Experiencing Real World Research

Experiencing Real World Research Photo thumbnail78534
Rocky Point High School science research students recently took part in an exploration lab at Brookhaven National Laboratory thanks to a field trip grant provided by Target and secured by teacher Nancy Hunter. 

During the visit, the students learned about the history of the lab and the research being conducted at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and the National Synchrotron Light Source II, and heard about summer research opportunities for students. Additionally, the students were able to model a BNL developed non-toxic technique for removal of toxic metals from soil.

In preparation for the experiment, they learned how spectrophotometers work and some of the issues around heavy metal contamination in soil. They examined iron content in soils used to illustrate how metals might be removed from a soil sample. The technique used citric acid, a non-toxic substance, to chemically bind with the metal, and the combination can then be washed out of the soil and recovered.  

Students used soil samples that had previously been collected from behind the high school, and learned how to calculate the amount of iron in the samples. They prepared samples with known amounts of iron and produced a standard curve using a spectrophotometer, which shines light of a given wavelength through samples and reads both the amount of light absorbed and/or transmitted, allowing the concentration of a substance to be quantified. They could then quantify the amount of iron in soil samples before and after removing the iron.