UW-Stevens Point science students delve into research projects
D'Acchioli, associate professor of chemistry at the University of
Wisconsin-Stevens Point, spent his summer supervising a small group of
student researchers, he was reminded of his 5-year-old son.
has no preconceived notions of danger," D'Acchioli said. "Students are
very eager and have no preconceived notions of what chemistry is. They
just kind of do stuff."
The stuff D'Acchioli's students are doing
is meaningful. Alexandra Eschmann, Eugenia Wulff-Fuentes and Chelsea
Mueller are contributing original research that could one day lessen
humans' dependence on petroleum. They are three of the many UW-Stevens Point
students working on summer research projects funded by a variety of
"Summer is our most productive time because we can focus
on the project. During the year we're trying to carve out five hours in a
week," D'Acchioli said. "Every summer we learn from what the students
have done before that."
Students apply theories and concepts learned in the classroom to find real-world answers in the lab.
research is a transformative experience," D'Acchioli said. "A classroom
is the place where we provide students with the tools for thinking.
Undergraduate research is where we use those tools to build something
D'Acchioli conceived his project several years
ago. He noticed that a certain combination of chemical compounds and
water transforms the water. It produces hydrogen as a byproduct at room
temperature with less energy than some industrial compounds. His
research team is working to make the process catalytic, producing
hydrogen gas that can be harvested and collected.
Wulff-Fuentes, both in pre-veterinary medicine studies, became part of
the team when they signed up for their first lab experiences.
Synthesizing osmium and ruthenium compounds has been a far cry from what
they learned in introductory courses D'Acchioli teaches.
general chemistry, it's pretty basic stuff," said Eschmann of Kenosha,
who like Venezuela native Wulff-Fuentes will be a sophomore this fall.
"Now we're doing more complicated work in the lab."
senior majoring in chemistry, is working on a theoretical project
involving oxidation states. They also are learning from each other.
have group meetings every Friday where we talk about what we have done
for the week," said Mueller of Stevens Point. "I ask them 'What did you
get out of this?' trying to help them understand the theory side of it.'
Ruby Klish (pictured right) and Steven Kreul (pictured left), also of Stevens Point,
have been tackling a different a research question posed by Heather
Molenda-Figueira, assistant professor of psychology. Bisphenol S (BPS)
has replaced the banned Bisphenol A (BPA) in certain plastic products.
Her research team is exploring whether the replacement compound is
harmful to mental health and how it affects rats in utero.
and Kreul were part of a team that presented the project at this
spring's College of Letters and Science Undergraduate Research
Symposium, which highlights student research for campus and the
community. They received good feedback from attendees.
were really interested because this affects everybody," Klish said.
"With BPS, they're switching it out with something they don't really
know the effects of yet."
Molenda-Figueira hopes to analyze data
and compile results from the research project this fall. Until then,
Kreul and Klish will continue to perform tasks such as cleaning lab
rats' cages and testing the animals' reproductive cycles and anxiety
levels. Both Klish and Kreul are interested in continuing to work in
research and possibly teach after completing degrees in psychology.