Summer Science Fellow Researches Composting to Heed Warning
Danielle Kieck ’14, a Chemistry major and Biology minor, has been busy in the campus labs all summer deep in a research project that she hopes will raise basic awareness of community composting and the risks associated with it. She is a Summer Science Fellow who was awarded a grant from the School of Arts and Sciences to help fund her project, which she started researching in the spring semester.
Her project is entitled, “Determination of Clopyralid Levels in Local Community Composts.” Clopyralid is an herbicide that gets into composts from treated lawn clippings. With composting becoming increasingly popular, Kieck is hoping to make people more aware of what clopyralid is, as well as how it and other pesticides and herbicides get into composts, so they can make changes to ensure that their composts stay free of these chemicals.
“People are allowed to add organic material to the community compost and also take what they want for fertilizer. If they are aware of what may be harmful, they can make a more conscious decision on what to add,” she said.
Kieck also said she wanted to do the research to continue to expand her knowledge and confidence in a laboratory setting. She is being supervised by Dr. Kim Chichester, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, whom she says gives her a lot of freedom to make decisions about her research plan and explore new techniques.
After doing significant preliminary research and reading, Kieck came up with a proposal for the Summer Science Fellow committee. Once summer began, she continued her research and started testing extraction methods. Her goal is to determine the best extraction and detection methods by the end of the summer, along with collect-and-test compost samples. She said she will continue her research into the fall semester, which will involve collecting more data on clopyralid levels from local composts and data analysis.
With it being quieter on campus during the summer months, Kieck said she enjoys being able to access the labs and equipment more easily.
“It has been a different experience doing research over the summer. I have had more access to the instruments and laboratory equipment with only a few other students using the labs,” she said. “I also feel like I have been able to learn more in the time I have spent doing research over the summer because my advisor is always available to help and I have had a lot of time to play with all the different instruments to learn how they work.”
And while Kieck has no plans to try to publish her research, she is planning on presenting at several conferences over the next year. She has already submitted her abstract to present at PITTCON, the world’s largest annual premier conference and exposition on laboratory science. And she hopes to present here at Fisher and at the American Chemical Society regional conference.
It looks like Kieck caught the research bug permanently, as she plans to pursue a career in pharmaceutical research.
The Summer Science Fellow Program is funded by the School of Arts and Sciences, and allows undergraduate students majoring in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics to engage in an intensive summer research program under the supervision of a faculty member from one of those programs. Students selected as Summer Science Fellows are eligible to receive a summer stipend up to a maximum of $3500 or tuition remission (up to a 3 credit maximum) for the course associated with their summer research activity. In addition, the student projects selected are eligible to receive up to $800 that they could use to purchase project supplies or to fund their attendance at a professional conference this year. Those projects that received funding were selected by the Science Fellow Award Committee, made up of faculty from the School of Arts and Sciences.