Matt Limmer, a doctoral student in environmental engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, has received a national award for his research paper describing a process for detecting contaminants through trees.
Limmer, who is from Oregon, Ohio, received the C. Ellen Gonter Environmental Chemistry Award from the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Chemistry Division during the society’s national meeting in August.
Chartered by the U.S. Congress, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society with more than 160,000 members.
The Gonter award is given to a graduate student for an outstanding research paper. Gonter was a research chemist and consultant who worked for the U.S. Army, U.S. Steel Corp., Pittsburgh Coke and Chemical Co., the Nuclear Utilities Service Corp. of Pittsburgh and the National Sanitation Foundation of Ann Arbor, Mich.
Limmer’s award-winning paper, “Phytoscreening: Sectoriality in Uptake of Chlorinated Solvents by Trees,” describes a phenomenon to aid in understanding of groundwater contaminants by examining the contaminant profiles in trees. By using a thin filament called a solid-phase microextraction fiber, or SPME, Limmer and other S&T environmental researchers can detect traces of chemicals at minute levels.
“The trees can provide compass-like information, pointing us toward more contaminated regions of the subsurface,” Limmer says. “The more well-characterized subsurface contamination is, the easier and cheaper it is to remediate.”
Limmer’s advisor is Dr. Joel Burken, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Missouri S&T.