Psychology major Jahsel Ashby ’20 and Biology major Khadija Rafiqi ’21 worked with a local community agency this summer, to introduce area teens to laboratory methods as the teens prepared to test drinking water quality in their neighborhood.
The partner agency is the Sanctuary for Independent Media, a community center that provides diverse programming – including an ecological education-focused summer camp – for residents of North Troy, New York. The students’ research mentor is Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Emilly Obuya, Ph.D., who has involved dozens of Sage students in her work to help people around the world access safe drinking water. A grant from the New York State Department of Education’s Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program supported the Sage students’ involvement.
In the course of the project, Ashby and Rafiqi met with scientists at a local laboratory that is certified for bacteriological and chemical testing of drinking water; evaluated several brands of at-home kits that measure lead and pH in drinking water; and developed a hands-on workshop around the most reliable testing methods that they presented to teens in the Sanctuary for Independent Media’s Uptown Summer program. The teens – who may live in older houses where lead pipes affect the quality of their drinking water – learned how to test the water in their homes, make informed decisions based on the results and address quality of life and environmental issues in their community.
Ashby was attracted to the opportunity to build research experience before applying to graduate programs in Psychology, and to the environmental justice angle. “I’m glad I took part in it, it’s very important to let people know what environmental justice is, it plays a big role in this community,” she said. “My favorite part was actually testing the water in the lab. It was new to me and I really liked it.”
“I always want to help the community,” said Rafiqi. As a rising junior who entered Russell Sage at age 16, she’s still considering career paths, including research and medicine. As for the immediate future, “I asked my professor if I can continue to work with her on this environmental research project after this summer,” she said.
The following students and faculty and professional mentors also collaborated on CSTEP-supported summer research in 2019:
Kyerra Stanley ’22 and Assistant Professor of Nutrition Samara Joy Nielsen, Ph.D., M.Div.: “The Association Between Dietary Intake, BMI and Strength Measures in U.S. Youth, 2012”
Ta’Sha’arif Carr ’20 and Tracey Chance, J.D.: “Is the System Effective at Saving Children?”
Britney Merwin ’21, Alexandria Iglesia ’22 and Assistant Professor of Biology Kristi LaMonica, Ph.D.: “Loss of Orientation when Wnt7a is Inhibited”
Amos Amoak ’21, Dorcas Talyowe, Cassidy Taranto, Associate Professor of Nursing Glenda Kelman, Ph.D., and Lecturer in Nursing Gertrude B. Hutchinson, DNS: “An Oral History of the Lived Experience of Sage Nursing Alumnae”