Three Research Students, Two Experiments, One International Flight
At Skidmore, creative experimentation is constantly occurring behind the doors of the lab room; curious scientists are hard at work analyzing, questioning, and experimenting. In the scientific world, it is important that scientists share their findings in order to further their research. Three Skidmore students—Chemistry majors Angelina Leonardi ‘20, Yao Xiao ‘20, and Renee Karchere-Sun ’20, a Chemistry major with a concentration in Biology— did just that when they attended International Global Atmospheric Chemistry conference in Takamatsu, Japan from Sept. 23-28 and presented their research projects.
All three students completed research for Professor Juan Navea. Prior to the conference, Leonardi, Xiao, and Karchere-Sun, all worked on projects studying various topics within atmospheric chemistry. This past summer, Leonardi started working on the CAICE Project, named after and funded by the Center for Aerosols Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment organization. Her research consisted of running experiments in the lab, studying the reactions that occurred and the products created during the experiments.
“We [Karchere-Sun and I] were looking at reactions that occur in the atmosphere between nitrates, mineral dust, and sea-spray aerosols, which use solid particles that come from the ocean,” Leonardi explained. The reactions form particles that contain photosynthesizers that "have pretty significant implications for the atmosphere.”
Xiao has been working on his project titled ‘The Atmosphere Fate of Fly Ash Aerosols’ for the past two years. His research investigates reactions that occurs between fly ash particles, which are the “combustion by the mineral dust and the plants which generates the fly ash particles,” as Xiao summarized.
When the student-researchers found out last summer that they had been invited to present at the conference, they were ecstatic to travel to Japan. The conference was a once in a lifetime chance to share what they had been working on and to learn first-hand about other scientists’ research projects.
Over the course of five days, Leonardi, Xiao, and Karchere-Sun attended the conference and presented posters on their research. Being undergraduates, they were the youngest people there who shared a common interest in research in the field of atmospheric chemistry. “There were professors, atmospheric chemists, PHD and graduate students there. It was cool because people would ask us what PHD program we were in,” Karchere-Sun shared.
Xiao presented his project alone and was able to converse in both Mandarin and English to people who inquired about his project. Leonardi and Karchere-Sun presented their research together and were able to have insightful conversations with the other attendees about their research. All three thought the fellow presenters were supportive, eager to engage with people with similar research interests.
There were many presentations at the conference that allowed them to learn more about other research on atmospheric chemistry. According to Leonardi, “there was one where we saw where this researcher had trapped particles in laser beams and images. It was really cool to sit there in the auditorium and be witness to Chemistry research from across the world; each presenter was from a different country.”
Since returning to campus, the students have continued to collect data for their projects. Leonardi is currently still working on her CAICE project with the help of Karchere-Sun, while Xiao is completing his fly ash project and in fact, is beginning work on a new project that involves studying organic substances with photosynthesizers.
These students demonstrate how research continues to be driving force for advancing knowledge about the world that we inhabit.