May 23, 2024

On March 23, CBU’s Division of Natural and Mathematical Sciences presented its 16th Annual Research Symposium. This year, the guest speaker was Mark Fuentes, Chief of the California Air Resources Board Mobile Source Laboratory Division. Following his keynote address “Cleaning Up Along the Transition to Zero,” the student sessions began, in which students explained their research for their capstone projects. 

 Dr. Jones Tsai, associate professor of biochemistry, organized the chemistry students’ presentations. 

 “The symposium is an opportunity for our students to showcase all the hard work they’ve put in. Some of them have been doing research for a semester, but most of these students have been doing research for a year and some over a year,” Tsai said. “Some of the students come back after having graduated to be able to showcase the fruits of their labor. Also, it gives them experience presenting in front of an audience and to add onto that resume and to help them stand out if they are applying to medical schools, graduate programs and whatnot.”

Though the projects pertain to their major, students work on them outside of the classroom. 

 “All of these are done in addition to the classes they are taking. Some of them put in upwards of hundreds of hours outside of class to get this done. My students put in no less than 50 or 60 hours a semester alone just to collect all of the data,” Tsai said. “All of them are doing it because they have that passion and the desire.” 

Tsai explained that the projects shown are not always finished products and students can choose to continue working on them. 

“I’ve had students come back because they just want to see their contributions of previous aspects of the project draw to a close, preferably in a publication. Most of these students hopefully will be able to produce a publication by the time they graduate. My group, we are working on finishing a final draft to send out for review. All of these things are to help our students stand out in a sea of other applications – they will be a lot stronger to the admission committees,” Tsai said. 

Melissa Tapia, CBU alumna and Valeria Luna, senior forensic chemistry major, paired together for the project about contaminated water bottles. Their hypothesis was inspired by the viral social media videos claiming that Stanley water bottles contain toxic lead. 

 “We wanted to analyze the hazardous metals within stainless steel water bottles and see if there are any hazardous metals on the surface of the bottles leeching into the beverages,” Luna said. 

Tapi and Luna tested a few different water bottles, including a Stanley, a water bottle from Marshall’s, a swap meet Stanley “dupe” and a Hydroflask. 

“We found arsenic, mercury, aluminum, and magnesium on the bottles but nothing big enough to cause concern,” Tapia said. “However, the bottle from the swap meet was overall the most contaminated.”

 When questioned after the presentation about which water bottle the duo would recommend, Tapia answered that in the team’s personal opinion, the Hydroflask would be the winner of the project. 

 But yes, Tapia concluded, a Stanley is indeed safe to drink from lead-wise. 

“Don’t believe everything the internet says,” Tapia said. 

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