P1021: Service-learning as a research tool: Exploring local environmental issues to engage students in analytical chemistry studies
A variety an environmental chemistry issues in neighborhoods around Mercer University have been investigated by undergraduate students. Heavy metals have been quantified in paint samples and soils around historic structures using field portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy and Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES). These techniques have also been used to study the concentrations of nutrients in soil and compost at community gardens. Elemental atmospheric mercury concentrations were measured with a mercury analyzer, and pesticide residues have been investigated by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Using this data, students created interactive outreach presentations and shared their results with local community members. Through these service learning projects, students have developed practical skills in designing experiments, carrying them out, analyzing results, and communicating to both technical and general audiences. Students have also gained a greater appreciation for chemistry by dealing with real-world challenges and seeing the impact of their work on community members.