Alisa Edmund and Kyli Bishop, seniors from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, were recognized for their undergraduate research at the annual Federation of Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopy Societies conference (FACSS). Bishop was awarded a special recognition for her undergraduate poster, while Edmund won first place in competition against graduate students and established scientists.
They presented their research on inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy testing, explained their research and answered any questions attendees had.
Edmund said most fundamental work on ICP-MS analysis is based on custom instruments. Her research, however, uses a commercial instrument.
“The difference is that this is a commercial instrument — which has never been done before,” she said. “While we can learn lots of things from a custom instrument, what’s going to be used in the field and in the industry is a commercially made instrument.”
Edmund said the commercial instrument she studies is used for elemental analysis.
“We’re finding out what’s in the sample through the instrument,” she said. “But what happens is, when it travels through the instrument, we lose ions. So in order to get better analysis, we need to improve our understanding of where they’re being lost and what’s happening in the instrument so we can better optimize for it.”
Edmund said although she was confident about her presentation, it never occurred to her that she would take first place.
“There were lots of people and so it felt great to be number one,” she said. “It makes you feel like all those long hours in the lab meant something.”
Bishop is researching energy reactions and how they affect readings on her trace analysis instruments.
“I presented on matrix effects and ICP atomic emission spectroscopy,” she said. “The instruments we use are for trace analysis — to tell you what is in the sample.”
Bishop said some high concentration samples of atomic emissions interfere with lower concentration signals, resulting in false readings.
Along with her third place cash prize, Bishop said she appreciated the recognition that came with the award.
“You feel super smart when you receive an award,” she said. “It’s really cool to have other people know that you did a great job.”
Both Edmund and Bishop work with Dr. Paul Farnsworth as research assistants in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Farnsworth said Edmund and Bishop worked hard to be able to present at the conference.
“For both of them, what they were talking about represented more than a year’s worth of experimentation,” he said. “The work is interesting and innovative. . . . They understood it well enough that they could explain it to people who came by and asked questions.”
Farnsworth said that he wasn’t surprised by his students’ success at the meeting and that they are good examples of the outstanding students that attend BYU.
“They do work that’s on par with graduate students,” he said. “It’s just an illustration of the quality of research that undergraduates at BYU do.”