Getting my feet wet
July 26, 2013
Younsuk Dong is a biosystems engineering graduate student who began doing research with Steve Safferman, associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, as an undergraduate at MSU. Safferman is developing a nano-filter capable of removing phosphorus from wastewater and capturing it so that it can be reused in fertilizer products.
I began working with Dr. Steve Safferman almost two years ago. I started as a volunteer for the Michigan Biomass Inventory project and, after one semester, was hired by Dr. Safferman. While working for the project, I learned how to communicate with group members and clients, and about project management, time management and work distribution.
Although I was an undergraduate student, Dr. Safferman gave me the opportunity to manage the phosphorus project. Working in the phosphorus lab, we collected wastewater once a week from the River Rock site and operated bench scale reactors 24/7. As the leader of this project, I checked bench scale reactors twice a day to make sure they were functioning properly. We collected effluent samples from the bench scale reactors and tested chemical oxygen demand and total phosphorus every week.
In the past, I never thought that I would like to do research, but I enjoy it a lot, because no one knows how it will come out. I am glad that I finally found what I enjoy and what I want to do in my future.
My long-term goal is to go to Africa and build water purification systems. Water quality in Africa is very poor and it can increase the death rate. In water, phosphorus is significant and can result in eutrophication. This phosphorus project helped me to reach my long-term goal. This was a great opportunity to build research skills, study phosphorus and accumulate experiences.