Kenneth “KC” Carroll, an associate professor in New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and his collaborators have received two $300,000 grants from the Department of Energy.
The grants are geared toward supporting minority-serving institutions and supporting underrepresented groups that are interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
“They want to develop a STEM-based workforce to employ at the national laboratories we have around the country,” Carroll said. “So, that’s one of the things we are doing. We’re trying to get New Mexicans interested in STEM careers so they can get jobs at the national laboratories. This program will show them how to do research and train them to work in labs so they can become potential hires for the DOE.”
One of the grants is in collaboration with researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to focus on the clean-up of legacy mercury that was accidentally released while helping to develop nuclear weaponry and isotopes for energy production.
Carroll explained that their role is to do hydrology science to understand the surface ground water interactions, which supports the contamination clean-up efforts.
“The hyporheic zone is an interface between surface water and groundwater. So, if you can imagine an interface between a river or stream and the groundwater below the streambed sediments, that is the hyporheic zone,” Carroll said. “The exchange and mixing of water and dissolved chemicals at that interface is where a lot of important chemistry and biology also occurs. We’re assessing the locations where this exchange happens and how it impacts ecosystems.”
The other new grant is in collaboration with researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to help clean up the contamination in the subsurface of the Hanford Site located in Washington State.
“Those are legacy contamination sites and they are working on the clean up of the contamination. What we’re looking at are the processes that naturally decrease concentrations, and then we can enhance those processes in the subsurface to speed up the clean up,” Carroll said.
Students who are interested in working in collaboration with national labs can get internships or can work with the research teams on these projects.
“I think it’s important to make sure everyone has access to STEM job opportunities and the national labs are great places to do science and the DOE is a great organization supporting students who want to work in STEM fields and to have their career in STEM,” Carroll said.
The grants are also allowing Carroll to do outreach activities to get students interested in science and specifically talk to students who are minorities or in underrepresented groups.
Both of these grants have allowed for active collaboration with research scientists at the two national labs; giving students experience to increase their possibly of working in national labs in the future.
Information from NMSU