University of Vermont

CEMS - The College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences

2009 Richard Barrett Scholarships

Johanna Mayerhofer, Michael Kreigh, Scott Quinn, Benjamin Heath, Laura Townsend, Deirdre Collins, Karl Hinrichs and Allison Murphy were the summer 2009 Barrett Scholars.

See also "Barrett scholarships provide summer research for engineering students."

2009 Richard Barrett scholars (left to right): Johanna Mayerhofer, Michael Kreigh, Scott Quinn, Benjamin Heath, Laura Townsend, Deirdre Collins, Karl Hinrichs and Allison Murphy

Projects



Deirdre Collins
Emphasizing Sustainable Engineering Design by Implementing Hands-on Experiments into the Civil & Environmental Engineering Curriculum

Advisor(s): Dr. Nancy J. Hayden

Deirdre Collins will create and implement hands-on projects for CE3, a civil and environmental engineering course. Through research, Deirdre Collins will develop demonstration models based on inquiry-learning and systems thinking. Projects include a small dam, three eco systems and will emphasize sustainability through inventive engineering. Students enrolled in CE3 meet once a week with follow-up lab sessions. Deirdre's hands-on projects will be used during laboratory sessions to provide students with physical models to gathering data for measurements and readings. A follow-up learning assessment of these innovative ideas will help the instructor evaluate students' learning effectiveness.

"I enjoy learning through hands-on projects," said Deirdre. "Getting to do research independently during the summer is very exciting to me."

Deirdre's interest was piqued by her advisor, Donna Rizzo, professor of civil engineering. Overseer for this project is Nancy Hayden, professor of civil engineering.

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Benjamin D. Heath
Statistical Analysis of Chemical Constituents and Their Mean Removal Efficiencies from Stormwater Infrastructure in Chittenden County, VT

Advisor(s): Dr. Donna M. Rizzo

Erosion, flooding, and non-point source pollution are some of the results of urban-induced runoff to local watershed tributaries. Although the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Stormwater Management tries to minimize the effects of stormwater runoff into local waterways, urban development produces changes in the type and magnitude of runoff increasing the time for precipitation to reach local streams due to soil compaction or increased impervious surface areas. Best management practices (e.g., retention ponds, vegetated drainages courses, and infiltration basins) are used to mitigate some damages, however, these large areas of land are difficult to measure and regulate.

Benjamin Heath's research project will use a stormwater system designed by Hamlin Engineering to collect post treatment samples of stormwater during three storms. The water samples will be collected after the onset of precipitation and initiation of runoff from proposed stormwater system sites. Part of the project will be to work with Hamlin Engineering to design a sanitary sampling tool. His findings will be presented visually to illustrate the relationships between rainfall and runoff.

"This project should help us to understand how the condition and activities in the watershed relate to the water quality data collected," says Heath. "My observations will include parking lot sweeping, vegetation, and other visual assessments of the sites and statistical analysis of the data collected."

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Karl Hinrichs
Detection of Legionella Volatile Metabolite Fingerprint Using Electrospray Ionization - Mass Spectrometry

Advisor(s): Dr. Jane Hill

"Currently legionnaire disease is hard to differentiate from pneumonia," says Karl. "Creating a method, called E-ESI-MS, for quick identification could make the difference between life and death."

Karl's interest in medical school, anthropology and biology provided the catalyst to apply for this research project. The use of E-ESI-MS may serve as a novel technique for determining VOC profiles of bacterial microorganisms. The goal is to use E-ESI-MS to analyze the VOC fingerprint of Legionella to develop a faster, more specific method in pathogen detection. The methodology allows a carrier gas to flush through the head space of a bacterial culture carrying byproducts of bacterial metabolism released into the head space of the culture allowing gas throughout the system. Once in the reaction chamber, it can be extracted by an electrospray solution, become positively charged, and then can be directed into a mass spectrometer via electromagnetic forces.

"This research could result in the creation of a breath test that once administered, could easily identify Legionnaire's Disease," says Karl.

"While much work is required to take this technology from the bench to the bedside, this technology would indeed be very helpful to clinicians" says Dr. Jane Hill, project faculty advisor, from the School of Engineering. Dr. Hill specializes in microbial cycling of P, fate transport of motile pathogens in the subsurface and in people, and biotechnology discovery and development.

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Johanna Mayerhofer
Purification and Characterization of an Extra Cellular Phytase of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA14

Advisor(s): Dr. Jane Hill

Johanna Mayerhofer's research focuses on an enzyme of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA14 called phytase, which degrades phytic acid and cleaves phytate, an organic form of phosphorus. Found in cereals, oil seed, and legumes — it represents 80% of the phosphorus in the form of phytate. Because poultry and fish cannot digest phytate, it accumulates in manure that is then spread upon fields contributing to phosphorus runoff pollution in our waterways. If the enzyme phytase was added to feed for animals it could reduce phytate in the manure.

Once purified, Mayerhofer will look for the temperature and ph optima to allow the phytase enzyme to be stable, easily stored, and commercially used.

"In Austria it is not easy as an undergraduate to have access to a lab," says Joanna. "I'm learning new techniques — and determining what I want to do for the rest of my life."

Johanna found out about the Barrett Scholarships by contacting Helix in search for research opportunities for the summer. She was referred to Jane Hill, professor in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, who acts as faculty advisor for the project.

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Allison Murphy
The Molecular Genetic Analysis of Tubifex tubifex as an Intermediate Host of Whirling Disease

Advisor(s): Drs. Lori Stevens and Donna Rizzo

Whirling disease is caused by Myxobolus cerebralis, a fish parasite that damages neurological function in trout and salmon causing fish to swim in cork screw patterns. Infected fish, unable to eat, become vulnerable to attack by predators and cannot reproduce; most die from starvation. This disease, introduced from Eurasia in the 1950s, has been found in over 50% of the United States. Allison Murphy's research is focused on stream health to the incidence of the disease.

The worm (Tubifex tubifex), the intermediate host of this parasite, lives in communities with 3-4 other types of worms in stream sediments The worm types vary from being great intermediate hosts to incompetent, but cannot be distinguished visually. By collecting worms from sites that vary in fish disease and analyzing their DNA, she is testing the hypothesis that worm communities are correlated with fish disease. An artificial neural network program will be written to distinguish the DNA profile of different types of worms; and the sites can then be assessed a numerical health score. Her research will try to correlate the types and numbers of worms present with the stream health indicators as determined by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources' Rapid Geomorphic Assessment (RGA) and Rapid Habitat Assessment Scores (RHA).

"Clean your gear," says Allison Murphy to recreational boaters and fishermen. "It's a lot easier to prevent the disease by stopping the spread of infected worms, than to treat infected fish."

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Michael Kreigh and Scott Quinn
Project Friendly Fuel: The Effects of Biodiesel Fuel on Gaseous and Particulate Emissions

Advisor(s): Dr. Britt A. Holmén

Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. It may be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with little or no modifications. Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics. In addition, it reduces the amount of crude oil consumption, is environmentally friendly and could be a more acceptable fuel resource in the future.

"As we transition to biodiesel, we must ask ourselves if it truly reduces the production of toxic emissions," says Scott Quinn. "Our research aims to verify the reduction of particle emissions using various biodiesel fuel mixtures." Quinn's experiments will include different concentrations of biodiesel fuel and record data to find the correlation between the biodiesel concentrations and harmful particles emitted into the environment. He is currently working on the design and creation of a dilution system for the emissions that needs to be cooled prior to entering an Engine Exhaust Partial Sizer (EEPS) system to conduct his research. The project will test emissions from a diesel engine using three devices. The EEPS and a Scanning Mobility Particle Sizer (SMPS) are used to measure the size of the particles and record the number of particles in each size range. A Fast Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometrer (FT-IR) is used to measure the concentration of gaseous chemicals.

Michael Kreigh's experiments use a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FT-IR) to analyze the emissions for certain mobile source air toxics that can be hazardous to both human health and the environment. "The FT-IR uses infrared light to create a fingerprint for the gas mixture being sampled," says Kreigh. "The fingerprint can then be broken down into all of its different components to be further analyzed."

Both Kreigh and Quinn hope to verify through their research that biodiesel is less harmful to the environment and produces less harmful emissions.

Dr. Britt Holmén, project faculty advisor, and associate professor in the UVM CEMS School of Engineering specializes in environmental engineering. For more information visit Dr. Britt Holmén's website.

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Laura Townsend
Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Freeze Thaw Effects on Surface Permeation

Advisor(s): Dr. Mandar Dewoolkar

The United States has many heavily used old and/or historic federal buildings as well as key transportation hubs where weathering adds significantly to the increase in the percentage of chemicals that could enter these building structures. As buildings age, their building materials break down through freezing and thawing cycles as well as through other mechanisms grouped under weathering. As breakdown occurs, more chemicals can become lodged within a main building structure's materials, causing further damage.

Laura Townsend's research will sample a variety of materials such as concrete, brick, sandstone, etc. during cycles of freezing and thawing to gather data research on the impact of various fluids on building materials. Townsend will examine the material permeability to determine how chemicals transport through materials during freeze and thaw cycles. This information is essential to The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) whose focus is on cleanup strategies for building materials impacted by chemical, biological weapons, terrorist attacks, hazardous chemical spills, and mundane chemical spills.

This research is being done in conjunction with Drs. Mandar Dewoolkar and Donna Rizzo through a DTRA grant.

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