My location. During the meeting I learned that the

My favorite chemical engineering core course was reaction kinetics. I find it fascinating that we
can model hundreds, if not thousands, of chemical reactions in the atmosphere and come up with
complex mechanisms to explain why pollutants degrade and react the way they do. At the same
time I find it imperative that research be conducted in a manner that promotes environmental and
social justice for local and global communities. I first developed my passion for atmospheric
science and community interaction by joining Dr. Kristina Wagstrom’s undergraduate lab.
Coming into college I knew I wanted to get involved in research early so I looked through our
department’s website and talked to Dr. Wagstrom about joining her atmospheric chemistry lab. I
started working in the Computational Atmospheric Chemistry and Exposure Lab during my
freshman year and since I have developed an appreciation for both hands on experimental work
and atmospheric modeling. After three semesters of working on group projects I decided to
pursue my own topic for my honors thesis.
I found out that Dr. Wagstrom was meeting with the manager for a student ran farm and asked
her if I could join the meeting thinking that might be an interesting study location. During the
meeting I learned that the student farm operates organically and is directly adjacent to farmland
that sprays synthetic herbicides and fertilizer. Recognizing that I might have the ability to help
determine if they should be concerned about herbicide drift, I began developing a plan for a
summer study. I developed a plan to study airborne drift as well as rainfall drift concentrations
and weather patterns at the farm. To help make my project a reality I actively searched out
funding opportunities and ultimately ended up winning a UConn IDEA Grant to fund my project.
The IDEA Grant is a university wide, competitive application which supports undergraduate
research projects entirely crafted and carried out by students. I was also selected to be one of just
six members of the inaugural UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship Program as my project
demonstrated strong impact to my local community. During the summer I was responsible for
collecting samples, setting up equipment, analyzing particulate matter readings, correlating
results weather patterns, and communicating my findings directly with the farm manager and the
students staying there over the summer. While I wasn’t solving climate change or any other
environmental crisis, my research was of vital concern to the farmers.
While I am technically minoring in Environmental Engineering, I think it is closer to
Atmospheric Chemistry and Engineering. In order to get a more holistic view of the field I took
upper level coursework in the Environmental Engineering, Natural Resources and the
Environment, and Chemistry departments related to my research interests. In doing so I gained a
better understanding of the economic and social issues that air quality can cause as well pollutant
chemistry and control. While the majority of my focus has been on atmospheric chemistry, I am
by no means only interested in one aspect of environmental engineering. Next semester I will be
taking water quality and engineering policy course to supplement my studies. My current senior
design project is based around the removal of polyfluorinated hydrocarbons, specifically PFOA,
from drinking water. In my group I am tasked with developing a MatLab model for the
photocatalytic degradation of PFOA. All aspects of the environment interact with each other and
in order to fully understand one, you must learn about the others.  To help gain a broad view of what type of research would be most beneficial to society as I head
to graduate school, I applied for and won a spot to attend the 2017 United Nations Climate
Change Conference in Bonn, Germany during November with the UConn cohort. As a
researcher in a field that helps dictate policy, it is important to know what information is needed
in order for society to move in a forward direction. I also applied for the NSF GRFP in the fall
with a project on conducting an aqueous aerosol phase study on the commonly used herbicide
atrazine. There is currently a need to validate whether bulk phase aqueous kinetics can be
utilized in atmospheric models for the reactions that take place in cloud droplets.
The Gentner Research Group’s work on developing novel instrumentation and utilization of low
cost particulate air quality sensors caught my attention. In my research I have been working with
AlphaSense OPC-N2 particulate matter monitors to help identify drift patterns during my IDEA
Grant field study and in the past I have worked on the development of a low cost pollution
monitoring network at UConn. His work with similar low-cost sensors is of vital importance to
increase the spatial resolution and access to vulnerable communities that traditional methods
cannot reach. In addition, Dr. Gentner’s research on the air quality consequences of our energy
choices fascinates me from an atmospheric chemistry and public policy perspective. Having just
been at the UN Climate Change Conference in Germany I sense the urgency to assess risk to
communities in the vicinity of large fossil fuel plants and in megacities across the world.
I am pursuing graduate school to gain a PhD so that I may one day become a professor. My goal
is to produce novel research to benefit the environment and cultivate the next set of researchers
though my lab. While currently I have less experience in atmospheric modeling, I hope to
combine experimental processes with models in order to better inform environmental policy. As
a professor I would aim to incorporate outreach to the communities most affected by air quality
issues, such as those in urban areas. Thank you for your time and consideration for the
Environmental Engineering PhD program. I look forward to hearing your decision regarding my
application and to making a difference to the Yale community and beyond.