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Chad Propst ’23

2021 SOAR Profile

Using GC-MS to Compare Different Washing Methods on Strawberries

Major: Biochemistry
Hometown: Archbald, PA
Project Advisor(s): Dr. Alison Holliday

Briefly describe your project.

The purpose of this experiment was to test out different typically used washing methods on organic strawberries to see which was the most effective for the removal of the pesticide, captan. Captan was the chosen pesticide, as it is the most commonly used pesticide on strawberries. Once the pesticides were washed using their specific method, the pesticide was extracted using ACN and then the extracted solutions would be run through the GC-MS instrument and analyzed using a calibration curve that was created using different amounts of captan solution with a constant internal standard measurement to compare the washing to.


Chad Propst ’23

Describe the origin of your project. (E.g., did you pitch the idea and choose a faculty member, or did they come to you with an idea?)

I approached Dr. Holliday with an interest in working with her on an independent study in the spring of my junior year. She then brought up the idea of continuing a project previously started by the student Nihal Capan. I continued the work that I had started in the spring throughout summer SOAR.

What’s the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights have they brought to your project?

I think the best thing about working with Dr. Holliday is how open minded she is. She would always be willing to hear out my side of going forward and would more often encourage me to be the one to come up with the ideas going forward. She would always steer me in a clearer direction when I was confused, but would also want me to try and work out solutions on my own. Even when I brought up things that she thought may not work, she encouraged me to give it a shot and see if I was onto something.

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

The biggest obstacle for this project was just a lack of supply. Since we needed to use an internal standard, which consisted of a deuterated version of our pesticide, we ran out of sample very quickly once it was opened. This is obviously because of how expensive these chemicals can be and we are working with a limited budget. We were only able to purchase 10mg of our internal standard and since I was using 1mg at a time, I ran out fast.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

My biggest takeaway from this experience would be that I learned a lot about how to work in a lab and conduct research in a more controlled environment. It also allowed me to work on my public speaking skills by presenting at the SOAR colloquium as well as outside conferences.

What was the result of your project?

The results of my project are inconclusive as a whole due to the lack of supplies needed for continued testing. However, I was able to find that rinsing strawberries under a stream of running water for five seconds removes around 90% of the pesticides.

In your own words, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian University?

I feel like being awarded this opportunity was very fulfilling and I strongly encourage other students to seek out this opportunity. Other students should take advantage of it, as it allows you to explore things inside your field and see what doing research is really like, both in STEM and non-STEM fields, as well as provides valuable skills through the SOAR workshops we attended. I also believe that it is a great opportunity to become more acquainted with the faculty and potentially other students in your field.

Now that SOAR is over, do you plan to expand upon your research? If so, how?

I do not think I will be continuing this research personally.

Have you, or do you plan to present this research outside the SOAR presentations? If so, where? Be specific, if possible.

I have already presented this research at the Landmark Conference and will present it next spring at Scholar’s Day here at Moravian.

Is there anything more you would like to add about your accomplishments for this project?

I really think that this opportunity has allowed me to break out of my comfort zone when it comes to public speaking as it is something that has always terrified me. Now that I have presented a few times with more to come, I feel a bit more comfortable with it and sure of myself when presenting.

Are there any aspects of the program (e.g., professional opportunities) that you participated in that you really liked and would want to see continued?

I think the writing workshops helped a lot, such as the resume building workshop, and I would like to see that continued.