Melissa demonstrating how she uses an Airbeam monitor to take measurements of car exhaust emissions
I am a rising senior at Florida State University studying Biology. From a young age, I’ve had an affinity for the environment and animals. I have previously conducted research with the FSU UROP program, studying the marine Caribbean fire sponge in the Florida Keys. Having explored my curiosity and passion for animals in a research setting, I wanted to better understand and immerse myself into Environmental Science Research. I was able to this, and much more, through the STEER program at the University of Pennsylvania.
What is your summer research project
Identifying Sources and Measuring PM 2.5 in Center City, PA
In collaboration with Dr. Howarth and Dr. Himes
This summer, I walked throughout Center City with a portable air monitoring device to take measures of the Particulate Matter 2.5 levels. I did research on emission sources found in the area I took my measures from and found that due to a lack of industrial zoning, the major contributor of PM 2.5 comes from all the traffic that is prevalent in the area.
What are the implications of your research?
Particulate Matter 2.5 is one of the six criteria air pollutants with National Ambient Air Quality Standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. PM2.5 has a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or smaller, allowing it to travel deeply into the respiratory tract and cause Asthma exacerbations, among other health problems. With better understanding of how much PM2.5 is present in Center City and where it is coming from, actions to reduce these levels and protect community health in Philadelphia is more feasible and actionable.
What new skills have you gained through your research?
STEER gave me the opportunity to not only design and carry out a research project but also provided me with great mentorships, resources, and opportunities to learn, beyond my research topic. With the help of the Penn community, I have learned valuable skills in map data analysis and developed my abilities using ArcGIS and R. Weekly field trips and seminars provided me with a hands-on and very interactive learning experience that gave me both perspective and insight into the field of environmental science, policy, and research. Field trips included visiting various water treatment and trash incineration facilities. The trip that impacted me the most was when I had the opportunity to sit in on Chester’s community environmental meeting. Seeing first-hand how an Environmental Justice Neighborhood was filled with ambassador community members that are passionate about working towards improving was something amazing to see. Their commitment to solving the many problems that exist in these communities was very eye-opening and inspiring.