Major/Minor: Environmental Science Major; Minors; Business Administration, Psychology
Hometown: Barre, MA
Research Project Name: Site Characterization and Comparison of Bacteria Populations of a Historic Diesel-Contaminated Site on Prudence Island, Narragansett Bay, RI
AC: We love hearing about your project but many students do not know the research you did. Can you explain what exactly you researched and why you chose that topic?!
AH: On Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay there is an old Navy T-Dock where they used to fuel ships before they were sent overseas. When they decommissioned the area the pipes and drums of diesel and oil were left on the island and leaked. Eventually around 2000, the piped and drums were removed and limited remediation (removal of contaminated materials) was performed. There is still a layer of petroleum products just under a few inches of sand on the beach next to the T-Dock. I was trying to determine if the bacteria had shifted or changed due to the oil spill being there for so long, and to see if I could find bacteria that could essentially eat a component of diesel fuel called naphthalene (NAP). We thought that if we could find a bacterium, or a group of bacteria that could break down NAP that we could manipulate the bacteria into breaking more of the fuel down to bioremediate (clean up) the site of the spill.
AH: My favorite part about completing the research is how much I was able to learn and the networking opportunities that I was presented with through the SURF RI program. I loved being able to solve a mystery. The most challenging part of research was learning that 99% of science is failure and that there is only 1% of the time when your experiment works…and then you have to try to replicate it again. I learned a lot from the experiments not working out as planned, because it is a giant puzzle where you have to try and figure out why it did not work, and what can be done to fix it. Just because you did not get the answer you were looking for or expected, does not mean that your answer is bad or wrong; it can actually lead to new exciting questions.
AH: I was lucky enough to actually work with one of my professors, Dr. Dan McNally, this past summer. All of my professors have encouraged me from day one to get into research because there is so much to learn outside of the classroom. Dr. McNally’s Human Impact on Land and Life course re-sparked my interest in direct conservation and experimental investigation.
AC: What is the Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Chemical and Biological Sciences?
AH: The Symposium was comprised of at least 44 institutions coming together with 208 student presenters as well as their faculty and judges at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. It was an opportunity to display and discuss our research with the science community and to learn how to defend our work and learn how to more effectively communicate our specialty to others.
AC: Can you tell us a little bit about your success with this symposium?
AH: I have always loved helping others learn, and I really enjoy being able to share what I am passionate about with others. This year, being a science tutor in ACE, I have found that I have really strengthened my communication skills in terms of communicating science to those in different areas of the field, or to those who are outside of science. When the judges came to my poster, I felt so excited to share my knowledge with them and with anyone who had questions. I was nervous, but once I started talking, the thrill of discovery came back to me and I just had to share. I was surprised to have won first place in my group because I went in with wanting to gain experience and to share what I had learned through my research.
AC: Congratulations! Any advice for those who are looking to complete research as an undergraduate at Bryant?
AH: Apply to everywhere and to everything that interests you. If it is even remotely in the field of your interest, give it a try. You never know what will spark your passion and interest, and where your research can lead you. Do not be afraid to try something new, and the friends, teachers, and mentors that you will gain are invaluable.