Professor receives chemistry grant to study environment around Macon

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Jennifer Look and a collection of students will be studying the chemical make-up of neighborhoods around Mercer. Look received a grant from the Special Grant Program in the Chemical Sciences by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation of $500, which was then matched by Mercer University, to study the chemicals in various aspects of the environment around Mercer. The aim of the grant program is to educate people about the sciences.
Along with the students, Look will gather information about the level of chemicals in substances, such as the air, soil, water and buildings, to see what beneficial and harmful chemicals are in the area. They will then present their findings to non-scientist members of the community.
“We are not hoping to find anything. We are hoping to come to a deeper understanding of the area,” Look said. She and the students in her research have done some preliminary tests, and the results show a very low level of pollution. The research area will be the areas around Mercer, including the Ocmulgee River, Central City Park and the Georgia state fairgrounds.
Look found out about this program two years ago and started applying for the grant. She found out last November that she had received it. It was a multistage application.
“The Dreyfus foundation strongly encourages matching funds to show that there is viability in the project” stated Look. Mercer’s willingness to match the grant shows Mercer’s faith in the project and the importance the University places on the community.
The funding from the grant and from Mercer’s match will pay for funds to purchase the equipment and pay for students to do the research.
“A lot of my friends are doing organic synthesis… and it didn’t seem that interesting for me because I didn’t see the practicality. I like the practicality that the information we are getting will benefit Macon,” stated junior Lisa Bianco, in regards to the project. Bianco is one of the student researchers for the project. She and other Mercer students will gain marketable job skills from the research.
After gathering the research, the students will present their findings to people who are in the area and are affected by the chemicals here. There will be church events, park events and other experiences to share the information gathered by the research. They want to educate the people of Macon about what chemicals make up their lives and what effect those chemicals will have on them.
It will also be a goal of the program to get young Macon residents to be involved in the sciences. According to Look, there are a lot of job opportunities in these fields that are simply not being filled because people do not have the required education.
“There is a lot more to science than being a doctor” said Look. She hopes to encourage young individuals in Macon to consider education and careers in the STEM subjects.