Sebastian is a rising junior at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore. He is interested in groundwater and water pollution, which lead him to investigate the carcinogenic effects of fracking fluids and the water sources they contaminated. After high school, Sebastian plans to pursue a career in Environmental Science or Earth Science.
What is your summer research project?
Ever since the discovery of the Marcellus Shale, fracking in Pennsylvania has been huge. Fracking provides an economic benefit to the state but there is a lack of regulations that establish guidelines on what fracking companies are permitted to do. For this reason, more and more fracking-related cases of drinking water contamination have been identified. They are believed to be caused by the un-regulated dumping of fracking fluids into surface water, and the contamination of groundwater caused by the fracking process. During my time in TREES, I explored the potential for water from fracking sites to cause cancer.
What are the implications of your research?
If there are clear implications between the levels of contamination at a water site to its proximity to fracking wells, we can then figure out how these water sites are getting contaminated and identify a practical way to remediate them. We can also raise awareness throughout communities that are near fracking wells and recommend new sources for their drinking water.
What new skills have you gained throughout this experience?
One of the more useful skills I learned, apart from learning how to run experiments and use lab equipment, is how to think like a scientist. I have learned how to be independent in a lab setting, think of positive and negative controls for particular experiments, and most importantly, figure out what I did wrong in a failed experiment and learn from the mistakes. I have also learned about ‘dry science’, and the importance of it, which I previously wasn’t aware of.