Abstract: Analyzing Dye-Sensitized and Plasmon Enhanced Photocatalysis Using Single Molecule Spectroscopy

For my upcoming research project in the summer, I plan on investigating dye-sensitized and plasmon-enhanced photocatalysis using single molecule spectroscopy techniques. The global energy demand is predicted to increase over 25% by year 2040. Solar energy is a clean alternative to harmful fossil fuels, and one method of harnessing this energy is via dye sensitized photocatalysis (DSP) systems. Although currently inefficient, we plan on studying underlying kinetics to further improve the practicality of these systems. This is done via single molecule spectroscopy (SMS) techniques that allow for us to truly understand the photophysics behind DSP systems. In our DSP system, we will be studying Eosin-Y chromophore on a TiO2 substrate under both air and N2 conditions. By studying the interactions of this dye with a substrate, we can begin to have a understanding of the efficiency and kinetics of the electron transfer that is associated with solar energy harvesting. Additionally, I hope to incorporate plasmonic systems with our DSP system to possibly reveal alternative methods to further improve efficiency of solar conversion.

Abstract, Children’s Experiences During Simulated Visitation Experiences, Rita McInerny

Research Abstract

This project aims to understand if there are any differences in the psychosocial development of children whose mothers are incarcerated. This will be done by comparing literature that follows children who were born prior to their mothers being incarcerated, with those children who were born while their mothers were incarcerated.

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Abstract: Implementation of PHA bio-plastic to improve stream and runoff water quality

Last year, I began working in Dr. Randy Chambers’ lab with polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), organic material produced by certain kinds of bacteria under conditions of high carbon availability and low nutrient presence. Bacteria sequester this carbon polymer product and can use it as an energy source for growth. When removed from the bacteria that produced it, polyhydroxyalkanoates are readily combined with other materials to produce PHA polymer-blends as a kind of ‘bioplastic.’ There are many potential applications of PHA-based products, and therefore research on the material is gaining popularity. For example, this biodegradable material could be invaluable to reducing petroleum-based plastic waste. As another example, when placed in stream water, the naturally occurring bacteria could use the PHA polymer as a carbon source and eliminate excess nutrients via processes like denitrification. This summer, I hope to assess the potential for PHA use by bacteria in water quality improvement efforts and answer the question of the material’s effectiveness and the significance of its impact. 

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Corticosterone hormone as an indicator for environmental mercury stress in migratory versus resident bird species


The goal of this project is to learn more about how migration affects a bird’s reaction to environmental mercury stress. I will be measuring corticosterone (CORT), a stress hormone, as well as mercury in feather samples from a migratory and nonmigratory species. I expect that nonmigratory species will exhibit more mercury but less CORT in their feathers. The constant exposure will naturally select birds that do not overreact to mercury poisoning. Overreaction to mercury tends to lead to reduced reproductive success. Therefore, it acts as a direct selective pressure on birds in mercury-polluted environments. With this information, we can learn more about how mercury pollution in one area affects wildlife on a continental scale.

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