COSAM News Articles 2021 August Auburn receives $100K from NSF to upgrade instrumentation to detect environmental contaminants

Auburn receives $100K from NSF to upgrade instrumentation to detect environmental contaminants

Published: 08/10/2021

By: Maria Gebhardt

Auburn University will have its first gas chromatograph and thermal combustion oven coupled with an isotope ratio mass spectrometer.

So, what is that exactly?

For Ann Ojeda in Auburn’s Department of Geosciences, this new instrument will help her research on soil and water contaminants.

“I apply and develop new methods to understand how contaminants behave in the environment,” said Ojeda. “I will be looking at toxic compounds in both water and soil to learn more about where these compounds come from and how long it will take them to degrade in the environment.”

The equipment is the first one at Auburn University and one of just a small number of universities in the South.

“My research has real-world applications for risk assessment, site and water management across the nation,” Ojeda added.

Her work helps pinpoint the sources of contamination, to understand how natural and human-engineered systems transform the chemical compounds, and how long we can expect the compounds to remain in the environment.

“The Department of Geosciences currently has an isotope ratio mass spectrometer that detects carbon, nitrogen and oxygen signatures. With this $110,081 grant from the National Science Foundation, our university now has the ability to analyze carbon and hydrogen signatures of organic compounds on this spectrometer instead of sending them to external facilities,” Ojeda said.

The equipment will be installed for reseach use this fall. It was Ojeda’s first grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and she explains that the best part of this grant was the opportunity to work with the Auburn Family.

“It was encouraging that people at Auburn were always willing to help new faculty like me,” she said. “I reached out and gained support across disciplines at this university that directly contributed to the success of this grant.”

Ojeda found the help within the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) to be very beneficial.

“In COSAM, the grants and processing administration staff helped me make sure that I submitted everything on time,” Ojeda explained. “It is very powerful to me see these teams come together to elevate research at Auburn University.”

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