A Career Catalyst

Ohio Wesleyan Student’s Summer Science Work Reveals the Rewards of Research

By Cole Hatcher

Emma Blackburn ’22

Name: Emma Blackburn ’22
Hometown: Frederick, Maryland
Major: Microbiology (Bachelor of Science)
Minor: Chemistry
OWU Connection Experience: Ohio Wesleyan’s Summer Science Research Program (SSRP)

Blackburn is spending 10 weeks studying “Probing Molecular Organization of Atmospherically Relevant Interfaces Using Surface-Tension Techniques” under the mentorship of Bethany Rudd, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry.

“With the data obtained from our research,” Blackburn said, “we hope it may be used to improve global climate models to better account for the impact of lake and sea spray aerosols.”

Chemistry and Climate

“Our project is focused on understanding the fundamental physical chemistry associated with the molecular organization of atmospherically relevant interfaces.

“Wind action on oceans and lakes releases aerosols that are coated with organic surface-active species. Surface-active molecules (surfactants) self-assemble at the interface due to the intermolecular forces that exist in their molecular structure.

“Surfactants can alter the physical and chemical properties of the air-aqueous interfaces of these aerosol particles.

“Using a surface tensiometer and conductivity meter, we have measured the surface activity of model surfactants in solutions of varying ionic composition to determine the critical micelle concentration of these surfactants under conditions representative of different aerosol systems. …”

Connecting Classroom Learning

“The Summer Science Research Program has allowed me to learn new procedures, techniques, and skills not taught in lectures or labs. Through this project, I have utilized general lab skills from nearly all of my labs especially general chemistry.

“I have also learned how to measure surface tension and conductivity using new instruments. Additionally, I learned how to analyze and interpret surface tension and critical micelle concentration data.”

Why I Chose Ohio Wesleyan

“One of the factors that made OWU’s science department so appealing was the opportunity to work with professors and engage in research.”

My Plans After Graduation

“After graduation, I plan to earn my master’s degree or Ph.D. This research has helped me better focus on what I would like to do as my career.

“I have enjoyed every chemistry and biology class I have taken, and I want a career that combines both. This program has given me the unique opportunity to see how I can research subjects that involve all of my areas of interest.

“The Summer Science Research Program has given me the perfect opportunity to engage in research while seeing the hard work, dedication needed, challenges, and rewards of research.”