Undergraduate Lands DU’s First Environmental Protection Agency Fellowship
A junior environmental science major at Duquesne University who is exploring the remediation of arsenic in produced water from shale gas wells has become Duquesne's first undergraduate to receive a prestigious $50,000 fellowship from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Brittney Jackson, who works in the lab of Dr. John Stolz, director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education and professor of biology, received the EPA Greater Research Opportunities undergraduate fellowship for her research on water quality in areas of unconventional shale gas extraction. She is now part of a program that supports only 34 students nationwide in new environmental research initiatives in physical, biological, health, social sciences and engineering.
Jackson's work focuses on microbial arsenic metabolism in wastewater created by fracking. Arsenic is a toxic, natural component of shale, and its concentrations may be elevated in the produced water, a byproduct of shale gas extraction. One form of arsenic is more soluble, toxic and reactive than another. Jackson is trying to determine a path to remediation by cultivating arsenic-metabolizing microorganisms that withstand an extreme high-salt environment while "eating" away at arsenic to convert it to a more stable form.
"This is important because we have a finite amount of water on the planet and so much is used for energy purposes," Jackson said. "We need to place emphasis on making sure water is very useable-and reusable."
Jackson, originally from Macungie, was introduced to fracking at a forum she attended as a high school student in Lehigh County and started this research in her sophomore year at Duquesne.
"This is a great opportunity for Brittney in that she not only gets to conduct her research with funding support, but will spend the summer as an intern at an EPA lab," Stolz said. "The fellowship is evidence of how the cutting edge-research being done at Duquesne benefits our students, as well as the quality of our students."