Southeast Missouri State University students Colten Peterson and Madison Walton recently presented their summer internship research projects with NASA’s Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), respectively, at the American Physical Society’s (APS) 2016 Fall Meeting.
Walton, of Walnut Hill, Illinois, received the best poster award for her research project on fabricating biosensors.
“I am humbled to have received this award,” she said.
Presenting their research allowed them to gain valuable experience not only in communicating about their work but also in networking their skills, said Peterson.
“It was very exciting to present research in front of accomplished physicists and graduate students,” he said.
Peterson of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and Walton presented their research to judges and meeting attendees.
“The judges seemed very interested in our work,” said Peterson, a double major in physics and engineering physics, mechanical applications. “During the poster session, we presented many times to many different individuals. There was not a single moment where we were not discussing our research.”
Peterson presented his research on chlorophyll concentration as a part of his eight-week summer internship with NASA’s SARP. As a part of the Ocean Remote Sensing team to study different processes in the coastal waters of California, he used satellite and airborne optical sensor data and analyzed the light reflected from the water to determine a variety of physical and biological processes.
Their motivation is driven by curiosity and a need to make the world a better place.
By dedicating her time to reducing the cost while optimizing the sensors’ performance, Walton said she was excited to be a part of the first steps of developing working electrochemical sensors that have the potential for future roll-to-roll printing by mass production for distribution to resource deprived areas of the world, such as Haiti.
“People living in these parts of the world have to take the daily risk of giving their children water that is possibly toxic,” said Walton. “By developing a method of low cost fabrication of biosensors, we can provide a simple method of water testing for people in these regions of the world. I believe these devices have potential in the future to change the lives of thousands of people living in these regions of the world.”
Peterson’s research brought him closer to understanding vital systems of the world’s ecosystem and how they can affect human society.
“By accurately measuring chlorophyll-a concentration from space, we can observe phytoplankton activity on a global scale,” he said. “These organisms are important because they produce 50 percent of the oxygen that we breathe.”
Presenting their findings and work is one of the final steps for Peterson and Walton to perfect their education and career goals.
“My experience at the APS meeting has given me further confidence that I will be successful in my research career,” said Walton, a senior biomedical sciences major.
Presenting at the APS Fall Meeting has prepared them for other speaking opportunities. Walton was a featured undergraduate speaker for the Southeast Department of Biology in October, and Peterson received funding from NASA to present at the American Geophysical Society conference in San Francisco this December.
“The APS conference allowed me to practice for this upcoming presentation,” he said. “It is of paramount importance that I obtain as much presentation experience as possible, because this will help me to achieve my goals of becoming a career research scientist for NASA.”
The American Physical Society (APS) is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy and international activities.
APS represents more than 51,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. The 2016 Fall Meeting brought physicists, scientists, and students from all over the world to share groundbreaking research from industry, universities and major labs.
It’s important for students to find research experiences because they can open many opportunities for your future, said Walton.
“I would encourage anyone who is considering applying for outside research experiences to do so in addition to your experiential learning at Southeast,” she said. “My experience enhanced my ability to work with and under individuals of different backgrounds, enabled me to convey complicated topics in a relatively understandable way, motivated me to have a strong work ethic, and challenged me to follow my passions and never give up.”