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SOAR 2018 Madison Pursell ’19

Madison Pursell ’19

“Drug Analysis of Wastewater Using Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry”

Major/Minor: Chemistry and Biology
Hometown: Northampton, PA
Project Advisor: Dr. Alison Holliday

Describe your project.

My project involved using untreated wastewater to test for drugs. For this to be done, a filtration method, solid phase extraction method, derivatization method, and a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method needed to be created and optimized.

How did your project come about?

Dr. Holliday came up with this idea while planning for an independent study and since it did not pan out to the level we expected during the independent study, I continued it with SOAR.

What was the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights did she bring to your project?

The best part is that she would let me just lay on the floor of her office if chemistry didn’t do what I wanted it to that day. She brought insight on how to optimize the method we were creating.

What was your biggest obstacle?

The biggest obstacle was going to the Bethlehem Sewage Treatment Plant because it smells horrific. Also, chemistry doesn’t always do what you want it to, which was a huge obstacle.

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What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

My biggest takeaway was a new look on problem solving skills as it was my first time troubleshooting to optimize a method for analytical analysis.

What was the result of your project?

The results showed detectable amounts of drugs in the untreated wastewater.

Overall, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian College?

It was a great honor to have this opportunity. It gave me great insight into how research is done and has prepared me for my honors project. Other students should take advantage of SOAR because they may end up working on a project that increases their love for the subject matter for which they’re studying.

Do you plan to expand upon your research?

My research is being expanded into an honors project focusing on the analysis of wastewater for specific drugs and determining what quantity of these drugs are legal and illegal.

Will you present this research outside the SOAR presentations?

I will be presenting this research at the Eastern Analytical Symposium in New Jersey in November.