This summer, I had the opportunity to delve into my passion of organic chemistry and environmental toxicology to study the presence of microplastics in a closed sewage and wastewater treatment facility.
Microplastics have been studied a small amount of time, but what we do know is that microplastics are a dangerous pollutant as they adsorb to heavy metals and other elements, whether they’re toxic or not. Along with that, microplastics have been found in remote mountainous areas, all across the ocean, within marine life, and in agricultural lands. One way farmland may become contaminated is through the application of reclaimed safe sewage sludge as compost, and cleaned wastewater as irrigation. We don’t know what effect microplastics have on plant growth or harvests, but due to its longevity and high rates of adsorption, it is something to be concerned about.
For this research, I was at the lab nearly every day running slides through the 8700 Agilent LDIR, sampling sewers and the local wastewater treatment facility, running digestions of the samples, and cleaning lab tools. I made incredible bonds with the members of the lab, and can’t wait to work with them again. Through the CAFE Scholars program, I feel even more certain of my future in academia and can’t wait for my next project