DOM Control of Mercury Methylation in a Meromictic Lake

Describe your project.

When elemental mercury from the environment enters a lake through deposition, it is generally harmless. However, within certain depths of a lake, bacteria can exist that use elemental mercury for respiration, allowing elemental mercury to be methylated. Methylation of mercury creates the element’s toxic form, which leads to things like the need for fish advisories. In my project, I am studying how this process occurs in a meromictic lake, one that does not seasonally mix, and the effect that dissolved organic matter has on methylation.

What is the best part of doing an Honors Thesis?

The best part of doing a Thesis is that I get to learn and do research on a topic that I am specifically interested in. As a Chemical Engineering major, I get to spend more time delving into my passion for environmental remediation, which I would not otherwise get to do.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far in your Thesis?

My biggest challenge is finding the time to complete my research. Water chemistry and mercury analysis is a very detailed and time-consuming type of research that is definitely hard to incorporate during the school year, but I was able to complete the majority of my lab work over the past summer!

Is there someone who played a really key role in helping you develop your Thesis?

My faculty Thesis advisor, Dr. Svetla Todorova, has been such an amazing help during this entire process, from taking me on the sampling trip for my initial analysis to helping me edit proposals and drafts. I definitely could not have made it this far without her!

What were you able to accomplish with the award funds that you received?

This funding has already allowed me so much more freedom with my project. The processes used in our lab require large quantities of many expensive chemicals. Using the funding I was awarded, I was able to expand my analysis to samples of two lakes instead of just one.

Do you have any advice for future Honors Thesis students?

Start your Thesis as early as possible! And if you find a project that you’re truly passionate about, it won’t feel like work.

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