A Postcard From: Emily Kampmeyer ’18

Name: Emily Kampmeyer
Class Year: 2018
Major: Geology
Concentration: Geochemistry
Hometown: Harleysville, Pa.

Internship Placement: Bryn Mawr Summer Science Research
Job Title: Research Assistant
Location: Bryn Mawr College

Ferrihydrite synthesis, pre- and post-filtration. The vial is full of ferrihydrite — the culmination of this summer and last summer’s synthesis efforts

What’s happening at your internship?

Hello from the exotic, far-away land of Park Science’s Geology wing! This summer I have been working on a few projects. One is synthesizing ferrihydrite and goethite in the lab, in order to mimic minerals on Mars. It is in the plans to submit different ratios of the minerals to study under X-ray Diffraction (XRD). Another deals with digitizing the mapped points of samples of Bryn Mawr’s Rock and Mineral Collection. The maps themselves are up to century old, sometimes ripped and taped up. This side project categorizes them all into a single Google Earth file to ensure that the sample locations and information outlive their deteriorating physical counterparts. The third project is still in the preliminary research stages — synthesizing ultramarine blue paint pigment with coal fly ash (a waste byproduct of coal-fired power plants). I’m currently amassing a methodology and figuring out what materials I need in order to perform the experiment. Luckily, through the magic of networking in academia, I’ve been able to get in touch with a governmental employee who deals with regulating the ash!

Why did you apply for this internship?

Out of the three projects, the pigment synthesis is the one I am spearheading on my own. This internship gives me the opportunity to pursue my own brand of research. In this specific instance, it allows me to bridge the gap between science and art (to an extent), which is a topic I am very passionate about. As someone who is still debating whether or not to move on to graduate school, I felt it would be practical to test out whether or not research was what I wanted to do with my life. Regardless of that outcome, the experience is invaluable.

What is something you have learned from your internship that you didn’t expect?

I’ve learned to be patient, and to not expect results immediately. From the photo, you can see that even with the combined efforts of the current and last summer’s research, there has been a very slow accumulation of product. There’s only 23 grams, so far (5 of which have been my contribution). It’s completely possible that we will not be able to reach all of our research goals this summer. It’s been a process learning that while that fact is frustrating, it’s OK! Good science is not rushed science. Sometimes you just have to take what you get.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?

The biggest challenge has been working independently, which is something I hadn’t realized would be an issue. Last year I worked on mostly the same projects, but within a group. This summer, it’s slightly more difficult because I have to make my own deadlines and stick to them or else I’ll fall apart. There was a sort of power in the group-held accountability that I had not realized was very important to my work ethic. But it’s something I can work with.