Anika - So Much to Learn, So Little Time

Hello everyone!

In my last blog post, I had mentioned that I narrowed down my list to one problem that I felt most passionate about - water quality. Water quality is such a broad topic, and the most difficult part was finding a place to start researching! I began to look at articles on some major water contaminants. From those articles, I found specific sources that cause contamination in the water. For example, I had read that there is a large amount of dissolved copper and lead in water due to industrial waste from factories. I also learned that oil spill contamination was not limited to oil tanker and oil rig accidents on the open seas, but was equally likely to occur on land due to pipeline leaks.

Researching is extremely important as it helps me understand the problem better. I can also learn about existing solutions and their limitations. This understanding helps me find possible solutions and allows me to test whether my idea is feasible. I learned that research comes in many forms: reading about the topic, talking to experts in the field  and by actually seeing the existing solutions. To do this, I visited a water treatment facility in Ithaca during my visit there. I learned first hand the various contaminants that are detrimental to water quality and the existing treatment methods that are being used, including their benefits and shortcomings. I observed that one solution did not fit all issues and that water purification was a multi-step process that had to be  constantly monitored and adjusted with changing environmental conditions.  

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Ithaca Water Treatment Facility
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Membranes which filter impurities in ‘settled’ water. The water moves through 0.0001 mm pores.

While conducting research, organization is key. It enables us to determine which information is useful and relevant. Initially, I found myself overwhelmed with all the available information! I decided to divide all the topics I wanted to research into separate categories (such as adsorptive properties of fruit peels and chemical composition of oils) and within these categories, I read articles and research papers and took notes. I have found that this type of system works well for me! It helps me tackle the different components of the problem and solution in a systematic manner. I believe that it is important to start a research project with some knowledge of the topic, but it is equally important to keep an open mind and be prepared to have one’s ideas questioned and challenged.

I hope you join me in my next blog post!

- Anika