Autumn 2011 to Spring 2012 and Winter 2013
"Freeze-Casting Anisotropic Hierarchical Porous Ceramics: For use in thermal insulation and filter application," that, ladies and gentlemen, was the incredibly detailed and long-winded title of my research poster for the Undergraduate Research Symposium. Thouhg it is a joint poster, it seems like a far cry from the clean water project that I had begged my research adviser to let me do.
Here's how it started... On the second night of my study abroad to Bangalore I was covered in car exhaust and sweat, only wishing for a nice long... "cup" bath. I was planning on filling the huge plastic tub to the brim with hot water and then slowly pouring the cupfuls of water over my grimy skin. But, alas-- the college residence we were staying at ran out of water. They ran out of what?! So began my obsession with the use of water in and around the city. How we Americans drained the rooftop reservoir in a day and could only drink "clean" water. The culture-of-water shock I experienced was stimulating. So many questions about privatization and pollution drowned my mind. My interest was laced with a underlying feeling of disgust-- how could so many people be depleted of such a basic need of life? I quickly found an internet cafe and over a number of lagging correspondence we decided I would tackle a project for chlorine generation (the filters are used to filter out the destructivy hydrogen peroxide byproduct).
As excited as I was to jump into this project and somehow save the world while fulfilling a graduation requirement, that same drive dissippated soon after the start. More than an exercise in my laboratory and research skills, this was an eye-opening experience into my own ambitions. It wasn't the research I was pursuing, but what it would mean for the developing world. Even when I was frazzled by the long, lonely, and eventually futile hours in the lab my intention to help others never wavered. These two artifacts represent the relationship between my research and motivation very well. The report on professional components was eagerly written-- telling the who, what, and why as well as the ethical, societal, economic, and safety considerations for this line of work. The picture on the other hand shows my stressed and disheveled demanor as well as the emphatic smile I try to hold when in the lab.