Academics: Majors and Programs

Research Opportunities

Spelman’s success in producing world-class leaders is most profoundly represented in the sciences.

  • Analytical Instrumentation (HPLC, GC, GC-MS, Microwave digestion), Olanrewaju (Lanre) Sanusi, Ph.D.,
  • Water quality analysis, waste containment and remediation, environmental risk assessment, leaching of inorganic and organic contaminants from waste materials/waste amended construction materials Olanrewaju (Lanre) Sanusi, Ph. D.

Project 1 – Characterization of Proctor creek for PCB contamination and salinity level

Due to release of contaminants from industrial activities, sewer from households and storm water runoffs to Proctor creek via it tributaries and other upstream sources. It is believed that the creek might be laden with semi volatile organic compounds (such as PCB) that can have adverse effect on human and aquatic organisms. The goal of this project is to characterize Proctor creek soil sediments for PCBs contamination which is a man made organic compound that are contained within every day products used by consumers and are known to cause serious health effect in humans and animals. Levels of PCBs identified will be compared with current EPA standards to assess their potential adverse health effects. Also, the salinity of the creek water would be determined due to increased sewerage discharge occurring as a result of sewer overflow to the water body. Results from this project will determine whether the levels of PCB and salinity fall below or exceed the regulatory limits and pose any risk to the community and aquatic ecosystem.

Project 2 – Food nutritional analysis: Density-Rich quality of Nutrients and minerals in locally sold foods

For years, the West End community area of Atlanta has been regarded as a “food desert” due to the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables available for purchase by community resident. This make the quality and nutrient density of each fresh or dried fruits and vegetables sold in the area of even greater importance. Fresh and dried fruits and vegetables purchased from two major grocers (mainly shopped by AUC students) will be tested to determine the levels of beneficial nutrients and minerals using analytical techniques such as acid digestion, UV spectroscopy, solvent extraction, ICP-OES and titration. These samples will be compared with similar fruits and vegetables purchased outside of the West End Atlanta community area. Results from this project will determine whether residents of food desert are provided with fruits and vegetables containing the same/greater/fewer nutrients and minerals values than residents of non-food desert neighborhood hence are required to consume the same/more/less servings of fruits and vegetables.

Project 3 – The impact of Urban Sprawl on Biomass Changes in Metro Atlanta over the past two decade

While development is important to the progression of human race, rapid urbanization is one human activity that is associated with depletion of natural resources and threat to the forest ecosystem. Urban sprawl is one vital part of this rapid urbanization which continue to encourage deforestation and biodiversity loss in metropolitan areas. As mass deforestation continues due to urban sprawl, the ecological footprint  of the city of Atlanta continue to grow, leaving a larger impact on the earth ecosystem. This project aim to monitor biomass depletion/changes in Metro Atlanta over two decade (1994-2014) due to urban sprawl. The trends of biomass change and the kind of developments that are made in exchange for the biomass will be identified. The project will utilize ArcGIS, earth explorer, and NDVI as tools for investigation.

Project 4 – Prevalence of Endocrine Disrupting compounds (EDC) and Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) in Rural, Suburban and Urban Community Water Sources -

As a part of understanding the long-term environmental risks of polluted water to human health, the screening of community water sources for chemicals that affect reproductive and neurological development is important. Storm water runoff especially increases the opportunities for chemical exposure due to the uncontrolled nature of storm water run-off and the downstream effects on water systems. This project aim to examine the environmental health risk of EDC and PPCPs such as Bisphenol A (BPA), Phthalate ester, organophosphorous pesticides, 17a ethynlestradiol and arsenic in exposure hotspots water sources located in rural, suburban and urban communities within the Atlanta metro area. Students will have the opportunity to acquire quantitative evidence of the presence of these chemicals in the various water sources using analytical tools such as GC-MS/MS and ICP-OES and will be able to predict the potential health effects of exposure to the levels/concentration of these chemicals.

Project 5 – Determination of pesticides residue content of agricultural soils

Pesticides are widely used in farms to protect plants/crops from insects, weeds and diseases. Although some of these pesticides are supposed to biodegrade. There are still some residual pesticide content and other transformation products remaining on crop and in the soil that might be harmful to humans and soil organisms such as earthworm that help keep the ecosystem functioning. This project is to assess the level of pesticides residue and other transformation products in agricultural soils from about four farms outside Atlanta and farm produce purchased at local farmers market using GC-NCI-MS/MS. The project aim to determine the concentration of these pesticides residues and their transformation products in addition to any potential health and environmental problem to the ecosystem.

Project 6 – Assessment of river/creek sediments for heavy metal contamination

Many river basins and creeks have been contaminated with metals released from household, industrial and agricultural activities. There is a concern that these sediments may be causing damage to aquatic ecosystems (such as, fish, plants) in rivers. As part of improving the health of human and wildlife in communities around Proctor creek, Atlanta, this project aim to assess sediments from Proctor creek for heavy metal contamination due to combined sewer overflow, dumping of refuse from surrounding areas, industrial discharge and upstream pollution sources. The concentration of heavy metals in the sediments will be determined using analytical methods that include microwave acid digestion, USEPA leaching test methods and ICP-OES analysis. Release of these contaminant heavy metals under different environmental condition will also be investigated.

Project 7 – Assessment of Proctor creek sediments for insecticides

Insecticides are widely used for mosquito and pest control in home, gardens and agricultural farms. They are household consumer products that are transported to Proctor creek and its tributaries via storm water run offs. Pyrethroid insecticides which are the most widely used classes of insecticide can damage the aquatic ecosystems (such as, fish, plants) in water bodies. As part of improving the health aquatic organisms in Proctor creek, Atlanta, this project aim to assess sediments from the creek for pyrethroid insecticides contamination using GC-NCI-MS/MS analysis. The concentration of the insecticides in the sediments will be compared with regulatory limits for pesticides permitted in water bodies.