In the Lab
Tracking Air Pollution in the Pioneer Valley
October 28, 2010
Just looking off into the distance on a warm day in the Pioneer Valley shows that the area doesn’t have quite the air pollution problems that smog-plagued cities Beijing or Los Angeles do.
But that doesn’t mean the air is completely free of pollutants, says chemistry professor Karena McKinney; a nearby coal-fired power plant may be emitting harmful levels of mercury, a neurotoxin. McKinney, two other faculty colleagues and several undergraduate researchers set out this past summer to get a better handle on how that power plant is affecting the environment by measuring the amount and geographical distribution of mercury in air, sediment and biological samples. (Related studies with a new, cutting-edge piece of equipment recently caught the eye of staffers with the Massachusetts Recovery and Reinvestment Office, who featured her work on the organization’s website.)
In this video, McKinney and student assistant Ewuradjoa Gadzanku ’13 talk about their studies, working together and conducting research at a small liberal arts college.
“Something’s in the Air”—Chemistry professor Karena McKinney hopes that we will all one day breathe a little easier now that she has gotten the green light to purchase a rare, high-tech piece of machinery for her research on air pollutants.
“In the Lab: Studying Slime Mold Yields Insight into Cellular Behavior”—Biology professor David Ratner and several of his students examine how Dictyostelium discoideum—a cellular slime mold—behaves. The bigger goal is to explore the research frontiers of gene expression and protein degradation.
“In the Lab: Fighting Obesity by Studying the Brain”—Obesity is an epidemic that ravages individuals and weighs upon society as well. At Amherst College, John-Paul Baird, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, has spent the last year eight years exploring neural networks and brain chemicals that impact eating behavior.