests and curiosities towards environmental health.
I am now excited to bring my crossdisciplinarypassions to solving these environmental challenges by pursuing an environmentalengineering doctoral degree in the field of sustainable water treatment at Yale University.An invaluable component of my chemical physics major was my independent seniorresearch project, funded by a Maine Space Grant Fellowship, with Professor Takematsu. FromJanuary through December 2016, I conducted research on the mechanisms of intramolecularproton transfer in aminonaphthols. Throughout my project, I applied my theoreticalunderstanding of molecular physical chemistry to design experiments and rationalize theiroutcomes.
I performed measurements of my samples using UV/Visible absorption spectroscopyas well as steady-state and time-resolved fluorescence emission spectroscopy. I also learned toprogram and analyze my data using MATLAB. To supplement my experimental results, Iutilized Gaussian, a computational program based in quantum chemical modeling, to calculatepredicted data. I then compared these predicted and experimentally determined results toelucidate the interaction between the aminonaphthols’ two proximal proton-binding sites. Thisexperience allowed me to deeply explore the relationship between a molecule’s structure and itsreactivity in both its ground and excited states. In the fall of 2016, I received the Grua-O’ConnellFellowship to present my research at the American Chemical Society national conference andwas selected to participate in the Physical Chemistry Workshop for Undergraduate Research.
Here, my interactions with scientists in various stages of their careers sparked my interest inattending graduate school.Outside of school, it was my internship with EHSC in the spring of 2017 that directed myscientific interests towards tackling environmental challenges, particularly water usage andtreatment. My daily phone calls to constituents and grassroots lobbying efforts helped to passlegislation allocating funds for people to install expensive filtration systems that would removearsenic and other heavy metal contaminants from their drinking water. As a chemist, intriguedby these heavy metal interactions, I decided to further research developing efforts to treat water.
In my advanced inorganic chemistry seminar, I wrote a paper and presented a talk focused onmagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles engineered for the removal of heavy metals in drinking water.Throughout this project, I utilized my knowledge of how atomic structure affects a molecule’sfunction to deeply understand the design of such technologies. I was able to synthesize my skillsin understanding chemical properties with my knowledge about the broader necessity for thesewater treatment systems. It was through this endeavor that I uncovered a field of research thatmerged my interests in chemistry and mathematics with my developed passion for environmentalissues. I knew that I wanted to pursue environmental engineering at a graduate level.
This multidisciplinary nature of environmental engineering is what particularly inspiresme to pursue it as a career. Environmental engineers must simultaneously be chemists whounderstand the aquatic environmental fate of pollutants, engineers who design technologies toremediate these pollutants, and economists who analyze the market feasibility of thesetechnologies. Only when all of these perspectives are thoughtfully considered can watertreatment systems be implemented to their maximal impact. I am excited about the Environmental Engineering program at Yale because it inherently challenges people of alldisciplines to analyze their data through these different lenses. The labs of Professor JulieZimmerman and Professor Desiree Plata exemplify this through their close linkage with bothEnvironmental Studies and Green Chemistry. Working in these research labs would afford methe opportunity to couple my interests in sustainable water treatment designs and environmentalchemistry. I am particularly excited about Professor Zimmerman’s work studying green sorbentsto remove inorganic contaminants.
This research overlaps well with my interest in remediatingheavy-metal drinking water contamination that I developed during my internship. In my graduateresearch at Yale, I would look forward to contributing to the dynamic field of water treatment bybridging disciplines and providing comprehensive analyses of water treatment technologies.This year, I have been working as a science and math teaching fellow at the elementaryand middle school levels. After earning my PhD, I would like to utilize my research, teaching,and fieldwork experience to be professor, as this would allow me to teach and conduct researchat the science-engineering-policy nexus. I am confident that pursuing my PhD in EnvironmentalEngineering from Yale would be an opportunity for me to critically examine water usage andtreatment from a variety of perspectives, and thus prepare me for engaging in extensive wateranalysis in my future careers.