Futurum https://futurumcareers.com Know What You Want To Be Thu, 21 Jan 2021 13:29:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6 https://futurumcareers.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/cropped-Futurm_Logo_Icon-32x32.png Futurum https://futurumcareers.com 32 32 How does climate change affect water quality? https://futurumcareers.com/how-does-climate-change-affect-water-quality?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-does-climate-change-affect-water-quality https://futurumcareers.com/how-does-climate-change-affect-water-quality#respond Thu, 21 Jan 2021 13:28:59 +0000 http://futurumcareers.com/?p=37207 Professor Li Li develop computer models to understand how climate change and modifications to the environment created by humans can affect water quality.

The post How does climate change affect water quality? appeared first on Futurum.

]]>

How does climate change affect water quality?

Clean water is our most important natural resource. We need a reliable supply of drinking water to live. We also need water for industry, agriculture and even recreation. However, many of these uses put an incredible amount of pressure on water resources – a problem likely to get worse due to climate change. Professor Li Li, from Pennsylvania State University in the US, develops computer models to understand and predict how water quality is influenced by climate change and man-made changes to the environment

TALK LIKE AN ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER

BIOGEOCHEMISTRY – the study of the geochemical and biological processes in the natural environment including rivers, lakes and soils

HYDROLOGY – the study of the distribution, movement and management of water, including water cycle and water resources

MICROBIOLOGY – the study of microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria and fungi

ECOLOGY – a branch of biology concerning how plants and animals interact with the environment

GEOLOGY – the study of rocks and processes by which they are formed

WATER CATCHMENT AREA – an area of land through which water from rain, snow or ice drains into, such as a river or lake. It can be a vast area, like the land area that drains into oceans, or very small, like the land area that drains into a very small stream

WATER POLLUTION – when dangerous substances like toxic chemicals or microorganisms contaminate the water and affect the water quality

ORGANIC MATTER – material coming from living things (e.g. animals or plants) or their waste products

WASTEWATER – any water contaminated after human use, including domestic, industrial or agricultural uses. It may contain chemical, physical and biological pollutants

In developed countries, where water is available through the simple turn of a tap, it is easy to take the resource for granted, while for many people around the world, finding a source of clean water is a serious problem and may involve hours of travel. Wherever we are in the world, the reality is that the freshwater systems of our planet are under threat from inappropriate land uses, water pollution and climate change.

Addressing these problems and their potential consequences is a huge and urgent challenge. Prof Li Li and her team, the Li Reactive Water Group, based at the Pennsylvania State University in the US, want to tackle these issues before it is too late. They want to understand how climate change and modifications created by humans, such as converting forest area to agriculture, can influence water quality. Li explains, “Such understanding will ultimately help us develop theories and models that can be used to forecast water quality in streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater, in a way similar to weather forecasting. This is important for risk assessment, mitigation, and adaption strategies as these changes continue to threaten water security.”

Li recognises that the only way to move forward is by collaborating with other research groups around the world. There have been movements in the science community to work together across traditional disciplines such as physics, chemistry, geology and ecology. This is important because in natural systems such as watersheds and lakes all processes influence each other, regardless of artificial disciplinary boundaries. The novelty of this approach is that it brings together scientists from different fields to understand how different things work together and to find novel, ‘outside of the box’ solutions. The team has established strong links with hydrologists, microbiologists, ecologists, geologists and biogeochemists, to name just a few.

Ultimately, the cross-disciplinary teams can create computer models that can be used to predict how climate and human-made changes impact water quality in a certain area over time – a forecast of water quality. There is no doubt that climate change has already affected and will continue to affect our water resources. What is worse is that water pollution, due to excess use of fertiliser in farms, wastewater from factories, or sediments from trees cut for construction, is adding toxic chemicals into rivers and streams that eventually flow into oceans.

One type of chemical that is of particular interest to Li is called dissolved organic carbon (DOC), which comes from the breakdown of living things, such as leaves and roots. It can drag dangerous contaminants into the water, as well as making water treatment a challenging process. Analysing levels of DOC is a good way to estimate how much CO2 can be released from organic matter, which is eventually emitted back to the atmosphere. For Li, DOC, “has an important role in determining the CO2 level in the atmosphere, which has significant links to climate warming.” However, it is important to note that changes in DOC are not necessarily caused by climate change. Many factors can influence this parameter, including acid rain and changes of land use, such as converting forests to cropland. In addition, soils recovering from acid rain are likely to release more DOC into the water and increase the release of CO2 from streams and rivers.

Initial results from Li’s team already show how DOC – and inevitably the amount of CO2 – can change during wet and cold versus dry and hot conditions. It turns out that areas surrounding rivers, lakes and reservoirs – known as the watershed – can hold the DOC from organic matter in the dry summer but release it quickly in the wet winter and spring. This release is not entirely surprising, as rain washes these chemicals down into the water. What is interesting, however, is the fact that Li and her team can now predict, with some levels of uncertainty, what may happen in extreme situations, like heavy rain and flooding, which are likely to accentuate the release of organic matter.

Li explains, “The models we built can be used by companies, governments and environmental organisations to understand how water quality can change under different scenarios such as flooding or droughts. This information can then be used to assess risks and decide strategies to mitigate or solve the problems.”

If you have a desire to investigate and solve environmental problems, then this could be a career for you. According to environmentalscience.org, there is a growing demand for professionals driven by increasing concerns about climate change and water quality. As a tester, you may want to visit Li’s lab for a fun day of activities testing the pH of different liquids like orange juices, vinegar, Coke, or even tap water. Or you may even apply for one of their summer courses learning computer modelling and data analysis.

PROFESSOR LI LI
Professor of Environmental Engineering, Li Reactive Water Group, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, USA

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Environmental Engineering and Water Resources

RESEARCH PROJECT: The development of computer models to understand how climate change and modifications to the environment created by humans – such as cutting forest for use in agriculture – can affect water quality.

FUNDER: US National Science Foundation, US Department of Energy

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING

Environmental engineering is an exciting field to study. Professionals in this field use principles of engineering, as well as soil science, chemistry and biology to find solutions to solve environmental problems. They can work in varied settings such as education, public health, pollution control or recycling. They can also work in government and make environmental related laws and policies, or consulting companies to help solve water resources and water quality related problems.

WHAT IS SO REWARDING AND CHALLENGING ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING?

A career in environmental engineering is undoubtedly challenging as there are many environmental issues that need a solution. Problems like climate change and water pollution are hard to solve because they are not localised problems, they are worldwide. Their resolution requires understanding human behaviour and societal issues. As an environmental engineer, collaboration and finding common ground is challenging, but it is the key to solving these issues. The reward is huge – you can help get clean water to millions of people who are in need or help make laws and regulations that combat climate change.

Reference
https://doi.org/10.33424/FUTURUM102

Professor Li visiting a tributary of Coal Creek, Colorado, US.

A conceptual diagram of a watershed as a natural integrator of hydrological flow paths and biogeochemical processes. The flow paths depend on climate, vegetation and soil properties. Reactive materials are illustrated here using organic carbon that decreases in abundance with depth and minerals that increase with depth. These physical and chemical structures dictate the contact time of water with reactive materials and regulate how much and how fast chemicals (e.g. DOC, Ca, Si) enter the stream (Li et al., 2020)*.

*Li et al. Toward catchment hydro-biogeochemical theories. WIREs Water. 2020;e1495. https://doi.org/10.1002/wat2.1495

Digging holes in soils to get soil samples. Professor Li visiting a tributary of Coal Creek, Colorado, US.
A group of students and collaborators in one of our study site, Gordon Gulch in Colorado, US. (Photo credit: Devon Kerins.)
A cross section view of soils for the upper couple of metres in one of our study watersheds Coal Creek, Colorado, US. The top soils are dark and enriched with organic materials; the deeper soils have more rock fragments and non-biotic materials.
A headwater stream near one of the watersheds the team has studied, Coal Creek. The stream chemistry is very much regulated by the types of soils, rocks and vegetation that surround it.

TALK LIKE AN ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER

BIOGEOCHEMISTRY – the study of the geochemical and biological processes in the natural environment including rivers, lakes and soils

HYDROLOGY – the study of the distribution, movement and management of water, including water cycle and water resources

MICROBIOLOGY – the study of microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria and fungi

ECOLOGY – a branch of biology concerning how plants and animals interact with the environment

GEOLOGY – the study of rocks and processes by which they are formed

WATER CATCHMENT AREA – an area of land through which water from rain, snow or ice drains into, such as a river or lake. It can be a vast area, like the land area that drains into oceans, or very small, like the land area that drains into a very small stream

WATER POLLUTION – when dangerous substances like toxic chemicals or microorganisms contaminate the water and affect the water quality

ORGANIC MATTER – material coming from living things (e.g. animals or plants) or their waste products

WASTEWATER – any water contaminated after human use, including domestic, industrial or agricultural uses. It may contain chemical, physical and biological pollutants

In developed countries, where water is available through the simple turn of a tap, it is easy to take the resource for granted, while for many people around the world, finding a source of clean water is a serious problem and may involve hours of travel. Wherever we are in the world, the reality is that the freshwater systems of our planet are under threat from inappropriate land uses, water pollution and climate change.

Addressing these problems and their potential consequences is a huge and urgent challenge. Prof Li Li and her team, the Li Reactive Water Group, based at the Pennsylvania State University in the US, want to tackle these issues before it is too late. They want to understand how climate change and modifications created by humans, such as converting forest area to agriculture, can influence water quality. Li explains, “Such understanding will ultimately help us develop theories and models that can be used to forecast water quality in streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater, in a way similar to weather forecasting. This is important for risk assessment, mitigation, and adaption strategies as these changes continue to threaten water security.”

Li recognises that the only way to move forward is by collaborating with other research groups around the world. There have been movements in the science community to work together across traditional disciplines such as physics, chemistry, geology and ecology. This is important because in natural systems such as watersheds and lakes all processes influence each other, regardless of artificial disciplinary boundaries. The novelty of this approach is that it brings together scientists from different fields to understand how different things work together and to find novel, ‘outside of the box’ solutions. The team has established strong links with hydrologists, microbiologists, ecologists, geologists and biogeochemists, to name just a few.

Ultimately, the cross-disciplinary teams can create computer models that can be used to predict how climate and human-made changes impact water quality in a certain area over time – a forecast of water quality. There is no doubt that climate change has already affected and will continue to affect our water resources. What is worse is that water pollution, due to excess use of fertiliser in farms, wastewater from factories, or sediments from trees cut for construction, is adding toxic chemicals into rivers and streams that eventually flow into oceans.

One type of chemical that is of particular interest to Li is called dissolved organic carbon (DOC), which comes from the breakdown of living things, such as leaves and roots. It can drag dangerous contaminants into the water, as well as making water treatment a challenging process. Analysing levels of DOC is a good way to estimate how much CO2 can be released from organic matter, which is eventually emitted back to the atmosphere. For Li, DOC, “has an important role in determining the CO2 level in the atmosphere, which has significant links to climate warming.” However, it is important to note that changes in DOC are not necessarily caused by climate change. Many factors can influence this parameter, including acid rain and changes of land use, such as converting forests to cropland. In addition, soils recovering from acid rain are likely to release more DOC into the water and increase the release of CO2 from streams and rivers.

Initial results from Li’s team already show how DOC – and inevitably the amount of CO2 – can change during wet and cold versus dry and hot conditions. It turns out that areas surrounding rivers, lakes and reservoirs – known as the watershed – can hold the DOC from organic matter in the dry summer but release it quickly in the wet winter and spring. This release is not entirely surprising, as rain washes these chemicals down into the water. What is interesting, however, is the fact that Li and her team can now predict, with some levels of uncertainty, what may happen in extreme situations, like heavy rain and flooding, which are likely to accentuate the release of organic matter.

Li explains, “The models we built can be used by companies, governments and environmental organisations to understand how water quality can change under different scenarios such as flooding or droughts. This information can then be used to assess risks and decide strategies to mitigate or solve the problems.”

If you have a desire to investigate and solve environmental problems, then this could be a career for you. According to environmentalscience.org, there is a growing demand for professionals driven by increasing concerns about climate change and water quality. As a tester, you may want to visit Li’s lab for a fun day of activities testing the pH of different liquids like orange juices, vinegar, Coke, or even tap water. Or you may even apply for one of their summer courses learning computer modelling and data analysis.

PROFESSOR LI LI
Professor of Environmental Engineering, Li Reactive Water Group, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, USA

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Environmental Engineering and Water Resources

RESEARCH PROJECT: The development of computer models to understand how climate change and modifications to the environment created by humans – such as cutting forest for use in agriculture – can affect water quality.

FUNDER: US National Science Foundation, US Department of Energy

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING

Environmental engineering is an exciting field to study. Professionals in this field use principles of engineering, as well as soil science, chemistry and biology to find solutions to solve environmental problems. They can work in varied settings such as education, public health, pollution control or recycling. They can also work in government and make environmental related laws and policies, or consulting companies to help solve water resources and water quality related problems.

WHAT IS SO REWARDING AND CHALLENGING ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING?

A career in environmental engineering is undoubtedly challenging as there are many environmental issues that need a solution. Problems like climate change and water pollution are hard to solve because they are not localised problems, they are worldwide. Their resolution requires understanding human behaviour and societal issues. As an environmental engineer, collaboration and finding common ground is challenging, but it is the key to solving these issues. The reward is huge – you can help get clean water to millions of people who are in need or help make laws and regulations that combat climate change.

HOW CAN ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE?

Climate change is not like any problem we have faced before. It is on a global scale and requires cooperation of people from different countries. This problem can only be solved with innovative new ideas and technologies. Environmental engineers cannot solve the problem by themselves – they will need to work with ecologists, geologists and hydrologists to understand processes in natural systems and make predictions, preparations and adaptations to manage resources.

WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIAL SKILLS REQUIRED FOR A CAREER IN ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING?

Above all, environmental engineers are problem solvers. These professionals must be able to identify and anticipate problems before they are able to address these issues. Good interpersonal skills are also a must, as environmental engineers often work in large teams, from scientists to technicians and mechanics. Finally, complex jobs may require a certain degree of imagination, to foresee how the proposed solution is going to work in real life.

HOW TO BECOME AN ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER

• A degree in environmental engineering will give you a good range of skills to offer your employer and strong career prospects. You can also aspire to become an environmental engineer if you have a degree in a related field, such as hydrology, ecology, geology or chemistry.

• Going for a professional engineering licence will allow you to aim for higher roles with more responsibility. After licensing, environmental engineers can register with the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists: https://www.aaees.org/becomeboardcertified

• Options for careers are incredibly varied and can come from different sectors, including agriculture and forestry, water management, environmental policy and public health. You may find opportunities in engineering companies or as a consultant. Some positions may even offer the chance to travel to participate in different projects around the world.

• According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, entry-level environmental engineers can earn up to $88,000 annually.

PATHWAY FROM SCHOOL TO ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING

The best subjects to study to become an environmental engineer are maths, physics, biology and chemistry. Many universities offer a degree in environmental engineering, including Princeton University, MIT and Stanford University. In most cases, you can choose from a wide range of specialisms, allowing you to focus on a particular area and hone your skills for the job that you want. Typically, these specialisms include air quality, waste management and water resources, among others.

Li recommends taking extra courses in coding, computer modelling and data analysis to obtain critical skills and tools to help you in different situations. You may also wish to study further for a master’s or a doctorate, but for many roles, this is not essential.

Often, employers value practical experience. There are engineering courses which provide job experience which may be worth considering. For further information, environmentalscience.org is an excellent place to start: http://www.environmentalscience.org/career/environmentalengineer

HOW DID LI BECOME AN ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER?

WHAT WERE YOUR INTERESTS AS A CHILD?

I loved reading, was good at writing short stories and I aspired to be a writer. I was also interested in the natural world – I was fascinated with lots of different things, such as the sky, trees and sand.

WHO OR WHAT HAS INSPIRED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?

Things changed in my teenage years in high school. In China, teenagers decide in high school whether they want to go for science and engineering, or social studies and humanities. I could not decide, because I was interested in a lot of things and was also good at all these subjects.

One day, I overheard my mom asking for her friend’s opinion about which direction I should go in. I overheard them saying that girls are not good at science and engineering and that I should choose social studies or humanities. I was a defiant teenager, and I decided to do the opposite, so I picked science and engineering! Looking back, I realise that I have often done things that are the opposite of what others expect me to do.

WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR PROUDEST CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR?

I am proud that I stayed in science and still had children. Being a professor and scientist is demanding. Juggling between work and family life is challenging, as both demand time and you only have 24 hours a day! There were multiple occasions when I almost slipped out of this career. For example, when I first had a baby and when I had a difficult time landing a faculty job. I had a lot of support from PhD advisors and colleagues though and they helped me to get through these challenging times.

My proudest career achievement is that I became a university professor. This position gives me the opportunity to teach and inspire the younger generation and help them realise the severity of many environmental problems. Even if they don’t become environmental scientists or engineers, they can still learn how to become responsible citizens that minimise waste input and live sustainable lives – for example, by buying houses powered by solar power and driving cars that do not add a lot of carbon to the atmosphere.

I am also proud that I get to work with graduate students who do environmental-related research. These students progress and become professionals after they finish graduate schools. It is very rewarding to see them grow.

WHAT ATTRIBUTES HAVE MADE YOU A SUCCESSFUL ENGINEER?

I tend to think of my groups’ work leaning more toward science instead of engineering. Our goal is to create knowledge and understanding of processes and mechanisms that lead to water quality change, and this knowledge then feeds into the engineer’s work in solving these problems.

Diligence, persistence, intellectual curiosity (wanting to know answers and solving puzzles), and aspiration to excel are some of the key traits that make a successful scientist. But everyone is different and has their strengths, so there is not just one formula.

LI’S TOP TIPS FOR STUDENTS

01 – Follow your heart and do what excites you.

02 – Don’t let others dictate your future. Don’t conform to others’ expectations.

03 – Challenge yourself! It’s the only way to reach your dreams.

Do you have a question for Li?
Write it in the comments box below and Li will get back to you. (Remember, researchers are very busy people, so you may have to wait a few days.)

The post How does climate change affect water quality? appeared first on Futurum.

]]>
https://futurumcareers.com/how-does-climate-change-affect-water-quality/feed 0
Connecting the dots between science and business https://futurumcareers.com/connecting-the-dots-between-science-and-business?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=connecting-the-dots-between-science-and-business https://futurumcareers.com/connecting-the-dots-between-science-and-business#respond Mon, 18 Jan 2021 18:32:47 +0000 http://futurumcareers.com/?p=37140 Westminster College, situated in Pennsylvania, USA, runs the Environmental Project Management Academy (EPMA) to enable students to see the connection between business and STEM.

The post Connecting the dots between science and business appeared first on Futurum.

]]>

Connecting the dots between science and business

Science and business are often treated as two separate disciplines, which leads to problems. Scientists may lack the business sense to convert their research into something productive, whilst business professionals may lack the scientific knowledge needed to make evidence-based decisions. Westminster College’s Environmental Project Management Academy (EPMA) aims to bridge this divide

Liberal arts institutions prepare students to reason logically, think critically, communicate effectively, and act ethically. However, while STEM graduates often enter the workforce with plenty of knowledge of their area of study, they may lack critical business and project management-related skills, such as communication and leadership skills. On the flipside, graduates of subjects such as business can have highly developed business acumen but can lack the basic scientific literacy that has an important role in the workplace.

Westminster College, situated in Pennsylvania, USA, launched the Environmental Project Management Academy (EPMA) to address this. The EPMA is funded by the National Science Foundation and is run by three professors, Dr Helen Boylan, Dr Alison DuBois, and Mr Brian Petrus, who have combined their diverse areas of expertise to ensure that students leave the EPMA with a well-rounded skillset that prepares them for the working world.

The environmental science course emphasises scientific literacy and the major environmental issues facing our planet. The business administration course develops the competencies and skills needed to effectively manage a project’s life cycle by understanding the project’s scope, including associated project costs and cohesive team functioning. The cross-disciplinary cluster course also includes a two-hour weekly leadership seminar embedded into the course meeting times, during which students further develop intangible skills (such as communication skills and training in team dynamics) that are applicable to the team-based project work.

Through the EPMA programme, students collaborate with community stakeholders as they integrate knowledge of environmental science, project management and intangible skills with project work on environmental issues relevant to the region.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CROSSDISCIPLINARY LEARNING

“College classes are often taught in isolation and exclusively by discipline,” says Dr DuBois. “We wanted to show the inter-connections between environmental science, project management, and leadership. The three of us collaborate in our teaching, so our projects share a common thread through all three disciplines.”

Dr Boylan believes that combining these skillsets makes students more desirable as future employees. “Employers in the modern world value collaboration,” she says. “The complex problems that we face today, such as climate change, the pandemic or the role of artificial intelligence, require people from different disciplines to collectively solve problems. Our programme teaches students from STEM or business backgrounds how to communicate with each other. The projects require both perspectives, so collaboration is vital.”

WHY SCIENCE IS IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE

“It is my belief that almost all future jobs will require a basic understanding of science and math,” says Mr Petrus. “STEM literacy fosters creativity and critical thinking skills, which encourages teamwork and experimentation – important skills in real-world business environments.”

The world is also becoming more cross-sectoral, especially as businesses’ environmental footprints fall under increasing scrutiny. “Many businesses today are really developing their sustainability practices,” says Dr DuBois. “Having a background in STEM alongside business acumen helps create a more well-rounded professional.”

A growing reliance on technology also calls for people able to understand what it all means. “In the high-tech, data-driven world that we live in, people need to be able to look at data or figures and make sense of them,” says Dr Boylan. “We need to be able to critically analyse conclusions and methodology, which STEM literacy can help with.”

EPMA PROJECTS

The EPMA has undertaken three projects so far. Each project examined the underlying science of a topic and the feasibility of its implementation in a real-world setting. They have covered prospective solar panels in the college’s borough, collecting and selling recovered minerals from acid mine drainage and industrial hemp operations.

“The industrial hemp project was my favourite,” says Dr Boylan. “Our students developed website content related to the science of industrial hemp and completed a market analysis of potential hemp products. The students learnt about technologies associated with hemp products, such as biopolymers and composite plastics, and also how it could lead to economic growth in our region. This meant there was a real motivation for both students and faculty.” Mr Petrus agrees, and mentions how it tied in to changes in federal legislation. “The project aligned with the 2018 Farm Bill and the associated regulatory changes in the industry, namely the legalisation of industrial hemp,” he says. “We are seeing the foundations of a multi-billion-dollar industry.”

Dr DuBois has a soft spot for another project. “Even though it wasn’t as exciting as the hemp project, I really enjoyed investigating acid mine drainage,” she says. “I spent a lot of time hiking growing up and this project led to me and the students learning a lot about the environment.”

Now, they are getting started on a new project. “This year we are investigating sustainable business ventures into resources such as maple syrup, honey, cash crops and so on,” says Mr Petrus. “This is in conjunction with underutilised wooded properties owned by Westminster College.”

DR HELEN BOYLAN
Director of the Center for the Environment

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Chemistry and Environmental Science

ROLE: My role is to plan and deliver the environmental science content of the programme. I also develop lab experiences for the students, that help them develop their technical skills. I serve as the point of contact for our community project partners.

INSPIRATION: I grew up next to the Allegheny National Forest. It was my playground and my laboratory. I was fascinated by this environment and the critters it contained, which meant that environmental science appealed to me.

HELEN’S TOP TIPS FOR STUDENTS: Be curious. Ask questions about the world and the people around you. Read up on the things you are interested in. Explore!

Embrace failure. In science, you learn as much – if not more – from your mistakes than you do your successes. Often, science isn’t easy. Sometimes you just have to keep trying. Don’t be afraid to try new or difficult things – it is always worth it in the end.

DR ALISON DUBOIS
Associate Professor/Director of Graduate School

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Burnout and Compassion Fatigue

ROLE: I teach a 10-week leadership seminar. Students learn about leadership theories and traits, and work on building more effective communication and writing skills. The unique aspect about this part is that students engage in activities that make them feel vulnerable. This helps them to develop a deeper level of self-awareness, in addition to stronger emotional literacy skills.

INSPIRATION: I really love to teach. I get inspired by my students’ enthusiasm and risk-taking when they work on difficult tasks. It is motivating to watch the students grow as they stretch themselves intellectually.

ALISON’S TOP TIPS FOR STUDENTS: Anxiety is not a bad thing. Choose to get out of your comfort zone and try something challenging.

MR BRIAN PETRUS
Assistant Professor of Business Administration

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Project Management, Human Resource Management

ROLE: I act as a co-investigator for the EPMA project, developing and delivering the portion of the curriculum that focuses on project management. I have found the EPMA programme to be extremely rewarding. In addition to working directly with students, it gives me the opportunity to work alongside two of the college’s brightest and most student-centric professors.

INSPIRATION: My father has always been my greatest source of inspiration. He is retired from the Natural Resource Conservation Service and is a true jack-of-all-trades – he has provided me with innumerable life lessons that I often draw upon in the classroom. In all that I do, I strive to be the man that my father has taught me to be.

BRIAN’S TOP TIPS FOR STUDENTS: You can spend money and always make it back. When you spend time, however, you never get it back. So, spend your time wisely, doing the things you love and with people worth spending it with.

Reference
https://doi.org/10.33424/FUTURUM101

Business and STEM majors in the EPMA programme perform technical lab work together.
EPMA students complete water quality analysis in the field.
EPMA students get hands-on experience with the science of honey bees.
EPMA student teams prepare for a meeting with external stakeholders.
EPMA students present the results of a solar energy feasibility study to Borough Council and residents.
The three EPMA leads, Dr Helen Boylan, Mr Brian Petrus and Dr Alison DuBois.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1712028, Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) Program. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Liberal arts institutions prepare students to reason logically, think critically, communicate effectively, and act ethically. However, while STEM graduates often enter the workforce with plenty of knowledge of their area of study, they may lack critical business and project management-related skills, such as communication and leadership skills. On the flipside, graduates of subjects such as business can have highly developed business acumen but can lack the basic scientific literacy that has an important role in the workplace.

Westminster College, situated in Pennsylvania, USA, launched the Environmental Project Management Academy (EPMA) to address this. The EPMA is funded by the National Science Foundation and is run by three professors, Dr Helen Boylan, Dr Alison DuBois, and Mr Brian Petrus, who have combined their diverse areas of expertise to ensure that students leave the EPMA with a well-rounded skillset that prepares them for the working world.

The environmental science course emphasises scientific literacy and the major environmental issues facing our planet. The business administration course develops the competencies and skills needed to effectively manage a project’s life cycle by understanding the project’s scope, including associated project costs and cohesive team functioning. The cross-disciplinary cluster course also includes a two-hour weekly leadership seminar embedded into the course meeting times, during which students further develop intangible skills (such as communication skills and training in team dynamics) that are applicable to the team-based project work.

Through the EPMA programme, students collaborate with community stakeholders as they integrate knowledge of environmental science, project management and intangible skills with project work on environmental issues relevant to the region.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CROSSDISCIPLINARY LEARNING

“College classes are often taught in isolation and exclusively by discipline,” says Dr DuBois. “We wanted to show the inter-connections between environmental science, project management, and leadership. The three of us collaborate in our teaching, so our projects share a common thread through all three disciplines.”

Dr Boylan believes that combining these skillsets makes students more desirable as future employees. “Employers in the modern world value collaboration,” she says. “The complex problems that we face today, such as climate change, the pandemic or the role of artificial intelligence, require people from different disciplines to collectively solve problems. Our programme teaches students from STEM or business backgrounds how to communicate with each other. The projects require both perspectives, so collaboration is vital.”

WHY SCIENCE IS IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE

“It is my belief that almost all future jobs will require a basic understanding of science and math,” says Mr Petrus. “STEM literacy fosters creativity and critical thinking skills, which encourages teamwork and experimentation – important skills in real-world business environments.”

The world is also becoming more cross-sectoral, especially as businesses’ environmental footprints fall under increasing scrutiny. “Many businesses today are really developing their sustainability practices,” says Dr DuBois. “Having a background in STEM alongside business acumen helps create a more well-rounded professional.”

A growing reliance on technology also calls for people able to understand what it all means. “In the high-tech, data-driven world that we live in, people need to be able to look at data or figures and make sense of them,” says Dr Boylan. “We need to be able to critically analyse conclusions and methodology, which STEM literacy can help with.”

EPMA PROJECTS

The EPMA has undertaken three projects so far. Each project examined the underlying science of a topic and the feasibility of its implementation in a real-world setting. They have covered prospective solar panels in the college’s borough, collecting and selling recovered minerals from acid mine drainage and industrial hemp operations.

“The industrial hemp project was my favourite,” says Dr Boylan. “Our students developed website content related to the science of industrial hemp and completed a market analysis of potential hemp products. The students learnt about technologies associated with hemp products, such as biopolymers and composite plastics, and also how it could lead to economic growth in our region. This meant there was a real motivation for both students and faculty.” Mr Petrus agrees, and mentions how it tied in to changes in federal legislation. “The project aligned with the 2018 Farm Bill and the associated regulatory changes in the industry, namely the legalisation of industrial hemp,” he says. “We are seeing the foundations of a multi-billion-dollar industry.”

Dr DuBois has a soft spot for another project. “Even though it wasn’t as exciting as the hemp project, I really enjoyed investigating acid mine drainage,” she says. “I spent a lot of time hiking growing up and this project led to me and the students learning a lot about the environment.”

Now, they are getting started on a new project. “This year we are investigating sustainable business ventures into resources such as maple syrup, honey, cash crops and so on,” says Mr Petrus. “This is in conjunction with underutilised wooded properties owned by Westminster College.”

DR HELEN BOYLAN
Director of the Center for the Environment

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Chemistry and Environmental Science

ROLE: My role is to plan and deliver the environmental science content of the programme. I also develop lab experiences for the students, that help them develop their technical skills. I serve as the point of contact for our community project partners.

INSPIRATION: I grew up next to the Allegheny National Forest. It was my playground and my laboratory. I was fascinated by this environment and the critters it contained, which meant that environmental science appealed to me.

HELEN’S TOP TIPS FOR STUDENTS: Be curious. Ask questions about the world and the people around you. Read up on the things you are interested in. Explore!

Embrace failure. In science, you learn as much – if not more – from your mistakes than you do your successes. Often, science isn’t easy. Sometimes you just have to keep trying. Don’t be afraid to try new or difficult things – it is always worth it in the end.

DR ALISON DUBOIS
Associate Professor/Director of Graduate School

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Burnout and Compassion Fatigue

ROLE: I teach a 10-week leadership seminar. Students learn about leadership theories and traits, and work on building more effective communication and writing skills. The unique aspect about this part is that students engage in activities that make them feel vulnerable. This helps them to develop a deeper level of self-awareness, in addition to stronger emotional literacy skills.

INSPIRATION: I really love to teach. I get inspired by my students’ enthusiasm and risk-taking when they work on difficult tasks. It is motivating to watch the students grow as they stretch themselves intellectually.

ALISON’S TOP TIPS FOR STUDENTS: Anxiety is not a bad thing. Choose to get out of your comfort zone and try something challenging.

MR BRIAN PETRUS
Assistant Professor of Business Administration

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Project Management, Human Resource Management

ROLE: I act as a co-investigator for the EPMA project, developing and delivering the portion of the curriculum that focuses on project management. I have found the EPMA programme to be extremely rewarding. In addition to working directly with students, it gives me the opportunity to work alongside two of the college’s brightest and most student-centric professors.

INSPIRATION: My father has always been my greatest source of inspiration. He is retired from the Natural Resource Conservation Service and is a true jack-of-all-trades – he has provided me with innumerable life lessons that I often draw upon in the classroom. In all that I do, I strive to be the man that my father has taught me to be.

BRIAN’S TOP TIPS FOR STUDENTS: You can spend money and always make it back. When you spend time, however, you never get it back. So, spend your time wisely, doing the things you love and with people worth spending it with.

MEET THREE EPMA STUDENTS


NAME: Samuel Hockenberry
MAJOR: Mathematics/Computer Information Systems (Double Major)
CURRENT ROLE: Lead Analyst – Full Stack Developer at BNY Mellon

EPMA was offered as a cluster course during the spring term of my junior year. It offered a unique experience to work on a collaborative project while also learning about environmental science and project management.

I participated in the project that assisted the New Wilmington Borough on whether implementing solar panels in the community was a worthwhile investment. It required everything you would expect in a real-life work environment: meetings, deadlines, research, communication, and detailed documentation. It was challenging because most of these skills are usually learned outside of the classroom, and some of them were new to me.

This course gave me new insights into the world of renewable energy. Although it would be great to use solar panels everywhere, we simply do not have the technology to fully replace our current electricity infrastructure.

I found that project management is heavily based on two concepts: communication and documentation. These can drive a project to success or can lead it to failure if not utilised properly. Our teams had to keep detailed documentation and open communication throughout the project.

I attribute this course to ‘jump-starting’ my career. By the time it came to an end, I could understand a project’s lifecycle and confidently apply that knowledge outside of the classroom. This helped me every day during my summer internship, which led me to secure the position I am in today.

In the short term, I would like to become a product manager for a project, where the skills I learned in the course would come in useful. In the longer term, I hope to continue my education and receive a Master’s degree in Computer Science, and eventually a PhD in Mathematics.

I would advise anyone to take the course! It is the closest students can get to ‘real-world’ project development outside of the workplace.


NAME: Reilly DeGeorge
MAJOR: Environmental Science
CURRENT ROLE: Industrial Laboratory Chemist

I took the EPMA course because I wanted to further my knowledge in topics related to the environment and project management, and to gain more real-life and hands-on experiences.

I took part in researching industrial hemp, such as its associated agricultural science, the legalisation and regulations surrounding hemp, and the business of selling and distributing hemp products in the US. This class challenged me to use my voice and participate in discussions and meetings. I also learnt how to use new software and effective working within teams.

We collaborated with DON Services Inc. and provided them with information on the hemp industry. Due to the pandemic, we were unable to collaborate with the farmers, but we still got great hands-on experience.

This project has helped me get a better understanding of the environment through learning about real-world situations. We were able to go out and talk directly to the people they affected.

The programme has taught me how to communicate effectively within small teams, how to manage and lead groups of people, how to communicate better, and how to make pivotal decisions.

I am currently working within a small team at an industrial laboratory and am constantly communicating with team members and truck drivers. The EPMA really helped me develop better communication and organisational skills. I am working towards getting my MBA and can see myself following a career in industry or the government, specifically in the environmental field.

I would advise students to get as much real-world experience as they can. The EPMA can grant you many opportunities – use them and learn from them. Build relationships with as many professors and environmental students as you can, because you can really learn a lot from them.


NAME: Zach Fryda
MAJOR: Biology
CURRENT ROLE: Medical Student, LECOM Bradenton

Being a biology major, I had very little exposure to business and project management in academia, so EPMA seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn these skills in a familiar context.

My project involved evaluating the feasibility of implementing solar energy in New Wilmington Borough. The project relied upon the integration of three different perspectives, each of which provided its own set of challenges. Morally, I was challenged to actively think about the impact of my choices and how my sphere of influence affected group dynamics and my leadership qualities. Scientifically, I was challenged to understand the science behind not only solar energy, but the wider field of sustainable energy too. Financially, the project challenged me to appreciate the fiscal responsibilities associated with STEM research and developments.

The project’s primary stakeholder was the Borough of New Wilmington and its associated board members. By working with local government officials, we applied educational concepts into actual scenarios. This not only prepared us for similar applications in the future, but also allowed us to expand upon our political skills.

Prior to EPMA, my understanding of sustainable energy was very limited. One of the most enlightening topics we discussed was the environmental impact of manufacturing solar energy. When I took the course in 2017, the environmental impacts of the manufacture of some solar panels were only just offset by the resultant clean energy. This insight taught me to think critically about technologies labelled as clean, and the need to develop surrounding infrastructure as well as the products themselves.

I had practical experience of project management prior to EPMA, specifically through working as a seasonal warehouse manager at a major fireworks store. However, putting academic context to my skills allowed me to improve them immensely and provided me with the framework to extrapolate them to other scenarios.

I credit this course for the sole, most significant growth of my leadership style and personal development. It made me evaluate and improve my actions and contributions as a leader and group member. Although my scientific knowledge grew, it is the leadership techniques I learnt that now help me during my medical school education. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of this aspect of EPMA in helping me succeed as a graduate, medical student, and future physician.

I am currently a second-year medical student and plan on obtaining a Master’s of Public Health. After medical school, I hope to become a Paediatric Infectious Disease Physician. I want to impact public health on a global scale. Ultimately, I hope to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where I can not only treat patients but can also impact policy that could positively affect people around the globe.

I would advise prospective students to keep an open mind and not only focus on content they deem ‘relevant’ to their area of study. Had I not fully engaged with every opportunity presented to me, I could have unknowingly shut doors that would help me meet my future goals.

Do you have a question for Dr Boylan, Dr Dubois, Mr Petrus, Samuel, Reilly or Zach?
Write it in the comments box below and Dr Boylan, Dr Dubois, Mr Petrus, Samuel, Reilly or Zach will get back to you. (Remember, researchers are very busy people, so you may have to wait a few days.)

The post Connecting the dots between science and business appeared first on Futurum.

]]>
https://futurumcareers.com/connecting-the-dots-between-science-and-business/feed 0
Competition: Design the Change https://futurumcareers.com/competition-design-the-change?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=competition-design-the-change https://futurumcareers.com/competition-design-the-change#respond Fri, 15 Jan 2021 13:51:23 +0000 http://futurumcareers.com/?p=37128 According to the Spinal Injuries Association, it is thought that more than 50,000 people are living with a spinal cord injury in [...]

The post Competition: Design the Change appeared first on Futurum.

]]>

Competition: Design the Change

According to the Spinal Injuries Association, it is thought that more than 50,000 people are living with a spinal cord injury in the UK. Could you invent a product that will improve the lives of people with a spinal cord injury?

Bolt Burdon Kemp, a law firm, and the charity Cerebra have launched a ‘Design the Change’ competition. They are giving away a whopping £3,000 to a college, undergraduate or postgraduate student in the UK who can come up with an idea that:

• Is original
• Considers the needs of people with a spinal cord injury
• Solves a practical, day-to-day problem for people with spinal cord injury
• Demonstrates commercial awareness and is viable

Teams of up to four students can also enter. The winner (or one member of the winning team) will also be offered a week’s placement at Cerebra’s research centre and £2,000 for their university or college.

Ideas

Regrettably, many people with a disability, including spinal cord injury, experience issues with accessibility in the UK. For example, in housing, less than half of Britain’s planning authorities factor in accessibility standards into their guidelines, says Habinteg Housing Association.

Similarly, in the transportation sector, popular London commuter journeys take up to 1 hour and 35 minutes longer for a people in a wheelchair than those without a wheelchair. Could you come up with an invention that would help in these circumstances?

Or, watch this video from Victoria Oliver at Bolt Burdon Kemp for even more ideas.

How to enter

  1. Complete the entry form
  2. Email competition@boltburdonkemp.co.uk with your entry.

Your entry must detail the key steps outlined in the brief, and can take one of several forms, including:

  • A series of 3-4 A3-sized PDFs
  • A video, of 5 minutes or less, uploaded privately to YouTube
  • A combination of words and images delivered as a PDF document, including early sketches, photographs and CAD renderings, if created

The deadline for entries is 23 April 2021.

Read more about this:

Bolt Burdon Kemp: Design the Change competition 2020-21

The post Competition: Design the Change appeared first on Futurum.

]]>
https://futurumcareers.com/competition-design-the-change/feed 0
Can gangs teach us about empathy, respect and solidarity? https://futurumcareers.com/can-gangs-teach-us-about-empathy-respect-and-solidarity?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-gangs-teach-us-about-empathy-respect-and-solidarity https://futurumcareers.com/can-gangs-teach-us-about-empathy-respect-and-solidarity#respond Thu, 14 Jan 2021 19:41:32 +0000 http://futurumcareers.com/?p=37102 Born without a forearm, bioengineering student David Aguilar Amphoux built his own prosthetic arm using LEGO Bionicle parts. He says anything is possible if you “fight for your dreams”

The post Can gangs teach us about empathy, respect and solidarity? appeared first on Futurum.

]]>

Can gangs teach us about empathy, respect and solidarity?

César Andrade Arteaga, a member of the Latin Kings gang, works with a unique research project called TRANSGANG, which aims to understand and propagate the positives of gang culture and mediation. Now an assistant researcher, César tells us how his experience can teach us to work together to help others

YOU BECAME A MEMBER OF THE ALMIGHTY LATIN KINGS AND QUEENS NATION (A.K.A LATIN KINGS OR LK) WHEN YOU WERE 18 YEARS OLD. HOW DID YOU END UP JOINING THE GANG?

I joined the LK in February 1994, even though I was a minor. If I think of any reason for joining, it is that I wanted to gain respect on the streets and from the people in my neighbourhood. Another reason for joining was to try to end other youth gangs so that the LK was the only one left in the neighbourhood and in the city of Portoviejo in Manabí [a province in Ecuador]. We also wanted to be like Robin Hood – taking things from those who had the most to give to those who had very little.

We managed to clean the poorest neighbourhoods of delinquents, do social work with other young people, create respect for our members, emblem and our name, and prevent other groups from growing. I became recognised. But I must admit, achieving this involved having to cry over the loss of many good warriors.

FOR YOU, AS A YOUNG ECUADORIAN MALE, WHAT WERE THE BENEFITS OF JOINING THE LK?

The biggest benefit was gaining respect on the streets, without forgetting the values that my parents and the LK taught me. It allowed me to become a leader, forge an identity and raise my self-esteem. I felt the LK was good for something. The gang re-educated me about values such as internal and external respect, brotherhood, solidarity, love for all the different colours of gang members and, if necessary, to die for our brothers, LK crown and Nation. Sometimes, there were violent confrontations with other gangs.

YOU MOVED TO MADRID, SPAIN, IN 2003. WHAT WERE YOUR REASONS FOR LEAVING ECUADOR AND THE LK?

Despite migrating to Spain, I have never stopped being a member of the LK. When you are part of the gang, you do not leave it until your heart stops beating. Little brothers and sisters will remember you forever, because every month your name is shouted up at heaven in recognition of your love, effort and sacrifice. You can walk away, but you will never stop being part of the family.

I travelled to Spain because, like any other migrant, I was looking for a better future for myself and my family. Conflict in the Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas province in Ecuador between gangs and with the police was getting worse, which was another reason to migrate. On arriving in Spain, members of the LK contacted me to expand our network there and so I became the leader of this network – but with another mindset. I wanted to help young people from the underworld so that they didn’t make the same mistakes that I made in the past.

The El Grito gang meet at the Monserrat Monastery near Barcelona in Spain, in respect and love for the brothers, sisters, princes and princesses who came before them.
Tattoos of the LK shown on César’s chest

YOU BECAME A MEMBER OF THE ALMIGHTY LATIN KINGS AND QUEENS NATION (A.K.A LATIN KINGS OR LK) WHEN YOU WERE 18 YEARS OLD. HOW DID YOU END UP JOINING THE GANG?

I joined the LK in February 1994, even though I was a minor. If I think of any reason for joining, it is that I wanted to gain respect on the streets and from the people in my neighbourhood. Another reason for joining was to try to end other youth gangs so that the LK was the only one left in the neighbourhood and in the city of Portoviejo in Manabí [a province in Ecuador]. We also wanted to be like Robin Hood – taking things from those who had the most to give to those who had very little.

We managed to clean the poorest neighbourhoods of delinquents, do social work with other young people, create respect for our members, emblem and our name, and prevent other groups from growing. I became recognised. But I must admit, achieving this involved having to cry over the loss of many good warriors.

FOR YOU, AS A YOUNG ECUADORIAN MALE, WHAT WERE THE BENEFITS OF JOINING THE LK?

The biggest benefit was gaining respect on the streets, without forgetting the values that my parents and the LK taught me. It allowed me to become a leader, forge an identity and raise my self-esteem. I felt the LK was good for something. The gang re-educated me about values such as internal and external respect, brotherhood, solidarity, love for all the different colours of gang members and, if necessary, to die for our brothers, LK crown and Nation. Sometimes, there were violent confrontations with other gangs.

YOU MOVED TO MADRID, SPAIN, IN 2003. WHAT WERE YOUR REASONS FOR LEAVING ECUADOR AND THE LK?

Despite migrating to Spain, I have never stopped being a member of the LK. When you are part of the gang, you do not leave it until your heart stops beating. Little brothers and sisters will remember you forever, because every month your name is shouted up at heaven in recognition of your love, effort and sacrifice. You can walk away, but you will never stop being part of the family.

I travelled to Spain because, like any other migrant, I was looking for a better future for myself and my family. Conflict in the Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas province in Ecuador between gangs and with the police was getting worse, which was another reason to migrate. On arriving in Spain, members of the LK contacted me to expand our network there and so I became the leader of this network – but with another mindset. I wanted to help young people from the underworld so that they didn’t make the same mistakes that I made in the past.

WHAT IS YOUR ROLE IN THE TRANSGANG PROJECT?

I work as a research assistant and facilitate contacts with members of different Latino groups nationally and internationally. I organise mediation workshops, such as the current music production project called The Royal Life: The new King. Involving active and non-active LK members, we compose hip-hop and rap songs related to our life events. It is a mediation project that works with young migrants from Barcelona. We have already produced three songs and a video of a fourth song is about to come out, which we will publish on our YouTube channel.

I organise the TRANSGANG project library, which involves collecting press releases, transcribing interviews and documenting the project. I’m also the webmaster of a blog about a book called El Rey (The King), published together with Dr Carles Feixa Pàmpols, the principal investigator on the TRANSGANG project.

I have known Carles since 2005 and have collaborated with him on various projects, as an informant. The TRANSGANG project gave me the opportunity to work as a research assistant.

WHY IS THE TRANSGANG PROJECT IMPORTANT TO YOU PROFESSIONALLY AND PERSONALLY?

From a professional point of view, the project has allowed me to enter the world of social research and learn about techniques and methods that will open doors for me when this project has ended. My computer skills and knowledge have advanced a lot and I’m discovering other youth gangs, which I didn’t know about previously. I’m also learning about how mediation works. All of this is a great professional leap for me.

From a personal point of view, I’m meeting professionals with a huge amount of knowledge and human values, who make me a better person every day. Thanks to the TRANSGANG collaboration, I’ve been able to obtain Spanish residency and citizenship. This allows me to stabilise my life, not fall prey to temptations, and to look to the future with optimism.

HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE LK SHAPED YOU?

Indirectly, LK was already mediating between Latino youth gangs as well as organising cultural and sporting events, and this has given me relevant experience to work on the TRANSGANG project. I also learned leadership skills and to apply the values that represent LK as a group: love, honour, obedience, sacrifice and righteousness – five sacred points of the LK crown.

WHAT POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES DOES YOUR EXPERIENCE BRING TO SOCIETY?

Having experienced some dramatic things in my country, Ecuador, my life experience serves as an example to other young gang members so that they don’t fall into violent attitudes and can become better people. Furthermore, gang values, in our current world, can serve as a model to show that human relationships can be different; they can be based on empathy, solidarity and mutual respect.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE GANG MEMBERS?

I would never ask you to leave your gang because it is a family for you, a feeling you carry inside. What I would ask is that you don’t commit violent or criminal acts; on the contrary, I’d ask that you work together to help others see that this path leads nowhere.

WHAT CAN YOUNG PEOPLE WHO AREN’T GANG MEMBERS LEARN FROM THE TRANSGANG PROJECT?

You can learn about the true motivations behind belonging to a gang – the reasons why gang members want to belong and that it is about seeking help in different way. You’ll learn about our identity, our history, our values, which have been violent at times in the past, but are actually about benefiting everyone and living harmoniously. We are not violent people, so we can try to end the negative labels that everyone puts on us. This is the most important thing: to teach young people about who we really are and what we truly stand for.

​ABOUT CÉSAR ANDRADE ARTEAGA and TRANSGANG

César Andrade Arteaga (Pórtoviejo, Manabi-Ecuador 1976) has been a member of the ALKQN (Almighty Latin Kings & Queens Nation) since 1994. At that time LK’s activities and projects were internal and were not publicly recognised by the authorities. In 2003, César arrived in Madrid (Spain) with the purpose of working and helping his family. In 2005-6, he and other LK members met with the Barcelona local government to set the LK group up as a legally-accepted youth organisation called the “Cultural Organization of Kings and Queens of Catalonia”.

The TRANSGANG project is led by Dr Carles Feixa Pàmpols at Pompeu Fabra University, Spain. Its aim is to understand the positives of gang culture and how to resolve conflict through mediation rather than violence. To learn more, visit: https://www.upf.edu/web/transgang/project

The post Can gangs teach us about empathy, respect and solidarity? appeared first on Futurum.

]]>
https://futurumcareers.com/can-gangs-teach-us-about-empathy-respect-and-solidarity/feed 0
Detecting toxic substances for a greener and healthier world https://futurumcareers.com/detecting-toxic-substances-for-a-greener-and-healthier-world?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=detecting-toxic-substances-for-a-greener-and-healthier-world https://futurumcareers.com/detecting-toxic-substances-for-a-greener-and-healthier-world#respond Thu, 14 Jan 2021 17:03:55 +0000 http://futurumcareers.com/?p=37080 Dr Wenping Yin is working to harness fluorescent materials to detect harmful levels of toxic substances. The findings will have positive impacts for agriculture and defence.

The post Detecting toxic substances for a greener and healthier world appeared first on Futurum.

]]>

Detecting toxic substances for a greener and healthier world

Dr Wenping Yin, based at Monash University in Australia, forms part of a team working at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science. Her work is focused on photoluminescent chemical sensors which can detect toxic substances. The findings will make the world a safer place

TALK LIKE A MATERIALS SCIENTIST

CHEMICAL SENSORS – measurement devices that convert a chemical or physical property of a specific analyte into a measurable signal.

ANALYTE – the scientific term for a chemical substance being observed.

FLUORESCENT MATERIALS – materials that emit colourful light when the light or current is given.

QUANTUM DOTS – man-made nanoscale crystals that can make much brighter emitting colour than their larger scale equivalents.

PEROVSKITE NANOCRYSTALS – a class of semiconductor nanocrystals, which exhibit unique characteristics that separate them from traditional quantum dots.

BROMOMETHANE – a colourless, non-flammable gas with no distinct smell. It is the most effective soil fumigant for killing plant pests.

IODOMETHANE – another member of the class of the fumigant. A less toxic replacement after bromomethane.

Toxic substances are those that can be poisonous or otherwise detrimental to the health of human beings, crops and the environment. Some toxic substances are naturally occurring, such as snake venom and caffeine, but whether or not they are harmful is dependent on the levels an individual is exposed to. Often, this requires common sense and being careful, such as when using bleach to clean surfaces, or filling a car with petrol – provided a person acts in a safe manner, no harm will come to them.

However, there are other toxic substances which are used for industrial or agricultural purposes, such as controlling pests in buildings, soils and wood. In these situations, toxic substances are administered in sprays or as fumigants, but only a very small amount of exposure to these substances can cause significant harm. Unfortunately, pesticides such as bromomethane and iodomethane are used around the world, so even if they are administered in small amounts in each location, the total amount administered can be harmful to the ozone layer. Then there is the fact that the amount of toxic substance administered often relies on the experience of the farmer, which is not infallible.

With problems such as these in mind, Dr Wenping Yin is working on a project that harnesses fluorescent materials as a means of detecting harmful levels of toxic substances. Based at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science and Monash University in Australia, Wenping is using the knowledge, skills and experience she gained during her doctorate to drive positive change for people, crops and the environment.

WHAT DID WENPING ADDRESS IN HER PHD RESEARCH?

One of the branches of Wenping’s doctorate was focused on understanding the limitations of optoelectronic devices which, put simply, are devices that use light in some way such as LEDs, lightbulbs and fibre optic cables. “In any kind of optoelectronic device, our first concern is always to improve the efficiency of the conversion between light and energy, especially when emerging materials like perovskite are just getting off the ground,” explains Wenping. “However, as the fundamental technology evolves, the real limiting factor behind it will gradually shift to how to further understand and optimise the physical/chemical processes therein.”

These physical/chemical processes generally occur so fast that ordinary electronic detectors are insufficient. Wenping therefore used ultrafast spectroscopy to observe the processes on time scales as short as trillionths of a second. The research that Wenping did during her PhD gave her a deeper understanding of fluorescent materials, which feeds into her current project. Indeed, the work she did during her PhD laid a great foundation for the transition to and development of her current project.

WHAT DOES WENPING’S CURRENT PROJECT INVOLVE?

Chemically detecting harmful levels of toxic substances relies on several processes, such as physical adsorption, chemical response and signal reporting. Of course, given the complexity of what is involved, these practices require significant and complex research, so Wenping and her team are working to reduce or eliminate the steps involved as much as possible. They achieve this by using their skills to design ingenious tools that can facilitate higher sensitivity, faster response and lower cost (particularly important when considering future industrial production). There is also the need to design tools that only react to the target toxic substances. This ensures that the sensors are fit for the environment in which they are being operated.

HAS THE TEAM HAD ANY SUCCESSES SO FAR?

Yes! Wenping and the team have already developed a sensor system that can be used to detect fumigants. “This technology comprehensively surpasses any portable product available on the market in terms of detection speed, sensitivity and selectivity,” explains Wenping. “We therefore have reason to believe that this system holds great potential for mass industrial production.” The team has filed a patent and is in conversation with the relevant governmental departments in Australia, with a view to rolling it out across the agricultural sector. If this can be achieved, applications in the future, such as defence and biological (e.g. heavy metal).

 WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS FOR THE RESEARCH?

It is fair to say that Wenping is very ambitious, which is essential when trying to drive new science and technology forward. “My colleagues and I are very willing to believe that this fluorescent sensor system will have a wide range of applications and are trying to develop new materials for various substances detection,” Wenping says. “The future challenge for this project will be to make the sensor work in a mixed environment of matter, be it gas, solid or liquid. Another important question is how to integrate different sensor materials to respond with different toxic substances, respectively, without affecting the performance of each component.”

We wish Wenping and the team the best of luck!

DR WENPING YIN
ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science and Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Materials Science and Engineering

RESEARCH PROJECT: Wenping is working to harness fluorescent materials as a means of detecting harmful levels of toxic substances. The findings will have positive impacts for agriculture, but could also benefit defence, biological and other fields.

FUNDER: Australian Research Council

ABOUT MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

Materials science is an interdisciplinary field that is focused on the properties of matter and how they can be applied to a wide range of areas within science and engineering. It is one of the oldest forms of applied science and engineering – you will no doubt have heard of the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age, which are all examples of periods of different areas of focus within materials science.

One of the most significant breakthroughs in the field came when the American scientist, Josiah Willard Gibbs, demonstrated that thermodynamic properties related to the atomic structure of a material were also related to its physical properties. Since then, materials scientists have investigated many materials to determine their structures, properties and performance. This, in turn, has led to technological innovations that have changed the world around us.

Reference
https://doi.org/10.33424/FUTURUM100

Spectroscopy working in the laboratory at The University of Melbourne. (Credit: Gavan Mitchell & Michelle Gough.)

ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science (ACEx) Annual Workshop (2019).
The head of the Exciton Science Centre, Prof Paul Mulvaney, speaking at a monthly meeting. Photographed by Gavan Mitchell & Michelle Gough
Dr Wenping Yin receiving an award at the Korea-Japan Symposium on Frontier Photoscience in 2017. Photographed by Tae Hyu Ahn
Dr Wenping Yin graduating from Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU). Photographed by Chengyu Han
Research work at The University of Melbourne. Photographed by Gavan Mitchell & Michelle Gough
TALK LIKE A MATERIALS SCIENTIST

CHEMICAL SENSORS – measurement devices that convert a chemical or physical property of a specific analyte into a measurable signal.

ANALYTE – the scientific term for a chemical substance being observed.

FLUORESCENT MATERIALS – materials that emit colourful light when the light or current is given.

QUANTUM DOTS – man-made nanoscale crystals that can make much brighter emitting colour than their larger scale equivalents.

PEROVSKITE NANOCRYSTALS – a class of semiconductor nanocrystals, which exhibit unique characteristics that separate them from traditional quantum dots.

BROMOMETHANE – a colourless, non-flammable gas with no distinct smell. It is the most effective soil fumigant for killing plant pests.

IODOMETHANE – another member of the class of the fumigant. A less toxic replacement after bromomethane.

Toxic substances are those that can be poisonous or otherwise detrimental to the health of human beings, crops and the environment. Some toxic substances are naturally occurring, such as snake venom and caffeine, but whether or not they are harmful is dependent on the levels an individual is exposed to. Often, this requires common sense and being careful, such as when using bleach to clean surfaces, or filling a car with petrol – provided a person acts in a safe manner, no harm will come to them.

However, there are other toxic substances which are used for industrial or agricultural purposes, such as controlling pests in buildings, soils and wood. In these situations, toxic substances are administered in sprays or as fumigants, but only a very small amount of exposure to these substances can cause significant harm. Unfortunately, pesticides such as bromomethane and iodomethane are used around the world, so even if they are administered in small amounts in each location, the total amount administered can be harmful to the ozone layer. Then there is the fact that the amount of toxic substance administered often relies on the experience of the farmer, which is not infallible.

With problems such as these in mind, Dr Wenping Yin is working on a project that harnesses fluorescent materials as a means of detecting harmful levels of toxic substances. Based at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science and Monash University in Australia, Wenping is using the knowledge, skills and experience she gained during her doctorate to drive positive change for people, crops and the environment.

WHAT DID WENPING ADDRESS IN HER PHD RESEARCH?

One of the branches of Wenping’s doctorate was focused on understanding the limitations of optoelectronic devices which, put simply, are devices that use light in some way such as LEDs, lightbulbs and fibre optic cables. “In any kind of optoelectronic device, our first concern is always to improve the efficiency of the conversion between light and energy, especially when emerging materials like perovskite are just getting off the ground,” explains Wenping. “However, as the fundamental technology evolves, the real limiting factor behind it will gradually shift to how to further understand and optimise the physical/chemical processes therein.”

These physical/chemical processes generally occur so fast that ordinary electronic detectors are insufficient. Wenping therefore used ultrafast spectroscopy to observe the processes on time scales as short as trillionths of a second. The research that Wenping did during her PhD gave her a deeper understanding of fluorescent materials, which feeds into her current project. Indeed, the work she did during her PhD laid a great foundation for the transition to and development of her current project.

WHAT DOES WENPING’S CURRENT PROJECT INVOLVE?

Chemically detecting harmful levels of toxic substances relies on several processes, such as physical adsorption, chemical response and signal reporting. Of course, given the complexity of what is involved, these practices require significant and complex research, so Wenping and her team are working to reduce or eliminate the steps involved as much as possible. They achieve this by using their skills to design ingenious tools that can facilitate higher sensitivity, faster response and lower cost (particularly important when considering future industrial production). There is also the need to design tools that only react to the target toxic substances. This ensures that the sensors are fit for the environment in which they are being operated.

HAS THE TEAM HAD ANY SUCCESSES SO FAR?

Yes! Wenping and the team have already developed a sensor system that can be used to detect fumigants. “This technology comprehensively surpasses any portable product available on the market in terms of detection speed, sensitivity and selectivity,” explains Wenping. “We therefore have reason to believe that this system holds great potential for mass industrial production.” The team has filed a patent and is in conversation with the relevant governmental departments in Australia, with a view to rolling it out across the agricultural sector. If this can be achieved, applications in the future, such as defence and biological (e.g. heavy metal).

WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS FOR THE RESEARCH?

It is fair to say that Wenping is very ambitious, which is essential when trying to drive new science and technology forward. “My colleagues and I are very willing to believe that this fluorescent sensor system will have a wide range of applications and are trying to develop new materials for various substances detection,” Wenping says. “The future challenge for this project will be to make the sensor work in a mixed environment of matter, be it gas, solid or liquid. Another important question is how to integrate different sensor materials to respond with different toxic substances, respectively, without affecting the performance of each component.”

We wish Wenping and the team the best of luck!

DR WENPING YIN
ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science and Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Materials Science and Engineering

RESEARCH PROJECT: Wenping is working to harness fluorescent materials as a means of detecting harmful levels of toxic substances. The findings will have positive impacts for agriculture, but could also benefit defence, biological and other fields.

FUNDER: Australian Research Council

ABOUT MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

Materials science is an interdisciplinary field that is focused on the properties of matter and how they can be applied to a wide range of areas within science and engineering. It is one of the oldest forms of applied science and engineering – you will no doubt have heard of the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age, which are all examples of periods of different areas of focus within materials science.

One of the most significant breakthroughs in the field came when the American scientist, Josiah Willard Gibbs, demonstrated that thermodynamic properties related to the atomic structure of a material were also related to its physical properties. Since then, materials scientists have investigated many materials to determine their structures, properties and performance. This, in turn, has led to technological innovations that have changed the world around us.

WHAT DOES WENPING FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT WORKING IN THE FIELD?

Wenping says that research is itself a lifelong learning journey and her work involves continuously updating her knowledge, which is one of the greatest attractions of her research. “When I realised that my discoveries could not only guide others but could also be turned directly into products benefiting society, that sense of accomplishment was exactly what I imagined in my childhood,” explains Wenping. “I believe this is the most fulfilling moment for every researcher.”

HOW DOES HER WORK CONTRIBUTE TO A ‘GREEN FUTURE’?

The act of testing for toxic substances is a major contribution to a green future. While technological developments continue apace, the Earth’s environment and people’s physical health is facing challenges from the harmful chemicals we use in daily activities. While in the past man fought nature, we are now dealing with issues caused by our own actions. The harmful substances that Wenping works to detect are often colourless and odourless, making it extremely difficult for people to know they are there. Her work is helping to contribute to a greener and healthier future.

WHAT DOES WENPING ENJOY AND FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT THEORETICAL AND PRACTICAL PROJECTS?

“There is an old joke in the field: ‘Theory is when you know everything but nothing works, practice is when everything works but nobody knows why. When you combine theory and practice, nothing works and nobody knows why!’,” says Wenping. “As an interdisciplinary researcher, I can appreciate the meaning behind the joke and there is an element of truth to it.”

Ultimately, Wenping believes you need to be careful enough to find problems in practice and smart enough to solve them by theory. So, if you are careful and smart, materials science might just be the field for you.

HOW TO BECOME A MATERIALS SCIENTIST

• AZoM is the leading online publication for the Materials Science community. It works to educate and inform a worldwide audience. Some of the papers on there are quite complex, but it is an invaluable resource for those interested in the field: https://www.azom.com/

• There are some videos that provide more information regarding what materials science is. Each video will give recommendations for further exploration:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ9BkoLWdlg&ab_channel=AdvancedMetallicSystemCDT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cUEjPtVlIM&ab_channel=MaterialsScienceaChalmersAreaofAdvance

• The salary for a materials scientist in Australia can range from anywhere between AU$60,000 and AU$101,000, depending on the level of experience you have.

PATHWAY FROM SCHOOL TO MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

Wenping is keen to emphasise that the field of materials science and engineering is quite broad, so there is no set path for those who want to pursue a career in that direction. However, chemistry and physics are especially important and you should take those subjects at school and beyond, if possible. “Courses in analytical chemistry, structural chemistry and quantum physics are important after high school,” says Wenping. “Those subjects can help you to understand the equipment and materials you will use in the future.”

You’ll need a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study, such as materials engineering, materials science, applied chemistry and applied physics.

https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/job-profiles/materials-engineer

HOW DID WENPING BECOME A PHYSICIST AND MATERIALS SCIENTIST?

WHAT WERE YOUR INTERESTS AS A CHILD?

I was hyperactive when I was a kid, so was a basketball player and sprinter for a couple of years. Although I didn’t have a clear scientific dream at the time, I did enjoy all kinds of hands-on work. Almost all the electronic devices in my parent’s home were dismantled by me at some point! One of my most memorable moments was when I secretly used a soldering iron and ended up hurting my hand when I was 13. Fortunately, my parents endured all those vandalisms and supported my whimsical creations – which I think is related to the motivation and interest in science I developed later.

WHO OR WHAT HAS INSPIRED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?

Although most of the time I believe that self-motivation is the primary factor of success, there are some people who have inspired and encouraged me in my career. One of them is Professor Villy Sundstrom from Lund University in Sweden, who is a very famous spectroscopy expert. He used the phrase ‘Excited by light my entire life’ as a summary of his career when he retired, which impressed me a lot. Another moment was when Professor Yi-Bing Cheng – at his own retirement ceremony – chose to appeal to the many scholars present that day not to underestimate any young student because of their nationality. This was deeply inspiring to me and I hope to have a successful and gracious research career without regrets, like they have had.

WHAT ATTRIBUTES HAVE MADE YOU A SUCCESSFUL SCIENTIST?

I believe I still have a long way to go before I can be considered a successful scientist, but I believe persistence and working wisely are key attributes for success. We all know that a person who always gives up easily does not deserve victory. However, this is not to say that simply staying longer in the lab and working longer hours is a recipe for success; working wisely and efficiently is often more important than working hard without thinking.

YOU HAVE TAUGHT BOTH CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS AT HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL. WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM THESE EXPERIENCES?

Teaching is extremely interesting to me and allows me to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for what I have learned. Often, it is only when you are preparing a teaching document that you begin to understand how different it can be between learning by yourself and making others understand. In many ways, it helps to frame your own knowledge when you start to attempt to impart your knowledge to others.

WENPING’S TOP TIPS

1 Interest is the greatest teacher. If you are interested in a topic you are far more likely to learn what you need to succeed. Never do something simply because somebody else tells you to – you must have your own ideas, passions and
thoughts. Listen to others but remember to listen to yourself.

2 Focus on what you are doing and never give up easily. My own experience shows that I took many detours on the road to research, but I believe most of this has become beneficial over time. There is no single pathway, but whatever you decide to do, persist!

3 For those interested in teaching like I did earlier in my career, I would say you should not underestimate any student and always encourage them to ask questions, even if those questions fall outside the scope of the lesson. Also, don’t be limited to the knowledge found in textbooks – life experiences can be more useful, interesting and inspiring, which often help students get the most out of lessons.

Do you have a question for Wenping?
Write it in the comments box below and Wenping will get back to you. (Remember, researchers are very busy people, so you may have to wait a few days.)

The post Detecting toxic substances for a greener and healthier world appeared first on Futurum.

]]>
https://futurumcareers.com/detecting-toxic-substances-for-a-greener-and-healthier-world/feed 0
Understanding cells and fostering love for science https://futurumcareers.com/understanding-cells-and-fostering-love-for-science?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=understanding-cells-and-fostering-love-for-science https://futurumcareers.com/understanding-cells-and-fostering-love-for-science#respond Mon, 11 Jan 2021 15:21:28 +0000 http://futurumcareers.com/?p=36992 Dr Veronica Segarra studies how cells control the movement of molecules inside them. The findings could lead to the development of improved treatments for a range of diseases.

The post Understanding cells and fostering love for science appeared first on Futurum.

]]>

Understanding cells and fostering love for science

Dr Verónica Segarra is a cell biologist based at High Point University in North Carolina, USA. In addition to her research on how cells respond to changing environments, she is also passionate about developing the next generation of scientists

Cells are the basic unit of life and perform a vast array of functions in the human body, ranging from providing structure and support to facilitating growth, producing energy, and aiding reproduction. Recent estimates put the number of cells in a single human body at around 30 trillion (yes, that means 30,000,000,000,000), with more than 200 types of cells performing different specialised jobs. In spite of this incredible diversity, there are many important traits and abilities that all cells have in common. It is hardly surprising, then, that scientists around the world dedicate their lives to studying more simple, single celled organisms to enhance our understanding of cellular function and how they are able to do the wonderful things they do.

Dr Verónica Segarra is one such scientist. Based at High Point University in North Carolina, USA, Verónica is a cell biologist who seeks to understand more about the membrane trafficking events that enable the cell to adapt to conditions of stress and starvation. Put simply, stressed cells must re-organise their membranes and transport damaged materials between different cellular compartments to recycle them and regenerate valuable resources. This carefully orchestrated movement of materials throughout the cell is known as membrane trafficking, and is especially critical to survival in times of cellular stress, such as starvation.

HOW IS VERÓNICA USING BAKER’S YEAST IN HER STUDIES?

Scientists often study cellular biology using baker’s yeast, since this simple, single-celled organism shares many of the same behaviours found in human cells, but is easy to grow using cheap ingredients. Verónica’s team uses baker’s yeast to study how cells in general respond to stress by engaging in a behaviour called autophagy, or cellular self-eating. This process cleans out damaged organelles and recycles unnecessary cellular components, freeing up resources that are critical to the cell’s survival in times of stress. “We follow how stress triggers cells to mobilise specific autophagy-related proteins and transport them on different journeys throughout the cell,” explains Verónica. “We are able to follow the movement of these proteins in live cells by genetically modifying these cells so that the key proteins will glow with green or red fluorescence.” By using microscopes to follow these movements, the team is able to understand the role of each autophagy-related protein in making the process successful.

WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE KEY FINDINGS?

Biologists have long known that cells can be divided into compartments such as the nucleus, vacuole and endoplasmic reticulum, each with its own unique function. Each autophagy related protein can be found in multiple different compartments. However, starvation can set them into motion, summoning them to travel to a new compartment, where they work together to activate recycling to facilitate cell survival. Remarkably, the team has discovered that autophagy-related proteins contain small tags that act like molecular mailing addresses, instructing the cell to deliver them to a specific compartment. Much like when somebody sends a letter and the address explains where it needs to go, these proteins contain a signal that helps the cell to place them where they are needed the most. “This finding has shed light on how the ability of a cell to adapt to stress relies upon many different proteins reaching the correct cellular location and then working together for cell survival,” says Verónica. “In this way, we are learning how the placement of each protein within the cell facilitates its function.”

WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS FOR THE RESEARCH?

We now know that baker’s yeast and other cells use autophagy to survive starvation. But do they also use autophagy as a strategy to survive many other types of stress? For instance, Verónica’s group has uncovered evidence that yeast cells might use autophagy to survive the stress of freezing temperatures. “While there is some evidence that autophagy contributes to cells surviving this kind of freeze-thaw stress, it has not been directly tested yet. The answer to this question has implications for the baking industry and other biotechnology businesses that might benefit from genetically enhanced strains of baker’s yeast with increased resistance to freezing,” says Verónica. “Also, because baker’s yeast cells are very similar to human cells, this knowledge can provide us with clues about how to better preserve human cellular material for medical research and therapeutic purposes.”

HOW DOES VERÓNICA THINK YOUNG PEOPLE CAN BE ENGAGED IN SCIENCE?

Alongside her work as a cell biologist, Verónica is passionate about helping the next generation of students become interested in science. She and her team have researched new ways to engage students and facilitate their learning in science. “In my experience, students are engaged when they feel that they belong in science, that they are needed and appreciated in their fields of interest. Students feel like they belong when we give them space and the resources to develop their unique talents as scientists,” says Verónica. “Engaging young scientists in individualised ways will provide us with future professionals who approach science from an angle that is innovative and different from everyone else’s. Only then will we be able to realise the full potential of our talents and respond to the current challenges that affect our society today.”

IN WHAT WAYS CAN THE ARTS HELP YOUNG PEOPLE STUDYING STEM SUBJECTS?

The arts and sciences are surprisingly complementary. Making scientific discoveries requires creativity and the ability to think ‘outside the box’. The arts can help students flex those creative muscles and practise finding new and interesting ways to approach problems. This flexible thinking is crucial for scientists trying to find solutions to new challenges, especially when these challenges are unprecedented. It is important that we all recognise that being a ‘scientist’ means so many different things – there are an extraordinary number of careers in STEM, including ones deeply connected with art, such as careers in medical or molecular illustration.

DR VERÓNICA SEGARRA
Assistant Professor of Biology, High Point University, North Carolina, USA

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Cell Biology

RESEARCH PROJECT: Verónica studies how cells control the movement of molecules inside them. The findings could lead to the development of improved treatments for a range of diseases.

FUNDER: National Institutes of Health,
National Science Foundation

Verónica’s ACCESS work is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant number 1744098. Her Accomplishing Career Transitions (ACT) work is supported by an Innovative Programs to Enhance Research Training (IPERT) grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS; award number 2R25GM116707).

VERÓNICA’S WORK WITH SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES

Verónica believes that another way to develop the next generation of scientists is through membership in scientific societies. “Professional societies are communities of scientists that share a particular interest in a field such as microbiology or biophysics. These are organisations that can expose you to cutting-edge research and help you connect with mentors, advisors and future colleagues,” explains Verónica. “They can also help an aspiring scientist acquire strategies to become an independent scientist in a particular field.”

Importantly, these organisations often have a range of ways to engage aspiring scientists and develop their talents in science. There are usually membership levels and programmes that enable students to learn more about a given scientific field and form connections with other members.

Verónica belongs to a number of scientific societies, including the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). As a member of ASCB, she has established working relationships with other members who have helped her become a better scientist and take on leadership and mentorship roles in the field.

WHAT IS REWARDING ABOUT VERÓNICA’S WORK WITH THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR CELL BIOLOGY (ASCB)?

“Being part of ASCB enables me to stay connected with young scientists that are up and coming in the field and they constantly inspire me,” says Verónica. “Of course, my work also enables me to stay connected with more seasoned scientists in my field who can provide help and guidance when needed.”

As part of her work with ASCB, Verónica is leading its Accomplishing Career Transitions (ACT) programme. The programme enables cell biologists who are starting out their independent careers to customise and individualise their professional development and training through a longitudinal mentoring framework. The ultimate aim is to facilitate their successful transition into the academic STEM workforce. Verónica is keen to emphasise that many of the transferable skills that scientists will need throughout their career are not actually taught through formal training. Thus, Verónica works to design innovative programmes that fill this gap and help young scientists learn these transferrable skills and put them into practice.

WHERE DOES VERÓNICA’S PASSION COME FROM AND WHAT MOTIVATES HER?

“I think the energy and drive to move forward and make progress comes from an overlap between my professional and personal missions and values. For example, helping others speaks to the values with which I was raised and is therefore an important part of my identity,” says Verónica. “My goal of helping others move forward in their quest of becoming successful scientists aligns perfectly with my personal mission – I am strongly motivated to support the next generation the same way I was helped by my teachers and mentors during my time as a student.”

If all that was not enough, Verónica also cofounded The Alliance to Catalyze Change for Equity in STEM Success (ACCESS), which brings together diversity-focused committees from five different scientific societies. When Verónica was the co-chair of the diversity-focused committee of the ASCB (called the Minorities Affairs Committee), she identified a need and looked for ways to collaborate with others to satisfy it. 

HOW TO BECOME A CELL BIOLOGIST

• The American Society for Cell Biology is an exhaustive resource that provides a wealth of information on the international community of biologists: https://www.ascb.org/

• National Geographic has a brilliant resource library, which includes an entire section dedicated to cell biology. We cannot recommend this resource enough: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/topics/resource-library-cellbiology/?q=&page=1&per_page=25

• The average salary can range anywhere between $81,150 (microbiologists) and $105,940 (biochemists and biophysicists), depending on the level of experience.

PATHWAY FROM SCHOOL TO CELL BIOLOGY

Verónica believes that biology, chemistry and physics are good subjects for aspiring cell biologists to take while at school. “Aspiring scientists should also take any other courses they enjoy, especially ones that will inspire them to create and formulate creative solutions to challenges we face as a society,” says Verónica. “Problem solving and thinking creatively are transferable skills that can be applied in any field of knowledge.”

You will need a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study.

https://study.com/articles/Cellular_Biologist_Education_Requirement_and_Career_Information.html

Reference
https://doi.org/10.33424/FUTURUM99

Verónica and her undergraduate research students examine a Petri dish containing live budding yeast.
Verónica and her undergraduate research team attend the annual meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists in 2016 to present their work.
Verónica and her undergraduate research students, excited to begin the 2016 Summer Research Program in the Sciences at High Point University.
High Point University undergraduate students using the Mobile Lab to engage the community at the Greensboro Science Center in 2019.
Thomas Moss, a member of the Segarra Lab team, presenting his work at the annual meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists in 2016.
High Point University Biology faculty and students serving their community using the Mobile Lab in 2018.
High Point University Biology faculty, students and community members inside the Mobile Lab in 2018.
A yeast tetrad dissection microscope, a tool used by Verónica and her team to separate yeast spores, making it easier to isolate yeast cells with the desired combination of genes.
Verónica and her team of undergraduate scientists.
Cells are the basic unit of life and perform a vast array of functions in the human body, ranging from providing structure and support to facilitating growth, producing energy, and aiding reproduction. Recent estimates put the number of cells in a single human body at around 30 trillion (yes, that means 30,000,000,000,000), with more than 200 types of cells performing different specialised jobs. In spite of this incredible diversity, there are many important traits and abilities that all cells have in common. It is hardly surprising, then, that scientists around the world dedicate their lives to studying more simple, single celled organisms to enhance our understanding of cellular function and how they are able to do the wonderful things they do.

Dr Verónica Segarra is one such scientist. Based at High Point University in North Carolina, USA, Verónica is a cell biologist who seeks to understand more about the membrane trafficking events that enable the cell to adapt to conditions of stress and starvation. Put simply, stressed cells must re-organise their membranes and transport damaged materials between different cellular compartments to recycle them and regenerate valuable resources. This carefully orchestrated movement of materials throughout the cell is known as membrane trafficking, and is especially critical to survival in times of cellular stress, such as starvation.

HOW IS VERÓNICA USING BAKER’S YEAST IN HER STUDIES?

Scientists often study cellular biology using baker’s yeast, since this simple, single-celled organism shares many of the same behaviours found in human cells, but is easy to grow using cheap ingredients. Verónica’s team uses baker’s yeast to study how cells in general respond to stress by engaging in a behaviour called autophagy, or cellular self-eating. This process cleans out damaged organelles and recycles unnecessary cellular components, freeing up resources that are critical to the cell’s survival in times of stress. “We follow how stress triggers cells to mobilise specific autophagy-related proteins and transport them on different journeys throughout the cell,” explains Verónica. “We are able to follow the movement of these proteins in live cells by genetically modifying these cells so that the key proteins will glow with green or red fluorescence.” By using microscopes to follow these movements, the team is able to understand the role of each autophagy-related protein in making the process successful.

WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE KEY FINDINGS?

Biologists have long known that cells can be divided into compartments such as the nucleus, vacuole and endoplasmic reticulum, each with its own unique function. Each autophagy related protein can be found in multiple different compartments. However, starvation can set them into motion, summoning them to travel to a new compartment, where they work together to activate recycling to facilitate cell survival. Remarkably, the team has discovered that autophagy-related proteins contain small tags that act like molecular mailing addresses, instructing the cell to deliver them to a specific compartment. Much like when somebody sends a letter and the address explains where it needs to go, these proteins contain a signal that helps the cell to place them where they are needed the most. “This finding has shed light on how the ability of a cell to adapt to stress relies upon many different proteins reaching the correct cellular location and then working together for cell survival,” says Verónica. “In this way, we are learning how the placement of each protein within the cell facilitates its function.”

WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS FOR THE RESEARCH?

We now know that baker’s yeast and other cells use autophagy to survive starvation. But do they also use autophagy as a strategy to survive many other types of stress? For instance, Verónica’s group has uncovered evidence that yeast cells might use autophagy to survive the stress of freezing temperatures. “While there is some evidence that autophagy contributes to cells surviving this kind of freeze-thaw stress, it has not been directly tested yet. The answer to this question has implications for the baking industry and other biotechnology businesses that might benefit from genetically enhanced strains of baker’s yeast with increased resistance to freezing,” says Verónica. “Also, because baker’s yeast cells are very similar to human cells, this knowledge can provide us with clues about how to better preserve human cellular material for medical research and therapeutic purposes.”

HOW DOES VERÓNICA THINK YOUNG PEOPLE CAN BE ENGAGED IN SCIENCE?

Alongside her work as a cell biologist, Verónica is passionate about helping the next generation of students become interested in science. She and her team have researched new ways to engage students and facilitate their learning in science. “In my experience, students are engaged when they feel that they belong in science, that they are needed and appreciated in their fields of interest. Students feel like they belong when we give them space and the resources to develop their unique talents as scientists,” says Verónica. “Engaging young scientists in individualised ways will provide us with future professionals who approach science from an angle that is innovative and different from everyone else’s. Only then will we be able to realise the full potential of our talents and respond to the current challenges that affect our society today.”

IN WHAT WAYS CAN THE ARTS HELP YOUNG PEOPLE STUDYING STEM SUBJECTS?

The arts and sciences are surprisingly complementary. Making scientific discoveries requires creativity and the ability to think ‘outside the box’. The arts can help students flex those creative muscles and practise finding new and interesting ways to approach problems. This flexible thinking is crucial for scientists trying to find solutions to new challenges, especially when these challenges are unprecedented. It is important that we all recognise that being a ‘scientist’ means so many different things – there are an extraordinary number of careers in STEM, including ones deeply connected with art, such as careers in medical or molecular illustration.

DR VERÓNICA SEGARRA
Assistant Professor of Biology, High Point University, North Carolina, USA

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Cell Biology

RESEARCH PROJECT: Verónica studies how cells control the movement of molecules inside them. The findings could lead to the development of improved treatments for a range of diseases.

FUNDER: National Institutes of Health,
National Science Foundation

Verónica’s ACCESS work is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant number 1744098. Her Accomplishing Career Transitions (ACT) work is supported by an Innovative Programs to Enhance Research Training (IPERT) grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS; award number 2R25GM116707).

VERÓNICA’S WORK WITH SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES

Verónica believes that another way to develop the next generation of scientists is through membership in scientific societies. “Professional societies are communities of scientists that share a particular interest in a field such as microbiology or biophysics. These are organisations that can expose you to cutting-edge research and help you connect with mentors, advisors and future colleagues,” explains Verónica. “They can also help an aspiring scientist acquire strategies to become an independent scientist in a particular field.”

Importantly, these organisations often have a range of ways to engage aspiring scientists and develop their talents in science. There are usually membership levels and programmes that enable students to learn more about a given scientific field and form connections with other members.

Verónica belongs to a number of scientific societies, including the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). As a member of ASCB, she has established working relationships with other members who have helped her become a better scientist and take on leadership and mentorship roles in the field.

WHAT IS REWARDING ABOUT VERÓNICA’S WORK WITH THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR CELL BIOLOGY (ASCB)?

“Being part of ASCB enables me to stay connected with young scientists that are up and coming in the field and they constantly inspire me,” says Verónica. “Of course, my work also enables me to stay connected with more seasoned scientists in my field who can provide help and guidance when needed.”

As part of her work with ASCB, Verónica is leading its Accomplishing Career Transitions (ACT) programme. The programme enables cell biologists who are starting out their independent careers to customise and individualise their professional development and training through a longitudinal mentoring framework. The ultimate aim is to facilitate their successful transition into the academic STEM workforce. Verónica is keen to emphasise that many of the transferable skills that scientists will need throughout their career are not actually taught through formal training. Thus, Verónica works to design innovative programmes that fill this gap and help young scientists learn these transferrable skills and put them into practice.

WHERE DOES VERÓNICA’S PASSION COME FROM AND WHAT MOTIVATES HER?

“I think the energy and drive to move forward and make progress comes from an overlap between my professional and personal missions and values. For example, helping others speaks to the values with which I was raised and is therefore an important part of my identity,” says Verónica. “My goal of helping others move forward in their quest of becoming successful scientists aligns perfectly with my personal mission – I am strongly motivated to support the next generation the same way I was helped by my teachers and mentors during my time as a student.”

If all that was not enough, Verónica also cofounded The Alliance to Catalyze Change for Equity in STEM Success (ACCESS), which brings together diversity-focused committees from five different scientific societies. When Verónica was the co-chair of the diversity-focused committee of the ASCB (called the Minorities Affairs Committee), she identified a need and looked for ways to collaborate with others to satisfy it.

HOW TO BECOME A CELL BIOLOGIST

• The American Society for Cell Biology is an exhaustive resource that provides a wealth of information on the international community of biologists: https://www.ascb.org/

• National Geographic has a brilliant resource library, which includes an entire section dedicated to cell biology. We cannot recommend this resource enough: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/topics/resource-library-cellbiology/?q=&page=1&per_page=25

• The average salary can range anywhere between $81,150 (microbiologists) and $105,940 (biochemists and biophysicists), depending on the level of experience.

PATHWAY FROM SCHOOL TO CELL BIOLOGY

Verónica believes that biology, chemistry and physics are good subjects for aspiring cell biologists to take while at school. “Aspiring scientists should also take any other courses they enjoy, especially ones that will inspire them to create and formulate creative solutions to challenges we face as a society,” says Verónica. “Problem solving and thinking creatively are transferable skills that can be applied in any field of knowledge.”

You will need a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study.

https://study.com/articles/Cellular_Biologist_Education_Requirement_and_Career_Information.html

HOW DID VERÓNICA BECOME A CELL BIOLOGIST?

WHAT INTERESTS DID YOU HAVE AS A CHILD?

So many! I loved the arts, including painting and music (I play the clarinet). I also loved reading and writing, as well as playing and exploring!

WHO OR WHAT HAS INSPIRED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?

I had an inspiring science teacher early in school and she made me want to become a scientist. I never doubted I would become one, even when the going got tough – as it often does when you are doing something worthwhile. I have had many mentors along the way who have been a big help, including more experienced scientists, but also peer mentors who have been at a similar stage in their careers.

WHAT CHARACTERISTICS HAVE ENABLED YOU TO BE A SUCCESSFUL SCIENTIST?

I have worked hard through challenges in ways that speak to who I am as a person and my values. I do this despite any fear of failure I might experience. When I make mistakes, I find ways to learn from them and use these lessons to be better in the future.

WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR PROUDEST CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR?

I am proud that I have accomplished my goal of becoming a scientist – looking back and reflecting on my journey makes me super happy. Something that I have come to value even more than my own career trajectory is the accomplishments of my students. I have had the honour of mentoring many undergraduate scientists and have watched each of them create a unique professional trajectory. I am so proud of them!

WHAT AMBITIONS DO YOU STILL HAVE TO ACHIEVE?

My ambitions are to stay relevant and needed in whatever it is that I am doing. I find that my long-term goals tend to change over time, as I adapt and reflect on my life experiences in science and beyond. I find that very exciting – the possibilities are endless in that I can still become whatever it is I want to become. One of my main goals is to stay engaged and creative, building opportunities for myself and others that enable us to connect with science in authentic ways.

VERÓNICA’S TOP TIPS

01 Do science in a way that speaks to who you are as an individual. Try and create a unique niche that speaks to your passions and values!

02 Do some research on professional societies at the start of your career. Becoming part of the community from the outset will stand you in good stead for the future and undoubtedly introduce you to like-minded people who can inspire you to achieve greater things. Fact: failing fast is the best! Then you can regroup and try again.

Do you have a question for Veronica?
Write it in the comments box below and Veronica will get back to you. (Remember, researchers are very busy people, so you may have to wait a few days.)

The post Understanding cells and fostering love for science appeared first on Futurum.

]]>
https://futurumcareers.com/understanding-cells-and-fostering-love-for-science/feed 0
Teaching yourself a new skill during the pandemic https://futurumcareers.com/teaching-yourself-a-new-skill-during-the-pandemic?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teaching-yourself-a-new-skill-during-the-pandemic https://futurumcareers.com/teaching-yourself-a-new-skill-during-the-pandemic#respond Fri, 08 Jan 2021 02:13:52 +0000 http://futurumcareers.com/?p=36956 It used to be to watch a zombie apocalypse show or some sort of disaster film like Sea Fever or The Aeronauts, perhaps [...]

The post Teaching yourself a new skill during the pandemic appeared first on Futurum.

]]>

Teaching yourself a new skill during the pandemic

This guest blog is written by Nick Arthur from Superprof

It used to be fun to watch a zombie apocalypse show or some sort of disaster film like Sea Fever or The Aeronauts, perhaps shouting at the screen when the actors do something stupid or crazy. Often, we exclaimed – or, at least thought of what we would do if caught in such a scenario.

So, there we were, not so long ago, secure in the knowledge that a disastrous confluence of factors could never upend our lives… until it happened. One day, we were going to school and life was normal. The next, we’re on an extended holiday from school, our parents are home and nobody knows how devastating this pandemic will turn out to be.

Not sure that congratulations are in order but we are now stars in our own disaster epic. Just as you shouted at protagonists of other such stories you watched, it’s time for you to take the actions you might have wanted those heroes to take. There’s not much you can do about fighting the disease but you can certainly take steps to see that you come out ahead on the other side of it. Learning a new skill is a great way to do that.

What are you interested in?

You should consider this time a golden pass to learn about anything you want. Even the academic subjects you enjoy, maybe maths or science are on the table and, even better, you can take your studies in any direction you choose.

How about learning another language? In school, you might be limited to what classes are available but nothing is stopping you from studying the one(s) you want to learn on your own.

Other skills you could learn include:

  • Music: learn how to sing, play an instrument or write music; you can also study music history
  • Art: learn how to paint, draw, sculpt or design – anything from fashion to jewellery.
  • Cooking: find out how you can put your own twist on pad thai, curries and sushi.
  • Physical training: from yoga to bodybuilding, learn the science behind proper training methods while becoming a master.
  • Crafts: sewing and needlework, pottery, woodworking and origami are all crafts you can learn.
  • ICT: learn networking and communications, how to code and develop apps.
  • Photography: discover how wildlife photographers differ from event photographers and learn their tricks for capturing the optimal shot.

These are just a few of the fields you might explore. The list of subjects you could study is limited only by your imagination and enthusiasm.

What resources are available?

There are some limitations to learning on your own. For instance, how will you master playing the guitar if you don’t have one?

If you lack a guitar, a sewing machine, a yoga mat, a camera or whatever you need to pursue your passion, you can still learn the theory behind the practice so that, once you do get your hands on the equipment your craft demands, you’ll be ready to go.

We are so lucky to live in a time when anything we want to know is available to us – and not just through books or diagrams, either. We can stream any number of instructional videos on just about any subject. We only need to type the right question in our favourite search engine and comb through the results to find what we want.

If tutorial videos don’t feel like they’d be enough to learn a new skill, a private tutor would fit the bill. Online, you can find a Superprof who specialises in your field of study. The advantage of learning with a tutor over a recorded video course is that tutors will answer your questions and interact with you.

What’s stopping you?

At first, this time away from school might have felt like a treat. We got to game to our hearts’ content and binge-watch whatever was on but, as these shut-downs go on, they’re taking their toll. More and more people are slipping into a ‘what is the point?’ mentality. That’s not good.

You’re the point. This pandemic will end; that’s why you need to keep yourself moving forward. Until it does, you should keep yourself involved and engaged. The best way to do that is to focus on something that interests you and pursue it to your heart’s (and mind’s) content.

Thanks to study materials on sites like Alison.com and the Khan Academy; YouTube tutorials and apps like Duolingo, there’s no limit to what you can learn. So put yourself back on a schedule: go to bed at a decent hour and wake up well-rested, eat a healthy breakfast and get ready to learn!

The post Teaching yourself a new skill during the pandemic appeared first on Futurum.

]]>
https://futurumcareers.com/teaching-yourself-a-new-skill-during-the-pandemic/feed 0
Start now to reap the rewards later https://futurumcareers.com/start-now-to-reap-the-rewards-later?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=start-now-to-reap-the-rewards-later https://futurumcareers.com/start-now-to-reap-the-rewards-later#respond Tue, 05 Jan 2021 20:35:59 +0000 http://futurumcareers.com/?p=36907 Dr Shad Nelson leads the START NOW program that seeks to improve Hispanic participation in agriculture through experiential learning in soil, plant and environmental science.

The post Start now to reap the rewards later appeared first on Futurum.

]]>

Start now to reap the rewards later

Dr Shad Nelson and his team, based at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in the US, are passionate about increasing the number of hispanics with advanced degrees in the sciences. The START NOW programme involves a unique two-week international study in Costa Rica, Central America, which has already boosted the number pursuing graduate school

HELPING STUDENTS GO FURTHER

The international study abroad, research-centred workshop experience in Costa Rica led to a higher percentage of student participants going on to graduate school, compared to students that only had a career-centred internship as an undergraduate in the same START NOW programme.

Students being trained by professors led to higher confidence and desire to pursue graduate school compared to peers seeking agriculture-oriented BS degrees.

• A total of 10 TAMU-Kingsville undergraduate students did research internships with non-faculty partners, 4 of which are now at graduate school (40%).

• A total of 9 TAMU-Kingsville undergraduate students attended the Costa Rica workshop led by faculty research mentors, 7 of which are now at graduate school (77.8%).

Shad concludes, “To increase the number of Hispanics with advanced degrees in the sciences, it is critical to create an atmosphere of faculty-mentored experiences for undergraduates in research.

International collaborative workshops and study abroad experiences can enhance student advancement for underserved minority populations in agricultural and science careers, and graduate school preparation .”

There are too few underserved minority populations in critical science disciplines, such as soil, plant and agriculturally related sciences, and this is clearly problematic. It is of critical importance to increase diversity within the agricultural science disciplines for without them, progress that could be made within these fields is hindered – if everybody was given a fair opportunity at contributing, progress and scientific achievement would know no bounds.

Hispanic Americans are one of the minority populations that are underrepresented in agricultural sciences and research fields, so efforts are being made to improve undergraduate Hispanic participation, through experiential learning in soil science, plant science and environmental science. This is one of the key motivations behind the creation of the START NOW (Student Training in Agricultural Research Techniques by Novel Occupational Workshops) programme, which is designed to complement existing educational and academic programmes, and help Hispanic undergraduates become more competitive and better represented within agricultural sciences and research.

Dr Shad D. Nelson is a professor and dean based within the Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in the US. He is a passionate leader of the START NOW programme and recognises how important such programmes are at fostering inclusion and presenting opportunities to underrepresented minorities within agricultural science.

WHAT MAKES START NOW SO UNIQUE?

The START NOW programme provides a life-changing opportunity for students to take part in an international study abroad experience in Costa Rica. The programme introduces students to sustainable tropical agricultural practices and trains them through applied research-focused workshops. The undergraduate students are given the opportunity to work with other students and faculty mentors from four different Hispanic-serving universities: Texas A&M University—Kingsville, University of Texas at El Paso, Florida International University and University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez.

HOW IS THE PROGRAMME STRUCTURED?

The START NOW programme is competitive, but once the students are selected, they go through preparatory training workshops before studying abroad. “In Costa Rica, students visit agricultural universities, research companies, farms and rural community businesses,” explains Shad. “They learn about sustainable agricultural practices incorporating soil health and water quality management, highland and low-valley crop production and animal husbandry. Students are also trained in proper research sampling techniques, taking soil and water samples from various agricultural sites, followed by sample analysis at the Texas A&M University Soltis Center located in San Isidro, Costa Rica.” Students work in collaborative teams and present their research findings prior to leaving Costa Rica.

WHY IS THE TIME STUDENTS SPEND WITH FACULTY SO IMPORTANT?

Many minority students are first generation college students and are often the first to obtain a college degree in their family – therefore, graduate school is not something many of them would consider automatically on entering college. “When students are engaged in research alongside a faculty mentor it has a profound impact on building their self-confidence, as they know an adult peer believes in their abilities,” says Shad. “Students not only see their skills develop, they also learn they have an aptitude for science.” Importantly, the two-week study abroad experience allows students and faculty members to spend quality time together, as well as having discussions during the discovery process. This can help students understand their potential and realise they are ready for graduate school.

WHAT HIGHLIGHTS AND SUCCESS STORIES HAS THE PROGRAMME SEEN SO FAR?

The START NOW programme has directly shown that if institutions want to increase the number of minorities in careers that require MS or PhD degrees, involvement with faculty mentors early on in the college experience is critical. “The impact and importance of faculty engagement by the two-week Costa Rica trip has led to a much higher percentage of students going on to graduate school than compared to those who only had a career-focused summer internship with US Department of Agriculture agency partners,” explains Shad. “The number of doctoral graduates from minority Hispanic populations is very low and without programmes like this that support close faculty-student interaction, these numbers will continue to be suppressed in higher education institutions. Funding support for undergraduate research experiences with faculty mentor engagement is essential, otherwise the long-term impacts are fewer minorities considering and pursuing graduate MS and PhD degrees.”

DOES THE PROGRAMME BENEFIT THE FACULTY AND INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE INVOLVED?

Yes! Soil, plant, animal and environmental sciences are disciplines that require research and personal experiences that exist outside of the classroom. Information can be obtained from textbooks and conversations, but nothing beats working out in the field. The faculty members involved in START NOW are engaged in applied, hands-on learning workshops, which is beneficial to their own professional development. Of course, seeing underrepresented students exploring different fields of science for the first time is extremely rewarding.

DR SHAD D. NELSON
Professor and Dean, Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, USA

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Soil, Plant and Water Sciences

RESEARCH PROJECT: START NOW is a programme that seeks to improve Hispanic participation in agriculture through experiential learning in soil science, plant science and environmental science. The students who are selected take part in an international study abroad experience in Costa Rica.

FUNDER: USDA-NIFA Hispanic Serving Institutions (grant award no. 2016-38422-25542)American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Women’s International Science Collaboration Program; University Of Vermont

STUDENT PROFILES

Name: Christopher Flores-Lopez
Major: Master of Agriculture Science, Agribusiness
Current role/studies: M.S. student working under the NSFCREST Project

The faculty and staff at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) work hard to provide their students with opportunities to enhance their applied research skills. I became part of START NOW by taking advantage of those opportunities and have done my best to learn as much as possible from the experience.

The research my team and I worked on in Costa Rica focused on the water quality of the area. We took several water samples throughout the trip and measured the total amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in it.

One of the main highlights of the trip was the on-farm workshops. It was a unique experience to see how agriculture production varies in another country. Foundationally, agriculture in Costa Rica is the same as it is in the United States, however, there is a technological and resource gap between the US and Costa Rica. Therefore, many of the farmers and producers of the area had to come up with innovative ways to improve their production.

The workshop challenged my way of thinking. I had become so accustomed to the culture of the US that I had a hard time imagining life anywhere else. This trip challenged my world view!

I collaborated with students from Florida and Puerto Rico, as well as other Texas students. The students I keep in contact with seem to be doing very well. Meeting new people is always a blessing and our different backgrounds and life experiences helped me to expand my horizons and way of thinking.

After graduating, I am hoping that I can find a career that helps me accomplish two goals. One, to provide for my future family and me. Two, to give back to a community that has done so much for me.

While it may seem that a lot of what you are doing now is not realistic or does not matter, the work you are doing right now in your classes is helping you lay down the foundation for whatever you will do later on. Create a strong work ethic. Do the best you can and provide the highest quality work you can give. Never let anything wait until the last minute.

Name: Jonah E. Trevino
Major: Horticulture
Current role/studies: M.S. Graduate Research Assistant – Studying Therapeutic Horticulture

My project in START NOW was concerned with water quality. We took water samples from multiple rivers and streams near agricultural land, natural areas, and near small population towns. We checked the water for nitrogen and phosphorus levels and presented our results.

Reference
https://doi.org/10.33424/FUTURUM98

Students outside Texas A&M Soltis Center, Costa Rica.
Analyssa Camacho trying a Costa Rican pineapple. Analyssa is now studying for her master’s.
Students taking water samples in Costa Rica.
Darium Marte De Jesus taking soil samples in Costa Rica.
Dr M. Consuelo Donato-Molina on a bridge above the rainforest canopy.
TAMUK faculty mentors and undergraduate students. (Front row: Dr Randy Stanko, Annalysa Camacho, Allison Watts, Desiderio DeLeon. Back row: Dr Shad Nelson, Dr Consuelo Donato.)
Dr Shad Nelson, Dr Consuelo Donato, Allison Watts, Annalysa Camacho and Desiderio DeLeon giving the TAMUK Javelina ‘J’ salute.
Alternative gardening education at Earth University located in the low valley region of San Jose, Costa Rica.
High elevation horticulture farming in the cloud irrigated region of Costa Rica.
Student, Annalysa Camacho, in a banana producing area in Costa Rica.

HELPING STUDENTS GO FURTHER

The international study abroad, research-centred workshop experience in Costa Rica led to a higher percentage of student participants going on to graduate school, compared to students that only had a career-centred internship as an undergraduate in the same START NOW programme.

Students being trained by professors led to higher confidence and desire to pursue graduate school compared to peers seeking agriculture-oriented BS degrees.

• A total of 10 TAMU-Kingsville undergraduate students did research internships with non-faculty partners, 4 of which are now at graduate school (40%)

• A total of 9 TAMU-Kingsville undergraduate students attended the Costa Rica workshop led by faculty research mentors, 7 of which are now at graduate school (77.8%) Shad concludes, “To increase the number of Hispanics with advanced degrees in the sciences, it is critical to create an atmosphere of faculty-mentored experiences for undergraduates in research.

International collaborative workshops and study abroad experiences can enhance student advancement for underserved minority populations in agricultural and science careers, and graduate school preparation .”

There are too few underserved minority populations in critical science disciplines, such as soil, plant and agriculturally related sciences, and this is clearly problematic. It is of critical importance to increase diversity within the agricultural science disciplines for without them, progress that could be made within these fields is hindered – if everybody was given a fair opportunity at contributing, progress and scientific achievement would know no bounds.

Hispanic Americans are one of the minority populations that are underrepresented in agricultural sciences and research fields, so efforts are being made to improve undergraduate Hispanic participation, through experiential learning in soil science, plant science and environmental science. This is one of the key motivations behind the creation of the START NOW (Student Training in Agricultural Research Techniques by Novel Occupational Workshops) programme, which is designed to complement existing educational and academic programmes, and help Hispanic undergraduates become more competitive and better represented within agricultural sciences and research.

Dr Shad D. Nelson is a professor and dean based within the Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in the US. He is a passionate leader of the START NOW programme and recognises how important such programmes are at fostering inclusion and presenting opportunities to underrepresented minorities within agricultural science.

WHAT MAKES START NOW SO UNIQUE?

The START NOW programme provides a life-changing opportunity for students to take part in an international study abroad experience in Costa Rica. The programme introduces students to sustainable tropical agricultural practices and trains them through applied research-focused workshops. The undergraduate students are given the opportunity to work with other students and faculty mentors from four different Hispanic-serving universities: Texas A&M University—Kingsville, University of Texas at El Paso, Florida International University and University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez.

HOW IS THE PROGRAMME STRUCTURED?

The START NOW programme is competitive, but once the students are selected, they go through preparatory training workshops before studying abroad. “In Costa Rica, students visit agricultural universities, research companies, farms and rural community businesses,” explains Shad. “They learn about sustainable agricultural practices incorporating soil health and water quality management, highland and low-valley crop production and animal husbandry. Students are also trained in proper research sampling techniques, taking soil and water samples from various agricultural sites, followed by sample analysis at the Texas A&M University Soltis Center located in San Isidro, Costa Rica.” Students work in collaborative teams and present their research findings prior to leaving Costa Rica.

WHY IS THE TIME STUDENTS SPEND WITH FACULTY SO IMPORTANT?

Many minority students are first generation college students and are often the first to obtain a college degree in their family – therefore, graduate school is not something many of them would consider automatically on entering college. “When students are engaged in research alongside a faculty mentor it has a profound impact on building their self-confidence, as they know an adult peer believes in their abilities,” says Shad. “Students not only see their skills develop, they also learn they have an aptitude for science.” Importantly, the two-week study abroad experience allows students and faculty members to spend quality time together, as well as having discussions during the discovery process. This can help students understand their potential and realise they are ready for graduate school.

WHAT HIGHLIGHTS AND SUCCESS STORIES HAS THE PROGRAMME SEEN SO FAR?

The START NOW programme has directly shown that if institutions want to increase the number of minorities in careers that require MS or PhD degrees, involvement with faculty mentors early on in the college experience is critical. “The impact and importance of faculty engagement by the two-week Costa Rica trip has led to a much higher percentage of students going on to graduate school than compared to those who only had a career-focused summer internship with US Department of Agriculture agency partners,” explains Shad. “The number of doctoral graduates from minority Hispanic populations is very low and without programmes like this that support close faculty-student interaction, these numbers will continue to be suppressed in higher education institutions. Funding support for undergraduate research experiences with faculty mentor engagement is essential, otherwise the long-term impacts are fewer minorities considering and pursuing graduate MS and PhD degrees.”

DOES THE PROGRAMME BENEFIT THE FACULTY AND INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE INVOLVED?

Yes! Soil, plant, animal and environmental sciences are disciplines that require research and personal experiences that exist outside of the classroom. Information can be obtained from textbooks and conversations, but nothing beats working out in the field. The faculty members involved in START NOW are engaged in applied, hands-on learning workshops, which is beneficial to their own professional development. Of course, seeing underrepresented students exploring different fields of science for the first time is extremely rewarding.

This title relates to my work in five main areas: communications, information services, research, education, and monitoring and impact assessment. This means that I provide climate data, along with expert opinions and recommendations, to Vermont citizens and beyond. I also work closely with Vermont State agencies on topics such as groundwater resilience and planning for climate change. I am also called upon to work with regional decision-makers and am often interviewed by the media.

LEAD EDITOR OF ‘HISTORICAL CLIMATE VARIABILITY AND IMPACTS IN NORTH AMERICA’

This work was the first of its kind in the US to piece together climate variations over the last 200-300 years in order to set modern-day climate change into a longer-term context. A lot of the research can be gleaned from meticulously combing through historical documents, such as archive books, maps, newspapers and even old diaries. I hope this book will continue to highlight the importance of such interdisciplinary skills to broaden our knowledge about the past, present and future.

DR SHAD D. NELSON
Professor and Dean, Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, USA

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Soil, Plant and Water Sciences

RESEARCH PROJECT: START NOW is a programme that seeks to improve Hispanic participation in agriculture through experiential learning in soil science, plant science and environmental science. The students who are selected take part in an international study abroad experience in Costa Rica.

FUNDER: USDA-NIFA Hispanic Serving Institutions (grant award no. 2016-38422-25542)American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Women’s International Science Collaboration Program; University Of Vermont

STUDENT PROFILES

Name: Christopher Flores-Lopez
Major: Master of Agriculture Science, Agribusiness
Current role/studies: M.S. student working under the NSFCREST Project

The faculty and staff at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) work hard to provide their students with opportunities to enhance their applied research skills. I became part of START NOW by taking advantage of those opportunities and have done my best to learn as much as possible from the experience.

The research my team and I worked on in Costa Rica focused on the water quality of the area. We took several water samples throughout the trip and measured the total amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in it.

One of the main highlights of the trip was the on-farm workshops. It was a unique experience to see how agriculture production varies in another country. Foundationally, agriculture in Costa Rica is the same as it is in the United States, however, there is a technological and resource gap between the US and Costa Rica. Therefore, many of the farmers and producers of the area had to come up with innovative ways to improve their production.

The workshop challenged my way of thinking. I had become so accustomed to the culture of the US that I had a hard time imagining life anywhere else. This trip challenged my world view!

I collaborated with students from Florida and Puerto Rico, as well as other Texas students. The students I keep in contact with seem to be doing very well. Meeting new people is always a blessing and our different backgrounds and life experiences helped me to expand my horizons and way of thinking.

After graduating, I am hoping that I can find a career that helps me accomplish two goals. One, to provide for my future family and me. Two, to give back to a community that has done so much for me.

While it may seem that a lot of what you are doing now is not realistic or does not matter, the work you are doing right now in your classes is helping you lay down the foundation for whatever you will do later on. Create a strong work ethic. Do the best you can and provide the highest quality work you can give. Never let anything wait until the last minute.

Name: Jonah E. Trevino
Major: Horticulture
Current role/studies: M.S. Graduate Research Assistant – Studying Therapeutic Horticulture

My project in START NOW was concerned with water quality. We took water samples from multiple rivers and streams near agricultural land, natural areas, and near small population towns. We checked the water for nitrogen and phosphorus levels and presented our results.

The main highlight was visiting agricultural farms. It was amazing seeing sustainable agricultural practices first-hand. I also enjoyed the trip to Earth University, as they showed their sustainable practices to us; seeing what students did to educate themselves as well as provide for the university blew my mind.

I had to come out of my shell quickly. Although we were only there for two weeks, I soon made friends and the experience helped me realise I was able to adjust to new environments with new people quickly.

Dr David Sotomayor, from University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, and Guadalupe Alvarez Rodriguez, from The University of Texas at El Paso, both greatly impacted my experience. When we were stuck after collecting our data, we were ensured that there is always an answer hidden in the numbers. This was a great insight that has shaped my work since.

START NOW has encouraged me to keep an open mind when deciding what I want to do in life. When I was younger, I was always obsessed with the thought of having a self-sufficient homestead, but I would have never thought my curiosity for it would help me continue my education. I am excited about the future.

My dream is to complete my PhD, become a Horticultural Therapist-Registered, get some work experience in my field, and start my own therapy farm. The internship has helped shape my future career path and I would like to work with at-risk youth, rehab patients, or mental health patients with vocational therapy sessions. Of course, things always change, but that is the plan at
the moment!

One thing I learned after the internship is that sometimes we don’t entirely know what we want. I encourage students to embrace challenges and make things happen, whether that be by attending meetings for internships, or improving your grades to give yourself a better chance of getting an internship. Do not wait for things to happen; START making them happen NOW!

Name: Cynthia Puente
Major: Plant and Soil Sciences
Current role/studies: Master’s in science

I collaborated with William Scally from Florida International University, under the guidance of Dr Nelson, to carry out research on the number of nematodes and species found in soil. My study involved comparing nematode counts found in different types of soils around Costa Rica – I looked at different locations and how the presence of these organisms promotes or hinders
plant health.

I loved meeting, collaborating and learning with students from other academic institutions. Most of us had different degrees which allowed us to share different perspectives on agriculture sustainability. It was exciting to visit sustainable farms such as Don Juan Organic farm and Finca Luna Nueva, and tour Earth University.

The workshop helped me gain confidence to meet new people, establish relationships and work in a team. Listening to different opinions and suggestions made me grow as a person and bettered my internship experience.

The project motivated me to continue as a student researcher back at TAMUK. It convinced me that this pathway is the right one for me and that I wanted to continue my education in plant and soil sciences by applying for a master’s degree.

I am ambitious and, in the future, I want to apply the knowledge I have gained to the wider community by joining the United States Department of Agriculture, working in plant protection for the Animal and Plant Inspection Service, or becoming an agricultural specialist for US Customs.

The one piece of advice I would give to budding scientists is to get out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself! If you like plant and soil sciences, then ask faculty members about research opportunities – it is a great way to gain experience and will help you decide whether it is the right pathway for you.

HOW TO BECOME A SOIL SCIENTIST

• The Soil Science Society of America is a brilliant resource for those interested in learning more about the field: https://www.soils.org/

• The United States Department of Agriculture has a section dedicated to careers in soil science, from what it entails through to how to become a soil scientist: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/soils/edu/?cid=nrcs142p2_054277

• The average salary for a soil scientist is $58,652, with positions in the field typically spanning from $39,000 to $91,000, depending on the level of experience.

PATHWAY FROM SCHOOL TO SOIL, PLANT AND WATER SCIENCES

Shad believes that for those interested in working in the field of soil, plant and water sciences, studying subjects such as chemistry, biology, agricultural science, horticulture and environmental science is beneficial.

https://www.careerexplorer.com/careers/soil-and-plant-scientist/how-to-become/

SHAD’S TOP TIPS FOR STUDENTS

1 – Be proactive, where possible. If you want to be part of a research project, then approach your teacher, explain your desire and they will likely help you in any way they can. Your tutors are there to help you and if you show that you are willing, you will be rewarded.

2 – Through the course of your studies and engaging in research, you will find that you have skills you never even knew about. There is a lot of untapped potential bubbling under the surface and drawing it out is one of the most satisfying feelings.

3 – Take every opportunity – if you can gain experience from a professional mentor then do so. Real-life training could change your life and help you to find a career that you love.

Do you have a question for Shad, Christopher, Jonah or Cynthia?
Write it in the comments box below and Shad, Christopher, Jonah or Cynthia will get back to you. (Remember, researchers are very busy people, so you may have to wait a few days.)

The post Start now to reap the rewards later appeared first on Futurum.

]]>
https://futurumcareers.com/start-now-to-reap-the-rewards-later/feed 0
New Year, new creativity – where could it lead? https://futurumcareers.com/new-year-new-creativity-where-could-it-lead?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-year-new-creativity-where-could-it-lead https://futurumcareers.com/new-year-new-creativity-where-could-it-lead#respond Fri, 01 Jan 2021 02:20:42 +0000 http://futurumcareers.com/?p=36855 Chances are that the lockdowns and social restrictions of the past year saw you seeking entertainment and distraction [...]

The post New Year, new creativity – where could it lead? appeared first on Futurum.

]]>

New Year, new creativity – where could it lead?

Dr Rodolfo Montez Jr.’s crocheted Chandra X-ray telescope.

Chances are that the lockdowns and social restrictions of the past year saw you seeking entertainment and distraction through hobbies and home-based interests. A year unlike any other, 2020 prompted many people to try new activities, from playing the guitar to cooking to sewing. Such new-explored creativity is great for mental well-being and good, old fashioned enjoyment, but, as we enter the much-anticipated new year, it is worth considering what creativity can offer you in the long term. How could your creativity help you in your study or work?

An astrophysicist based at Chandra X-ray Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in the US, Dr Rodolfo Montez Jr. highlights the opportunities afforded by a sound understanding of maths and physics. However, he also emphasises the benefits of creative pursuits. From fencing to dancing to graphic design, Rodolfo enjoys extra-curricular activities that give him, well, that little bit extra. Of his more recent hobbies, Rodolfo says, “Crocheting gives me something to do while I mull over a problem, drawing gets me 50% of the way there, but work is still on the periphery, while cooking takes me to a different headspace entirely.” Rather than just a ‘bolt on’, creativity helps Rodolfo’s thought processes and supports his work. One look at Rodolfo’s crocheted Chandra X-Ray space telescope and we are sold!

Dr Rodolfo Montez Jr.’s crocheted Chandra X-ray telescope.

Based at the University of Colorado Boulder in the US, Dr Mark Rentschler is a mechanical engineer developing mobile robotic capsule endoscopes. He is also a passionate advocate for creativity. “I recommend you develop your creative side in any medium that speaks to you, whether that is music, art, sculpture, dance or doing something creative with your hands.” Mark is developing sophisticated medical robots that will improve procedures for patients and save lives. Alongside the fundamentals of physics and maths, it is his love of learning something new and appreciation of creativity that enable such innovate mechanical engineering.

Being creative with her hands is an important skill that has fed into Dr Wenping Yin’s career. She explains, “[As a Child] I enjoyed all kinds of hands-on work. Almost all the electronic devices in my parent’s home were dismantled by me at some point!” Now a materials scientist and engineer at ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science and Monash University, Wenping is working to harness fluorescent materials as a means of detecting harmful levels of toxic substances, which will benefit fields such as agriculture and defence. Acknowledging the importance of her early creativity, Wenping explains, “My parents supported my creations – which I think is related to the motivation and interest in science I developed later.”

Enjoying hands-on activities, developing creative skills and exploring interests beyond the academic are regularly highlighted by the incredible researchers we work with as vital to their success. Recreational hobbies relax people and enable them to step back from the complexities of their work, but, more than that, they encourage the new perspectives, thought processes and curiosity crucial to their research endeavours. Without creativity, many researchers would not achieve the amazing things they do.

So, as we enter 2021, how will you resolve to boost your creativity and where will it lead you?

The post New Year, new creativity – where could it lead? appeared first on Futurum.

]]>
https://futurumcareers.com/new-year-new-creativity-where-could-it-lead/feed 0
Human factors in the gas and oil industries https://futurumcareers.com/human-factors-in-the-gas-and-oil-industries?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-factors-in-the-gas-and-oil-industries https://futurumcareers.com/human-factors-in-the-gas-and-oil-industries#respond Thu, 31 Dec 2020 17:02:53 +0000 http://futurumcareers.com/?p=36845 Dr S. Camille Peres researches how issues related to procedure are linked to incidents in high-risk industries, such as petrochemical, oil and gas.

The post Human factors in the gas and oil industries appeared first on Futurum.

]]>

Human factors in the gas and oil industries

Dr S. Camille Peres is based at Texas A&M University in the US. What shines through most of all is her love and fascination for her work – which is centred on understanding how human behaviour can lead to incidents in high-risk industries

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was an industrial disaster that occurred just over a decade ago. It is thought to be the biggest marine oil spill in history and one of the most catastrophic environmental disasters that has ever happened in American history. In the aftermath of the disaster, researchers from a range of scientific disciplines and across industries worked to understand the reasons for the accident, in the hope that something like this would never happen again.

The petrochemical, oil and gas industries have long been known as high-risk, not least because of the potential volatility of the materials involved and the complexity of the work involved. Human factors can also play a significant role and Dr S. Camille Peres, based at Texas A&M University in the USA, is working on understanding those factors. One of the main focuses of Camille’s research is how human behaviour can lead to incidents such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and she has produced a report that finds a link between procedural issues and these incidents.

WHAT ARE THESE PROCEDURAL-RELATED ISSUES AND HOW COMMON ARE THEY?

The damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is almost unimaginable and Camille has found that procedural issues are a significant cause of such incidents. “Some of the interesting things we are finding are that the issues workers tell us about are very different to the issues their bosses think they are experiencing,” explains Camille. “For instance, workers tell us it’s very hard to correct incorrect procedures in a timely manner.” It is clear those with the knowledge that something is wrong cannot significantly influence making it right, at least not quickly. In addition, Camille has found that more experienced workers tend to ignore some of the procedures and may be more likely to make a careless mistake.

WHAT IS THE INTERACTIVE BEHAVIOUR TRIAD?

The Interactive Behaviour Triad is a way of looking at the entire system where people are doing tasks or work so Camille and her team can better understand and predict how people might behave. “As the name suggests, the Triad consists of three elements: the person, the task and the context,” says Camille. “We can use the information about these three aspects to predict which tool or method a person will use, depending on their specific circumstance.”

One of Camille’s favourite examples of this is a piano staircase in Toronto, Canada. Within the Triad, the task is to get from one floor to other (either up or down). There are some hazards because people could fall, but the chances of that are low. The people involved are of various ages, some may be in a rush, while others may be elderly and go slower. The context is that it could be the end of the day, when people are tired, but it could also be the start of the day when people are running late. Importantly, there are two distinct ‘tools’ to accomplish the task of getting from one floor to the other – the escalator or the piano stairs (which make a noise when anyone steps on them).

The predictions that come from this particular Interactive Behaviour Triad might be three-fold:

  • If someone is feeble and less confident in his/her ability to go up and down stairs, that person will probably take the escalator to reduce the risk of falling on the stairs (even though he or she may have wanted to go on the piano stairs).
  • If someone is physically able, but has a headache, they might go on the escalator to avoid the noise (and possibly frown at those who use the piano stairs).
  • If someone is physically able and on his/her way to work, even if he or she doesn’t normally take the stairs, this person might decide to in this instance because these stairs make them smile.

From this, we can see how by analysing the systems or procedures in place, it is possible to predict which option an individual will take. This can be extracted and applied to industry procedures, to maximise the chances that safety guidelines will be followed.

WHY DID CAMILLE CHOOSE TO CONDUCT INTERVIEWS WITH THE WORKERS?

Put simply, it is easier to obtain richer information from conducting interviews. If you ask people to complete a survey or participate in an experiment, there is a two-dimensional aspect to the information. That’s not to say it isn’t useful, but interviewing people can help the team discover information they might not have even considered. “In one interview, a very experienced worker told us that because he has a lot of experience, people ask him a lot of questions – which is a good thing!” says Camille. “However, it also means he gets interrupted a lot and we know from research that interruptions can cause people to make mistakes.”

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE KEY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM CAMILLE’S STUDY?

Camille’s research highlights how a worker’s experience and the frequency of the tasks they are asked to perform influences the chances of a procedure being followed. After performing the same task multiple times, a worker will often start acting on instinct and ‘tune out’. It is difficult to overcome this problem; often, a person’s instincts make them a very good worker, so a balance needs to be found.

The main recommendation from the study is that companies need to start using digital procedures so they can be presented differently depending on the situation. “One example concerns less experienced workers, who are likely to need more information than their more experienced colleagues,” says Camille. “We are currently writing grants to develop procedures that will automatically adapt to the work and the worker’s situation.”

Ultimately, having procedures in place is essential to ensure the safety of the workers and minimise the chances of incidents. Camille’s research acknowledges this but also focuses on what needs to happen to encourage people to follow procedures. The best chance of achieving this is to understand what affects whether a person follows a procedure and then to accommodate those reasons in the way procedures are written and presented.

DR S. CAMILLE PERES
Public Health, Texas A&M University, USA

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Human Factors and Ergonomics

RESEARCH PROJECT: Camille’s research is focused on understanding how issues related to procedure are linked to incidents in high-risk industries, such as petrochemical, oil and gas.

FUNDER: National Science Foundation, National
Institute of Health, Next Generation
Advanced Procedures Consortium, Texas
A&M University School of Public Health

ABOUT HUMAN FACTORS

Sometimes referred to as an ergonomist, Camille is an expert in human factors. The focus of her studies is on the safety and efficiency of systems and procedures, which also involves understanding human behaviour. As such, her work encompasses a wide range of different fields of enquiry, including psychology, technology and design. Having spoken with Camille, one thing that stands out above anything else is her passion and deep love for her work.

WHAT DOES CAMILLE FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT HER WORK?

“I have always loved three things in particular about my work,” explains Camille. “Helping people, playing with technology and conducting research. In the field of human factors, I get to combine all three things and it is so much fun!”

WHAT ADVICE WOULD CAMILLE OFFER YOUNG WOMEN ENTERING THE FIELD?

Much of Camille’s research has been conducted in typically male-oriented industries. One example of this is that the studies detailed above involved interviews with male personnel only. So, it was interesting to speak with Camille about whether she has any advice to give to young women thinking about embarking on a career in human factors. “Surround yourself with positive, strong female advocates. Even if they’re not in your field of study, having them around you regularly will give you examples of what it looks like to be a strong, positive woman,” says Camille. “Know that when someone questions whether you’re capable because you’re a woman, it’s THEIR issue, not yours. Shoulders back, chin up and charge forward!” We could not agree more.

WHAT IS THE MOST PRESSING ISSUE IN THE CURRENT STUDIES OF HUMAN FACTORS AND WHERE WILL CAMILLE’S RESEARCH GO IN THE FUTURE?

The most pressing thing is probably the constant adjustment to new technology in the workplace. This can make it challenging to determine how to be safe and effective with new technology, as this is not always considered in the development of it. As for her own research, Camille says she sees herself continuing to explore how to better integrate attributes of humans into the complex systems of refineries, chemical plants, oil rigs, etc.

HOW TO BECOME INVOLVED IN HUMAN FACTORS

• Camille says those who are interested in working in human factors should apply to a university that has a dedicated human factors programme. There is a list on the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society website: www.hfes.org/

• There is also a tremendous number of resources on the HFES site dedicated to those preparing for a career in human factors and ergonomics:
www.hfes.org/publications/freepublications/preparing-for-a-career-inhuman-factorsergonomics-a-resource-guide

• According to Prospects, entry level ergonomists in the UK can earn between £19,000 to £27,000. With experience, this salary rises to between £35,000 to £65,000. www.prospects.ac.uk/jobprofiles/ergonomist

• According to Salary.com, the average salary for an ergonomist in America is $75,000. Camille explains that salaries can depend on whether you have a BA or MA, as well as experience. www.salary.com/research/salary/posting/ergonomist-salary

Reference
https://doi.org/10.33424/FUTURUM97

Camille and her students, Trent Parker and Changwon Son, suited up for safety! The team conducted observations and interviews with workers while they performed tasks, while the workers wore cameras on their hardhats.

From http://thefuntheory.com – A piano staircase in Toronto, Canada, where people can choose how they get from one floor to another.

Camille, learning about how chemicals are used to make plastics. record their work.

As part of the response to Hurricane Michael, Camille was a participant researcher embedded in a team of unmanned aerial vehicle pilots.

Camille spent a night on board the naval aircraft carrier USS Lincoln to learn how it operates.

Camille presenting some of her findings at an international research conference.

Camille and her doctoral student, W. Sloane Hoyle, in a drilling simulator.

Dr Robin Murphy with the CRASAR team participating in a simulation exercise of a search and rescue mission. Camille conducted research with CRASAR.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was an industrial disaster that occurred just over a decade ago. It is thought to be the biggest marine oil spill in history and one of the most catastrophic environmental disasters that has ever happened in American history. In the aftermath of the disaster, researchers from a range of scientific disciplines and across industries worked to understand the reasons for the accident, in the hope that something like this would never happen again.

The petrochemical, oil and gas industries have long been known as high-risk, not least because of the potential volatility of the materials involved and the complexity of the work involved. Human factors can also play a significant role and Dr S. Camille Peres, based at Texas A&M University in the USA, is working on understanding those factors. One of the main focuses of Camille’s research is how human behaviour can lead to incidents such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and she has produced a report that finds a link between procedural issues and these incidents.

WHAT ARE THESE PROCEDURAL-RELATED ISSUES AND HOW COMMON ARE THEY?

The damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is almost unimaginable and Camille has found that procedural issues are a significant cause of such incidents. “Some of the interesting things we are finding are that the issues workers tell us about are very different to the issues their bosses think they are experiencing,” explains Camille. “For instance, workers tell us it’s very hard to correct incorrect procedures in a timely manner.” It is clear those with the knowledge that something is wrong cannot significantly influence making it right, at least not quickly. In addition, Camille has found that more experienced workers tend to ignore some of the procedures and may be more likely to make a careless mistake.

WHAT IS THE INTERACTIVE BEHAVIOUR TRIAD?

The Interactive Behaviour Triad is a way of looking at the entire system where people are doing tasks or work so Camille and her team can better understand and predict how people might behave. “As the name suggests, the Triad consists of three elements: the person, the task and the context,” says Camille. “We can use the information about these three aspects to predict which tool or method a person will use, depending on their specific circumstance.”

One of Camille’s favourite examples of this is a piano staircase in Toronto, Canada. Within the Triad, the task is to get from one floor to other (either up or down). There are some hazards because people could fall, but the chances of that are low. The people involved are of various ages, some may be in a rush, while others may be elderly and go slower. The context is that it could be the end of the day, when people are tired, but it could also be the start of the day when people are running late. Importantly, there are two distinct ‘tools’ to accomplish the task of getting from one floor to the other – the escalator or the piano stairs (which make a noise when anyone steps on them).

The predictions that come from this particular Interactive Behaviour Triad might be three-fold:

  • If someone is feeble and less confident in his/her ability to go up and down stairs, that person will probably take the escalator to reduce the risk of falling on the stairs (even though he or she may have wanted to go on the piano stairs).
  • If someone is physically able, but has a headache, they might go on the escalator to avoid the noise (and possibly frown at those who use the piano stairs).
  • If someone is physically able and on his/her way to work, even if he or she doesn’t normally take the stairs, this person might decide to in this instance because these stairs make them smile.

From this, we can see how by analysing the systems or procedures in place, it is possible to predict which option an individual will take. This can be extracted and applied to industry procedures, to maximise the chances that safety guidelines will be followed.

WHY DID CAMILLE CHOOSE TO CONDUCT INTERVIEWS WITH THE WORKERS?

Put simply, it is easier to obtain richer information from conducting interviews. If you ask people to complete a survey or participate in an experiment, there is a two-dimensional aspect to the information. That’s not to say it isn’t useful, but interviewing people can help the team discover information they might not have even considered. “In one interview, a very experienced worker told us that because he has a lot of experience, people ask him a lot of questions – which is a good thing!” says Camille. “However, it also means he gets interrupted a lot and we know from research that interruptions can cause people to make mistakes.”

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE KEY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM CAMILLE’S STUDY?

Camille’s research highlights how a worker’s experience and the frequency of the tasks they are asked to perform influences the chances of a procedure being followed. After performing the same task multiple times, a worker will often start acting on instinct and ‘tune out’. It is difficult to overcome this problem; often, a person’s instincts make them a very good worker, so a balance needs to be found.

The main recommendation from the study is that companies need to start using digital procedures so they can be presented differently depending on the situation. “One example concerns less experienced workers, who are likely to need more information than their more experienced colleagues,” says Camille. “We are currently writing grants to develop procedures that will automatically adapt to the work and the worker’s situation.”

Ultimately, having procedures in place is essential to ensure the safety of the workers and minimise the chances of incidents. Camille’s research acknowledges this but also focuses on what needs to happen to encourage people to follow procedures. The best chance of achieving this is to understand what affects whether a person follows a procedure and then to accommodate those reasons in the way procedures are written and presented.

DR S. CAMILLE PERES
Public Health, Texas A&M University,USA

FIELD OF RESEARCH: Human Factors and Ergonomics

RESEARCH PROJECT: Camille’s research is focused on understanding how issues related to procedure are linked to incidents in high-risk industries, such as petrochemical, oil and gas.

FUNDER: National Science Foundation, National
Institute of Health, Next Generation
Advanced Procedures Consortium, Texas
A&M University School of Public Health

ABOUT HUMAN FACTORS

Sometimes referred to as an ergonomist, Camille is an expert in human factors. The focus of her studies is on the safety and efficiency of systems and procedures, which also involves understanding human behaviour. As such, her work encompasses a wide range of different fields of enquiry, including psychology, technology and design. Having spoken with Camille, one thing that stands out above anything else is her passion and deep love for her work.

WHAT DOES CAMILLE FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT HER WORK?

“I have always loved three things in particular about my work,” explains Camille. “Helping people, playing with technology and conducting research. In the field of human factors, I get to combine all three things and it is so much fun!”

WHAT ADVICE WOULD CAMILLE OFFER YOUNG WOMEN ENTERING THE FIELD?

Much of Camille’s research has been conducted in typically male-oriented industries. One example of this is that the studies detailed above involved interviews with male personnel only. So, it was interesting to speak with Camille about whether she has any advice to give to young women thinking about embarking on a career in human factors. “Surround yourself with positive, strong female advocates. Even if they’re not in your field of study, having them around you regularly will give you examples of what it looks like to be a strong, positive woman,” says Camille. “Know that when someone questions whether you’re capable because you’re a woman, it’s THEIR issue, not yours. Shoulders back, chin up and charge forward!” We could not agree more.

WHAT IS THE MOST PRESSING ISSUE IN THE CURRENT STUDIES OF HUMAN FACTORS AND WHERE WILL CAMILLE’S RESEARCH GO IN THE FUTURE?

The most pressing thing is probably the constant adjustment to new technology in the workplace. This can make it challenging to determine how to be safe and effective with new technology, as this is not always considered in the development of it. As for her own research, Camille says she sees herself continuing to explore how to better integrate attributes of humans into the complex systems of refineries, chemical plants, oil rigs, etc.

HOW TO BECOME INVOLVED IN HUMAN FACTORS

• Camille says those who are interested in working in human factors should apply to a university that has a dedicated human factors programme. There is a list on the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society website: www.hfes.org/

• There is also a tremendous number of resources on the HFES site dedicated to those preparing for a career in human factors and ergonomics:
www.hfes.org/publications/freepublications/preparing-for-a-career-inhuman-factorsergonomics-a-resource-guide

• According to Prospects, entry level ergonomists in the UK can earn between £19,000 to £27,000. With experience, this salary rises to between £35,000 to £65,000. www.prospects.ac.uk/jobprofiles/ergonomist

• According to Salary.com, the average salary for an ergonomist in America is $75,000. Camille explains that salaries can depend on whether you have a BA or MA, as well as experience. www.salary.com/research/salary/posting/ergonomist-salary

HOW DID DR S. CAMILLE PERES BECOME A HUMAN FACTORS RESEARCHER?

WHAT INTERESTS DID YOU HAVE AS A CHILD?

I was interested in pretty much everything! I definitely enjoyed maths and science the most in school. History was always difficult to me because there was so much memorising of facts and figures involved, whereas I much preferred working out problems. I absolutely loved reading as a child – being taken away to another world and place in my imagination by the book was just magical. I have always loved all kinds of art – a passion that was developed by my grandmother – and I really enjoyed my time in technical theatre, but, as I got older, I found myself continuing to be drawn to all things technological – not necessarily how to build them but how to use them.

YOU STUDIED TECHNICAL THEATRE BEFORE PSYCHOLOGY. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TAKE THIS CHANGE IN DIRECTION?

The honest answer is the logistics of the situation. I didn’t want to work in the evenings all the time. I love technical theatre and working with technology, artists and people, and I really loved the performances. Having said all of that, I don’t know that I loved it as much as I love what I do now though, so I feel like I made the right choice.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME OBSTACLES?

If my current approach to a problem is not working, I talk to people I trust and get advice from them about what I need to do differently. Mostly, I just continue and know that if it’s worth it to me, I’m going to continue until I’m successful.

IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN THREE WORDS, WHAT WOULD THOSE WORDS BE?

Intelligent, interested and caring.

FINALLY, WHAT NON-WORK GOAL IS AT THE TOP OF YOUR ‘BUCKET LIST’?

I would really love to fly in a glider someday. It’s just something that has always appealed to me!

CAMILLE’S TOP TIPS

1 I truly believe that young people should follow their head and heart when trying to find their passion. Sometimes it can take a while (I was in my early 30s) but it is worth it in the end.

2 It is an amazing feeling to love your job, so work hard and pay attention to the things you like – and don’t like – about the tasks you are performing. Over time, your scope of interest will narrow to the point where the path becomes clearer. That’s not to say that your work won’t be hard and frustrating at times, but it will be worth it!

3 Trust your instincts. If you think a situation is not the way it should be, take a step back and examine it more from a safe perspective. This is especially true for young women entering into the field.

Do you have a question for Camille?
Write it in the comments box below and Camille will get back to you. (Remember, researchers are very busy people, so you may have to wait a few days.)

The post Human factors in the gas and oil industries appeared first on Futurum.

]]>
https://futurumcareers.com/human-factors-in-the-gas-and-oil-industries/feed 0