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Visiting students work with professors to research water resources management issues


   

Caitlin Grady Caitlin Grady

BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 12, 2009 – Undergraduate students visiting from universities across the continent, as well as one from Virginia Tech, are working with professors at Virginia Tech on individual research projects in a 10-week summer program that addresses issues related to sustainable management of water resources.

Participating students are

  • Alexander Baish, of Rockville, Md., who is a student at John Hopkins University;
  • Timothy Byrne, of Dallastown, Pa., who is a student at The Pennsylvania State University;
  • Stephanie DiBetitto, of Kinnelon, N.J., who is a student at the University of Vermont;
  • Sean Ezrol, of Leicester, N.C., who is a student at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts;
  • Shannon Flynn, of Spooner, Wis., who is a student at Michigan Technological University;
  • Caitlin Grady, of Norfolk, Va., who is a senior honors student majoring in humanities, science, and environment in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech;
  • Mari Love, of Sunrise, Calif., who is a student at Florida State University;
  • Maya Nadimpalli, of Leominster, Mass., who is a student at McGill University;
  • Benjamin Sawyer, of Chesapeake, Va., who is a student at Shenandoah University; and
  • Tiffany Sprague, of Harrisonburg, Va., who is a student at James Madison University.

The program is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF-REU), a three-year grant awarded to Virginia Tech in 2007. In its third and final year, the program has hosted 26 undergraduate researchers.

Each student chose from a list of water-related research topics and was assigned a research mentor in that field of study. Mentors come from the colleges of engineering, science, natural resources, and agriculture and life sciences. “Everyone does an individual research project, working with an advisor. On Fridays, the students come together, and we have forums and discussions about their research and related issues,” said Tamim Younos, associate director of Virginia Tech’s Virginia Water Resources Research Center and research professor of water resources in the Department of Geography in the College of Natural Resources, who directed the summer-long program.

Mari Love, a Florida State University student majoring in biology, is working with crop and soil environmental science professor Charles Hagedorn to research microbial source tracking, which can find the source of pollution in different types of water. “This experience has confirmed my desire to continue in microbiology, and I also think I’ve made some great contacts at Virginia Tech that will last with me through graduate school,” Love remarked.

Maya Nadimpalli, who attends McGill University in Montreal, is working with Madeline Schreider of the geosciences department to research the use of the Asian clam in detecting arsenic in drinking water. “It is exciting to do research that has never been conducted before, though our results can be sometimes frustrating as well as rewarding,” said Nadimpalli.

The group of researchers also includes one Virginia Tech student, Caitlin Grady, who has been working with Tamim Younos at the Virginia Water Resources Research Center for the past year. Since she has been studying water conservation and decentralized water systems, particularly in relation to the tourism industry in the Dominican Republic, her research included a trip to the Dominican Republic to collect data.

She says she has also enjoyed working with the other students. “It has been very great to live as a cohort with the other National Science Foundation students and learn about other research programs and undergraduate programs across the country,” Grady observed.

The National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduate fellows are selected competitively; the program emphasizes the recruitment of culturally diverse undergraduates who are underrepresented in water sciences and engineering or who may have few research opportunities at their home institution.