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Tarleton-FYRE Research Opportunities

Astronomy

Dr. Shaukat Goderya, Associate Professor & Director of Programs for Astronomy Education and Research

photogoderya@tarleton.edu

Dr. Goderya’s research interest are in the study of eclipsing binary stars and study of planets around other stars in our galaxy. Eclipsing binary stars are two stars that are gravitational bound together and a particular class of them known as contact binary systems are so close to each other that the two stars can exchange matter between them and thus influence each other’s life cycles. Binary stars are very useful as astrophysical laboratories; they provide important information on the physical and geometrical properties of stars. One of the most fundamental properties of a star is its mass; it is not always easy to obtain the mass of the star unless it happens to be in a binary system. Many of the planets discovered in our galaxy these days are through a technique called transit photometry. This technique is very similar to observations of eclipsing binary stars and it allows me to monitor and search for new planets near our solar system.

Chemistry

Dr. Rajani Srinivasan, Assistant Professor, Chemistry

srinivasan@tarleton.edu

Dr. Srinivasan’s research for the FYRE program will focus on natural and modified biomaterials as treatment agents in removal of nutrients from water and wastewater.  The goal of this research is to use green materials and techniques in remediating water contaminated with nutrients like phosphates and nitrates. The significance of the research is to develop alternative ecofriendly materials with better water treatment qualities than the existing toxic materials used for treating water. The research will focus on extracting materials from plants using standard methods. These materials will then be modified using some chemical methods to get new materials with improved properties and efficiency to remove nutrient contaminants like phosphates and Nitrates.  The water used for testing the prepared materials will be lab made and live water samples collected from surface waters like lakes and rivers, wells and treatment plants. The water collected from surface water and wells will be characterized to know the physical and chemical properties. The prepared materials will further be characterized using modern analytical techniques like Scanning Electron Microscopy, UV-VIS Spectroscopy, Viscosity and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). A series of lab scale experiments will be performed with varying material doses, temperature and pH to see their effect on the water treatment efficiency of these materials. The results will then be published in a journal and presented at a scientific conference.

Dr. Lance Whaley, Assistant Professor, Chemistry

whaley@tarleton.edu

Flavonoids are a diverse class of natural products with over 9000 distinct structures now characterized.  The isoflavones are a subclass of flavonoids that are often classified as phyto-estrogens due to their abilities to mimic the biological activities of estrogen.  In the human diet, isoflavones are mostly found within legumes such as soybean.  Several isoflavones are known to have anti-oxidant activity but these compounds also bind specifically to protein receptors that regulate cell growth.  There are several isoflavone compounds that are known to inhibit tumor cell growth in culture.  The fact that most isoflavones have low toxicity also makes these compounds attractive as lead structures for drug discovery.  The Osage orange (Maclura pomifera), is native to Texas and there are numerous trees growing in the bottom land of the Bosque River in Erath County.  The fruit of this species contains two isoflavones, osajin and pomiferin, in high quantities.  Pomiferin inhibits tumor cell growth and also protects heart tissue against damage by ischemia.  Osajin blocks the toxicity of amyloid beta peptide against cultured neuronal cells and promotes the apoptosis of tumor cells.  Due to these activities, both of these compounds are of interest as potential pharmaceuticals.  A new chromatographic separation protocol, based on alumina-B as an adsorbent, was recently developed by in this laboratory.  Student researchers Cody Earp and Margaret Risher recently used this protocol to demonstrate that only osajin is present in the early stage of fruit development.  This contrasts with pomiferin being the predominant isoflavone in the later stages of fruit development.  The wood of Osage orange contains significant quantities of morin, a flavone that inhibits tumor cells in culture by binding to regulatory proteins.  Osage orange produces many other novel flavones and isoflavones at relatively high concentrations.  Since these compounds are very difficult to synthesize, it is important to determine the environmental factors that affect the biosynthesis of these compounds in this species.  This project will involve collaboration with Dr. Lloyd Sumner of the Noble Foundation (Ardmore, OK) for mass spectrometry analysis of flavonoids.

Environmental Engineering

Dr. Kartik Venkataraman, Assistant Professor, Environmental Engineering

venkataraman@tarleton.edu

Dr. Venkataraman has been involved in undergraduate research and mentoring funded by the NSF and state agencies such as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). His research expertise is in the area of water quality modeling, planning and management and he specializes in the assessment of groundwater vulnerability to contamination. His research interests are centered on the use of geographic-statistical models in source water protection. Small drinking-water systems often lack the technical and financial support needed for effective water quality monitoring, treatment and protection. Statistical tools that can model the spatial trends in the occurrence of contaminants and the factors that impact them can help identify areas vulnerable to contamination and thus aid in sustainable water management. Of particular interest is the groundwater contaminant, nitrate. Nitrate is one of the most common groundwater contaminants in agricultural areas and can be released into the environment during the application of fertilizers and animal waste. As agriculture (particularly dairy and pecan farming) is a dominant land use in Central Texas, it is imperative to evaluate the vulnerability of water supplies, which are typically decentralized, to contamination from nitrate released through agricultural activities. Dr. Venkataraman also researches the future of the water-energy nexus in Texas, particularly the use of renewable sources of energy such as wind, in water resource planning and management.

Dr. Sudarshan Kurwadkar, Assistant Professor, Environmental EngineeringDr. Kurwadkar with students

kurwadkar@tarleton.edu

Dr. Kurwadkar’s research is currently geared towards studying the occurrence, distribution and persistence of low levels of emerging micro-pollutants in the environment.  The focus is on the environmental persistence of pharmaceutical and personal care products and neonicotinoid insecticides in soil, water, and sediment.  Neonicotinoid insecticides have been implicated in honeybee colony collapse disorder.  As a Freshman Research Fellow you will be conducting research on the sources and pathways of these insecticides as they enter the environment. The research work will involve selecting few vines at the active vineyard at the Texas AgriLife Research and conducting the plant uptake.  It is essentially one of the contact points the bees might come into contact. You will quantify the concentration of these compounds in soil and water using the sophisticated state of the art analytical instruments such as High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). 

Environmental Soil Science

Dr. Donald G. McGahan, Assistant Professor, Environmental Soil Science

mcgahan@tarleton.edu

Dr. McGahan is a soil scientist and biogeochemist interested in identifying systematic variation in soils and their impacts on management.  His research looks at the very-slowly renewable natural resource, soil, for which the majority of life on planet Earth is dependent. He uses multiple low and high technology tools to investigate the how and why of management and nature to further understanding of this diverse ecosystem. Knowledge of soil “in the environment” and “of the environment” is applicable to site-specific soil management(s) including both land use for agriculture and non-agricultural land use. Currently under investigation are phosphorus forms and contents on agricultural lands and the impacts and fates thereof as a result of both natural erosion and accelerated erosion caused by various land management practices. Since most environmental, ecological, and ecosystem investigations and issues including food scarcity, global climate change, and environmental quality intersect the soil realm and land management analysis is timely and needed knowledge.

Environmental Social Science

Dr. Jeff Justice, Assistant Professor, Social Sciences

justice@tarleton.edu

The current research of Dr. Jeff Justice is examining two political phenomena, nationalism and environmentalism.  Nationalism is the idea that a people and their country should be one unit, as in Scots should have their own independent country, which is Scotland, instead of being a people within the larger United Kingdom.  The environmental movement supports a lifestyle that is good for the earth, as in energy that does not produce greenhouse gasses, requiring polluters to clean up their messes, and so forth.  In western Europe, these movements often work together, and the goal of my research is to find out whether they truly have the same goals, or whether this is a political marriage of convenience between two different movements.  Dr. Justice plans to interview elected officials and interest groups in both areas to determine what their motivations are.

Physics

Dr. Dan Marble, Professor, Physics

marble@tarleton.edu

Tarleton’s ion beam facility provides a wide range of analytical techniques for characterizing materials for environmental and engineering applications. The research will involve the characterization of a suitable material chosen by the student in conjunction with the research mentor. Some past research has included the study of gun nozzles and barrel linings for failure and enhancement mechanics using nuclear reaction analysis (NRA), characterization of materials for opto-electronics applications by channeling and Rutherford backscattering spectrometry (RBS), and the analysis of radioactivity in industrial cutting sands. Other research areas of interest include the characterization of environmental and biological samples by particle induced x-ray emission (PIXE) and gamma ray spectroscopy, the study of environmental radioactivity, the development of improved detection systems, and the study of ion-solid energy-loss interactions, x-ray production cross sections, and other fundamental physical processes required for the development of quantitative measurement techniques.