Research is not just about writing, there’s so many different properties that go into it in order to complete a thorough research project. This research program has not only informed me about different techniques to complete research, but it also taught me about myself. My topic was Food Insecurity on College Campuses, which is very important in this current society. More attention needs to be brought to college students and their constant battle with food and possible resources that are available to them. We started off this research project wanting to do a focus group of 6 to 10 commuter students to hear what their opinions about the food pantry on campus and their thoughts about food insecurity in their personal life and college life are. However, that plan did not work out for the best, so we had to alter some of the project due to the time crunch. We went from expecting a focus group to expecting 4 to 6 individuals who would do a small interview and answer questions about food insecurity and the mobile food pantry. Luckily, we were able to score a couple of individuals who agreed to participate in the data collection. Since we gathered the amount of data that we wanted, we could now proceed to the transcribing of the interviews and including it in our literature review. Even though we had to change our research project a little, we were still able to gather the amount of information that we wanted but with a smaller number of people. Now we are almost done with the research project and ready to present it soon!
Throughout the entire process, my faculty mentor was there to give support when needed. We stayed in constant communication with one another about the process of recruiting people to engage in the interview stage and the process of getting the IRB approved. We met every week at the same time to discuss plans and actions that needed to take place in order to get things moving. It was a great experience and it was beneficial to have someone to help along with the process.
March is a busy month in the world of Chemical research! I am currently preparing to attend the American Chemistry Society conference in Orlando, Florida, which will take place at the end of the month, along with the Dyson School Society of Fellows conference on March 9th. Although the plane tickets are booked and the conferences are registered for, the most important part remains in the works – the display poster. I aim to have the poster completed by Spring Break, as I am currently working on analyzing the major peaks on the gas chromatography-mass spectrometry chromatogram to understand which compounds can be found in the pollen.
The extraction process for the solvents being used is now complete. I decided upon using four main solvents: ethanol, methanol, methylene chloride, and chloroform. Using a precision balance, I weighed 5 grams of pollen, specifically from Los Baños in the Philippines. Allowing the pollen to sit in a test tube with the solvent for about 24 hours results in a solution ready to be filtered. I used syringe filtration to filter each of the solutions. The filtered products were then put into mini centrifuge tubes and refrigerated for another 24 hours. Post-refrigeration, the filtered solutions were ready to be injected into the GC-MS. One sample was injected per day, using different injection needles as to avoid any cross-contaminations between the solvents.
Experiments do not always go as planned. Through this experiment, I have learned to not only accept this, but embrace it as a learning opportunity. Whenever something does not go as planned, I work collaboratively with my faculty mentor to ask the questions “why did this go wrong?” and “how can we fix it?” One recent example of this was the possibility of contamination. Rather than rinsing out the injection needle and re-using them, the possibility of cross-contamination was eradicated by using multiple injection needles.
As the end of my research project comes near, I am focusing on an in-depth exploration and analysis of the results at hand. I am also currently working on a paper about my research in hopes of submitting it for publication. Overall, this research opportunity has provided me with investigative skills, critical thinking skills, while enhancing my wet lab skills as well.