The Short Term Educational Experiences of Research in Environmental Science for Undergraduates (STEER) Program is a ten week summer internship awarded to undergraduate students interested in environmental health. Through a collaboration between the CEET, the Center for Public Health Initiatives and multiple schools and faculty at Penn, the STEER program provides didactic experiences in environmental and public health, as well as research mentorship opportunities in a variety of areas of environmental exposures and health effects. The COEC will be highlighting the achievements and experiences of 2015 STEER students below.
My name is Brian Gross and I am a rising junior in the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State pursuing a double major in Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. While both of these majors don’t explicitly involve the environment, I still have a personal interest in environmental issues, specifically those pertaining to human health. Both of my parents are employees of the Environmental Protection Agency, and they have always stressed the importance of keeping the Earth clean. My mom worked on hazardous waste site cleanup and taught me the importance of keeping soil and water clean. My dad worked on air quality and pollution issues in the Philadelphia area and taught me the importance of keeping our air clean.
What is your summer research project?
This summer, I had the opportunity to work under Dr. George Gerton and Dr. Jeffrey Field in the STEER Internship program. I spent the summer using geographic information systems (GIS) software to create maps pertaining to fracking in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. I mapped locations of fracking wells, waste facilities, landfills, drinking water withdrawal and more with the goal of identifying areas that might have higher exposure to chemicals used in the fracking process.
What are the implications of your research?
Using these maps, we hope to research health records in areas identified as vulnerable to chemical exposure.
What new skills have you gained through this experience?
My summer in the STEER program has been extremely rewarding. I have learned how to use powerful new software tools including ArcGIS and Filemaker Pro, and I have learned a great deal about fracking, one of the most controversial environmental issues in the country right now. For me, STEER was a fantastic introduction to research, the environment, and how the environment impacts human health. I am extremely grateful for the places I’ve gone, the people I’ve met, and the lessons I’ve learned through STEER.