That’s all folks…not really Week 6

What an amazing summer this has been! I’ve truly enjoyed my internship here at Rice with the RET program. Everone has been so kind and helpful. I’ve learned more than I could have imagined– both about science and about being a learner. Although I didn’t have much time off for the summer, I still have that enthusiastic feeling about soon returning to school with my students. I can’t wait to share my experience with them and my fellow teachers.

Week 6 started off with our poster feedback sessions. It was incredibly helpful! After talking out my story and referring to my poster on the big screen TV, I saw how I definitely needed to rearrange my visuals and blocks of text so that I could better support my research story through the poster. I’m looking forward to presenting at the Symposium tomorrow and especially seeing everyone’s posters printed out!

This week I went on another field trip.  My longtime friend (and former neighbor), Johanna Anderson, works at Suez Water Technologies and Solutions (formerly GE). They are located in the Woodlands, Tx not far from my home in Magnolia, Tx. I called her up and explained what I’ve been doing at Rice and asked her to tell me about what she does at Suez. So much of what she does when testing water is exactly what we do (but on a much smaller scale) here in the Torres Lab. She got permission for me to visit, and this past Tuesday I took a tour of the facility. Having learned so much about the nitrogen cycle and nutrients in wastewater, it was a fabulous experience to tour the labs. I was able to understand what she was talking about when she explained what all the machines did, and even better I was able to ask lots of questions! It truly helped me to see how the research I’ve been doing on a daily basis fits into the “real world” outside of the lab. I made a powerpoint presentation with embedded links of equipment and testing methods explanations and videos. Here’s the link to accesses if you happen to teach anything that would require your students to learn about water treatment:

Ion and mass spectrometry, chromatography – similar to the machines we use at Rice

Wednesday, our entire group (Carrie Masiello, Mark Torres, Solana Buchanan, myself) met for the last time during my internship. Solana is an amazing undergraduate student (a rising junior). Several times she and I gathered water samples from the bayous together. She presented all of her data and research to Mark and Carrie in regards to all of the samples we’ve collected this summer. In the meeting, I was able to talk about my poster one last time and present all of the research I have participated in with our group this summer. It was a great way to review before the symposium and a good recap of my summer activities.

Solana presenting her research

I’m kind of sad to say goodbye to my group. They are an outstanding group of scientists and educators.  I feel we became friends as well so I will miss seeing them around. I feel extremely lucky to have worked with them these last six weeks. And not pictured is Loredana Sucia. She is a graduate student working in Earth Sciences. I must also thank her for the many hours she spent with me, teaching me how to use Excel and interpret my data. She’s amazing!

Left to right: Carrie Masiello, Melanie Smith, Mark Torres, Solana Buchana

I would say that’s all folks, but I’m looking forward to seeing my fellow Rice RET teachers in the fall as we meet again to prepare our lessons for submission. Good luck to everyone on Friday with the poster presentations!


Cool Chem Draw Program

When trying to figure out graphics to make my poster, my mentor advised that I use a free trial Chem Draw. I had never heard of it before and up until then I had made some graphics on my poster stringing together different shapes on  Microsoft PowerPoint. But there were just some figures that I was not able to make very easily. So when he told me about Chem Draw, at first it sounded like a program that could help me to draw chemical structures (which I needed as well) and I thought it ended there. But it was so much more! I geeked out when I saw all the different scientific structures and clip art that it automatically can draw for you, and you simply just make it the size you want. And it spans so many areas of science!

I would love to have a program like that to use for making my lessons or even having students draw different structures to represent their understanding during the school year.  It could even be super helpful for our Science Fair program. However—the full version comes with a hefty price tag. So for now, it will simply go on my wish list of things that are super cool and would be awesome to be able to utilize in the classroom one day. In the meantime I  will just marvel and be amazed.

This image shows some of the different things that the program can do as far as clip art and structures. And this only scratches the surface.

The System Works (In More Detail)!

Project Update

Earlier in the summer,  we found that we can decompose urea into ammonia.  However, we wanted to quantify the ammonia production in different ways.  So last week, we set up one huge experiment with multiple parts.

We repeated the use of an infrared laser to vaporize the urea, but we added a thermal camera and a balance.  The thermal camera allowed us to measure the temperature of the solution in real-time.  The balance allowed us to measure the amount of mass lost due to vaporization as we heat the urea solution.

The laser heated the solution, but only on the surface (the brighter portion of the image below); the rest of the sample remained close to room temperature!

Field Trip!

On Monday we took a trip to a water treatment plant.  It was really interesting to see how many steps are involved in purifying water from the different lakes around Houston.  One thing I did notice was the focus on removing the solid particles, then the treatment for pathogens.  Nanotechnology would be a great bridge between the two steps, and may also help remove the pathogens altogether.

At the end of the tour, we did a scavenger hunt and I found these posters:

These would be a great way to have students present information they have learned!  For example, my Physics students could make wanted posters of Physics laws or famous physicists.


Week 5 – More

Although disappointed that we did not tour the facility, I enjoyed the Houston Waterwork Education Center.  The graduate students prepared more peptides. So, I continue to do more experiments, prepare graphs and work on the poster. I realized that I have not posted pictures of the “inversion test” of the peptide hydrogel tubes so am including a picture now.  I smiled at many of this weeks posts looking more “experimentally data-driven science” as everyone prepare graphics. Looking forward to seeing everyone’s posters!

What’s in your water?

Since here at NEWT we are all working on water projects. I have started to wonder about the water we drink and I asked my mentor what type of water he drinks and if he has ever tested his water at home to see what’s in it. He said at his place he drinks from the tap. He said he has a filter, but it takes too long. I find it interesting that most of us don’t worry about our water supply, but I know a lot of people who won’t drink tap water. There is a hesitation about what’s really in the water and it is perceived as not truly being pure. I believe situation like lead found in Flint, Michigan and even chromium-6 found here in Houston’s water supply in Alief doesn’t help. 

This week we were able to go on a field trip to get a glimpse of how the City of Houston provides it residence with drinking water.

Map showing the 3 water treatment plants and locations they serve.

We learned there are 3 purification plants in the city and we were at the largest. They are able to produce 80 million gallons a day and after an expansion they will attempt to produce 400 million gallons a day!

Diagram of the treatment of water before it enters our tap.
Scavenger hunt in the education center of water purification center

We were able to complete a scavenger hunt and an activity covering the water cycle. We were also given free samples!

Free water samples at Water Treatment Center

I was also able to visit the Buffalo Bayou Cistern.

Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference art instillation at the Buffalo Bayou Cistern

“The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is a former drinking water reservoir built in 1926 for the City of Houston. As one of the city’s early underground reservoirs, it supported the municipal water system’s goals of fire suppression (water pressure) and drinking water storage. After operating for decades, an irreparable leak was discovered and after a few years, the reservoir was decommissioned in 2007.” So if you lived or visited Houston prior to 2007, you probably had water that was stored in this facility.  Information about Buffalo Bayou

This week I was also able to run tests on my final membrane. We continued to test the contact angle and so far we have hydrophobic membrane, but it is not quite superhydrophobic. Next week, we plan to complete our journey to superhydrophobicity by adding silver nanoparticles and coating it with chemical to lower surface energy.

Make sure you all answer my question about what is in your water or what type of water you drink in comment section.

Currently, I use the tap for cooking and all of my other water needs, but I drink bottled or filtered tap water. Where does your water come from? What kind do you drink? Tap, Filtered Tap, Bottled, Purified, Spring?

A Successful Last Week in Lab

Hello everyone!

This week was a great week in the N.E.W.T. lab at ASU! I ran my final test on my mini column system with the 2 SIAC GAC media, my impregnated F400 GAC, Clemson’s CU #2, GAC blank, and zeolite blank. If you have been following my posts, you will remember that Clemson’s CU #2 is my nemesis and was very difficult to get water to flow threw it. Well, this week I tested with 90% diluted tap water spiked with 250 ppb bromide and the CU#2 worked! I could get water to flow through all six of my columns for the first time this summer! It was so beautiful. I will be very curious to see the bromide results from this run.

Now that I am done running my tests, I have focused my time on creating my poster and the presentation I had to do for my PI on my research. It was a little intimidating getting up and talking in from of these professors, doctoral students, and graduate students. My mentor said I did very well and I didn’t get many questions at the end so I call that a success! My poster was actually a lot of fun to make. I have been teaching my students for years how to make a scientific poster, but I have never made on myself until now. I was worried because I was only able to get one of my tests analyzed because we are waiting on a silver guard and we were short on people who were properly trained and had time to run samples for me. A shout out to Choa Zeng for helping me out and analyzing at least 27 samples for me so I had something to talk about on my poster.  The results showed that the SIAC 4% GAC and the CU#1 media could remove bromide, but only for a small bed volume (400 BV and 100BV). What was surprising about the data was that the GAC blank also removed bromide from the samples. I am looking forward to getting the characterization information back about that media to see if there is something that could help explain that result better.

I am glad to be done with my poster though and can’t wait to share it with everyone next week at Rice University!

Have a good weekend!



Finally done with the AFM scanning & data analysis

Finally I am done with AFM scanning that took me to stay by 7 pm at the lab and then got locked out of the lab 🙂 the keys don’t have access BTW! I had to call another grad to open the door for me to put the items back…

Anyhow, I am done with the data analysis and results did not come out as consistent as I expected! Kind of half  failure ! But still proved some stuff…

Let’s see how the poster prep goes…


Good luck all!

Data Analysis

I have competed my analysis of the waveform.  What I realize I am missing is any error analysis.  I have al these values calculated, but how do I know if they mean anything.  A colleague was working on error analysis, so I am reminded I need to do it.

I can calculate standard deviation of the values, like wavelength or period, but I wonder if I need to think about the varying shape of the waveforms I have averaged?  Is there a corresponding property to correlation constant?

So this further work, and I am not likely to get it done this week end.  Put in some standard deviation and leave it at that.


Got done with preparing poster for the poster session. Ready for next week with the kids, have everything planned and excited to share the research experience and some fun activities with them.