Chemical Engineering Undergraduate Takes First Place at Statewide Research Poster Competition

 Chemical Engineering Undergraduate Takes First Place at Statewide Research Poster Competition

October 4, 2018

From the moment he arrived on the Syracuse University campus, Connor Gonzalez ’20 was looking to get involved in research. During his freshman year, he started visiting the Student Success Center in Link Hall.

“I asked how I could get involved, what opportunities were available in the College of Engineering and Computer Science,” said Gonzalez.

The Student Success Center connected him with laboratory manager Mario Montesdeoca and Gonzalez was given an opportunity to analyze samples in the Link Hall environmental engineering laboratories.

“He loves to help and he goes out of his way to help people, ” said Gonzalez of Montesdeoca.

Near the end of his freshman year, he was also offered a chance to stay in Syracuse for the summer and develop an environmental engineering research project in the research laboratory of Charles T. Driscoll Jr., University Professor and Director of the Center for Environmental Systems Engineering.

“I thought, what a great opportunity to be mentored by one of the top professor at SU – why not?” said Gonzalez.

The Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) helped fund his summer research testing 300 soil samples from four New England area mountains. Gonzalez compared mercury levels in the 300 samples to organic elements such as carbon, nitrogen and sulfur.

“Of the four mountains we are trying to figure out what trends there are in each of the mountains and do different elevations and types of forest play a role,” said Gonzalez.

Before starting his research, Gonzalez had speculated that the uppermost forest would contain the most mercury contamination but the data showed a different result.

“We saw that in all four mountains that the middle elevation forests, the spruce and fir forests, contained the most amount of mercury,” said Gonzalez.

Professor Driscoll was impressed by the caliber of research Gonzalez had accomplished as a rising sophomore and encouraged him enter the statewide CSTEP Research Poster Competition.

Gonzalez presented his research during the CSTEP Conference April 13-15 at the Sagamore Hotel on Lake George and won first place in the Environmental and Earth Science category.

“You always hope for first place but you never actually expect to get it,” said Gonzalez. “I was very shocked but I didn’t want to seem too shocked since I was confident in my poster.”

The research provided a baseline to monitor mercury emissions and future studies could determine if mercury emissions are increasing or decreasing.

Gonzalez continued his research during summer 2018 and hopes to present an updated version at the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers national conference held in Cleveland, OH this November.