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CEEES Research Opportunities

Research Opportunities in Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences for Undergraduates

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Past climate and environmental variability of southeastern Africa

Description: The main objectives of this project are to look at the role of ocean circulation near East Africa and assess the influence on African terrestrial climates coincident with early human evolution during the Pliocene–Pleistocene. The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 361 drilled six sites on the southeast African margin and in the Indian-Atlantic ocean gateway, southwest Indian Ocean, and these sediment cores will form the basis of this project. Exchanges of heat and moisture with the atmosphere influence southern African climates, including individual weather systems such as extratropical cyclone formation in the region and rainfall patterns. Recent ocean model and paleoceanographic data further point at a potential role of the Agulhas Current off the coast of southeastern Africa in controlling longer term patterns of climate. This project will utilize laboratory techniques to look at the preserved land and sea derived organic matter to reconstruct past changes in temperature, rainfall, and vegetation.

Student involvement: All levels of the research including sample preparation, analysis, and clean-up.

Preferred discipline(s), expertise, lab skills, etc.: Attention to detail and excellent communication skills, ability to work well with current undergrads and graduate students. Laboratory experience preferred but not required. The research is highly interdisciplinary and combines work in chemistry, geology, and paleoclimatology and so a wide range of disciplines may be applicable.

Contact: Assistant Professor Melissa Berke, 164 Fitzpatrick Hall, 574 631-4857  (Melissa.Berke.1@nd.edu)
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences

Effects of Temperature on Uranyl Peroxide Nanoclusters

Description: Over the past decade the Burns Research Group has discovered and characterized a new class of uranium materials known as the uranyl peroxide nanoclusters. These clusters are composed of uranium in the hexavalent oxidation state, peroxide and hydroxide, and other cations for charge balance. The clusters range in diameter from 1-4 nm and a variety of over 100 clusters have been made. This project will look at the effects of temperature on the clusters using hydrothermal heating and Raman spectroscopy to see if the clusters remain or break down.

The REU student would work closely with a graduate student in the Burns group to synthesize clusters of interest, run the experiments, and analyze collected data.

Preferred disciplines are chemistry, geology, chemical engineering, or any other closely related field. Dates for the REU project are May 20 through July 26, 2019.

Contact: Professor Peter Burns, 574 631-7852 (pburns@nd.edu)
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences

Effect of Cations on Uranyl Peroxide Nanocluster Solubility

Description: Over the past decade the Burns Research Group has discovered and characterized a new class of uranium materials known as the uranyl peroxide nanoclusters. These clusters are composed of uranium in the hexavalent oxidation state, peroxide and hydroxide, and other cations for charge balance. The clusters range in diameter from 1-4 nm. This project will look at how the concentration of cations in solution enables higher solubility of the clusters. Experiments will try to reach the maximum solubility limits of how much uranium can be put into solution by cluster formation.

The REU student would work closely with a graduate student in the Burns group to run the experiments and analyze collected data.

Preferred disciplines are chemistry, geology, chemical engineering, or any other closely related field. Dates for the REU project are May 20 through July 26, 2019.

Contact: Professor Peter Burns, 574 631-7852 (pburns@nd.edu)
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences

Calorimetric Studies on Uranyl Peroxide Nanoclusters

Description: Over the past decade the Burns Research Group has discovered and characterized a new class of uranium materials known as the uranyl peroxide nanoclusters. These clusters are composed of uranium in the hexavalent oxidation state, peroxide and hydroxide, and other cations for charge balance. The clusters
range in diameter from 1-4 nm and a variety of over 100 clusters have been made. This project will look
at the energetics of the clusters using drop solution calorimetry to calculate heats of formation.

The REU student would work closely with a graduate student in the Burns group to synthesize the clusters of
interest, run the experiments, and analyze collected data.

Preferred disciplines are chemistry, geology, chemical engineering, or any other closely related field. Dates for the REU project are May 20 through July 26, 2019.

Contact: Professor Peter Burns, 574 631-7852 (pburns@nd.edu)
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences