Hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona, United States
Graduation date: Spring 2024
FURI | Spring 2023
Hydrothermal Liquefaction (HTL) of Compost, Analyzing the Effect with Microplastic and Pesticide
The research conducted aims at understanding the effects of the solid, gas, and oil yields from HTL reactors, specifically that of compost. By adding controlled amounts of compost, microplastic in the form of PET, and a pesticide with the main active ingredient being silicon dioxide, the yields can vary drastically. Understanding the effects of pesticides on microplastics in the compost will then affect how HTL reactors can be utilized to chemically recycle contaminated soil into more useful products.
Mentor: Shuguang Deng
Featured project | Spring 2023
Kelly Nguyen is a chemical engineering junior researching how microplastics in combination with pesticides affect soil contamination. This FURI project under the mentorship of Shuguang Deng, a professor of chemical engineering, provides new information about the environmental impact of microplastics and how humanity can more sustainably interact with the environment in the future.
What made you want to get involved in FURI and why did you choose the project you’re working on?
I was first introduced to the FURI program in my freshman year and it always stuck in the back of my head. When my mentor, Dr. Deng, offered the class I was taking the opportunity to do the FURI program with his research group, I jumped on the opportunity.
I choose to do my project on the interaction of microplastic and pesticides in soil because of my interest in sustainable polymers, also known as plastics. Microplastics are a big issue in the world of sustainability and understanding the effects that they have in interacting with the environment will only further the innovation in developing polymers that are better in the long run.
How will your research project impact the world?
With the increasing concern about microplastics in soil, there is a need for more in-depth research to fully understand the relationship between pollutants and microplastics in a terrestrial environment. The results that come from this research will only further our understanding of the interactions between microplastics and soil contamination.
Have there been any surprises in your research?
The biggest surprise in my research was the shift from my original experimental plan to my current one. I shifted to doing hydrothermal liquefaction of soil, pesticide and microplastics instead of measuring the amount of pesticide that the soil adsorbed over a period of time.
How do you see this experience helping with your career or advanced degree goals?
One of my career goals is to run a lab researching more sustainable, highly accessible polymers. The experience of working in a lab setting allows me to learn the intricacies of being in a lab and how it can run so smoothly with many different working parts.
Why should other students get involved in this program?
FURI is an amazing program that allows undergraduates to experience doing research on a topic that they are interested in, under the guidance of a mentor. It helps you build a rapport with a faculty member and graduate students working in the lab, which is vital for those letters of recommendation. Additionally, it’s rare to be responsible for flushing out a research idea with the safety blanket of graduate students and faculty mentors to fall back on.