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Supports Research That Matters

2 UD research studentsSenior Alex Bassil was born in the United States, but raised in Lebanon. Now he’s back in the States, working toward a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Lebanon is not far from his mind, though, even sparking his undergraduate research experience last summer.

“There was a trash crisis in Lebanon and a lot of plastic in our water, which got me interested in my topic,” Bassil said. Over the summer, he worked on a technique to remove the organic compound Bisphenol S, or BPS, from water.

“You often see plastics marked ‘BPA free.’ Many industries stopped using BPA, which disrupts natural hormones, but are now using BPS,” Bassil explained. “It’s different than BPA, but has a similar molecular structure. There’s not a lot of direct information about whether BPS is harmful, but there’s an interest in extracting it from water.”

Bassil was not the only chemical engineering student drawn to this research. Junior Taylor McCarthy devoted her summer to it as well. “It sounded interesting — and important — to find creative ways to get potentially harmful chemicals out of water.”

Both students tried to develop techniques incorporating lignin, a biopolymer that gives wood its strength and has adsorptive properties which enable it to take up BPS and hold it, providing an avenue to extract it from water. “We both used lignin, but in different ways,” said McCarthy, who worked toward creating lignin-infused nanofibers that would serve as a water filter, of sorts, to remove BPS. Bassil was focused on fusing lignin with magnetic particles to attract BPS and extract it using an external magnetic field.

Both students’ research earned them top honors, with McCarthy receiving the award for best oral presentation at the Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium and Bassil earning the award for best poster presentation.

Providing Research Opportunities

Undergraduate research like Bassil’s and McCarthy’s is vital to the identity of the University of Dayton — and made possible by donor support. This year alone, alumni Margie and Bill Klesse committed $5 million to the University, devoting half to scholarships and half to undergraduate research.

“All of the breakthroughs that have happened in our lifetimes are because of the sciences. We want to give young people the opportunity to explore,” said Bill.

Their gift will support eight students each summer, covering student stipends and housing, research materials and a modest award for faculty mentors. That’s eight more students researching topics that have an impact on all of our lives — making a dent in societal problems and setting themselves up for success.

We want to give young people the opportunity to explore.

Bill Klesse

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