SPOTLIGHT ON SUMMER RESEARCH

Photo by Ayla Safran ’18  Ali worked in an atmospheric chemistry lab.

Photo by Ayla Safran ’18

Ali worked in an atmospheric chemistry lab.

BY ALEXANDRA SINGH ’18

I worked in Greenslade’s lab for about nine weeks full-time, using several different instruments such as differential mobility analyzer (DMA), condensation particle counter (CPC), cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRD) and BET methods to determine size distributions, surface areas and the effects of increased humidity on several different types of clay and mineral dusts.

Going into this internship, I was very unsure what field(s) of chemistry I was interested in pursuing after graduation and whether or not I was interested in attending graduate school. After working in Greenslade’s lab, I learned that I thoroughly enjoyed her research and using physical and analytical chemistry techniques within an environmental chemistry field. I now plan on applying graduate school, after taking a year or two off to focus on gaining more analytical techniques in an industrial chemistry job.   

This past summer I conducted research in the chemistry department at the University of New Hampshire under Dr. Margaret Greenslade. Her research is focused in atmospheric chemistry, specifically studying clay and mineral dust aerosol particles. Studying these particles is scientifically significant because they are abundant in Earth’s atmosphere and can act as Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCN), meaning that they form the centers of cloud droplet formations. The more we study optical properties of mineral dust aerosol, the better we can understand how these particles impact our atmosphere, as well as their impact in other areas such as climate change and human health. 

My advice to students looking for off-campus summer research is to make sure not to put all of your eggs in one basket. Find a few professors whose research sounds interesting to you in case your first choice doesn’t work out. That being said, don’t get discouraged if a professor says no or doesn’t respond. If it’s a big university they likely get several emails each day and you may need to send a follow-up. If they say no it’s likely nothing against you, their lab is probably full. 

I would also advise that if you haven’t yet, use your Lynk funding! This is a great way to get professors interested in allowing you to participate in their research group. I received my internship simply by emailing my principal investigator or research group leader (PI), expressing my interest in her research and letting her know that I could get funding from Mount Holyoke so she wouldn’t have to worry about paying me (researchers love free assistance). I think it’s also really important to form a good connection with your PI. Ask them lots of questions, go to their office as much as you can just to talk one-on-one. You never know where that connection might take you down the road. Most importantly, make sure you’re having fun! If you’re not enjoying what you’re researching talk to your PI. My PI was pretty flexible with what projects I would work on, so I was able to try a few different methods and pick my favorite to focus on for the duration of my time at UNH. 

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