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Marquis Scholar Gretel Raibeck ’03 (Albrightsville, Pa.) recently returned to the United States following a summer work experience in Germany, but she still is pursuing her interest in that nation’s environmental issues.

Raibeck, who is seeking a dual degree in chemical engineering and German, is making an intensive examination of East Germany’s energy sources before and after reunification. Her mentor is Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger, associate professor of foreign languages and literatures.

Lamb-Faffelberger accepted an invitation by Austrian Secretary of Education Elisabeth Gehrer to join a “think tank” focusing on sweeping reforms of the county’s university system. Last year, she hosted 35 scholars from 11 countries at Lafayette for the sixth Annual Conference of Austrian Literature and Culture, and served a co-organizer of the conference. The professor was also part of a three-person group that established the constitution and by-laws for the Modern Austrian Literature and Culture Association, which elected its first board members last spring.

“Under Communist rule, there were no environmental regulations concerning mining and power production,” says Raibeck. “Since the reunification, major steps have been taken and must be taken to both clean up past damages and to change energy sources to renewable sources.”

Raibeck is using media information to analyze this transition. Lamb-Faffelberger says her greatest challenge will be reading and analyzing German web sites.

Through a program established by Lafayette’s department of foreign languages and literatures and University for Applied Sciences in Zittau/Gorlitz, Raibeck interned this summer with Fit, a soap and detergent manufacturer in Hirschfelde, Germany. She conducted tests to determine what substances could be incorporated in the company’s dishwashing detergent to prevent calcium deposits on glasses. She also used a device to gauge how much calcium could be absorbed before the element falls out of solution.

“Returning from living and working in East Germany was difficult because I feel like part of me is there,” says Raibeck. “What excites me most is how tangible and relevant this information is to Germany and to the United States, and how I have experienced it first hand.”

Raibeck notes that the area of Germany where she worked is very similar to the coal mining regions in Pennsylvania, but the environmental movement in Europe is far ahead of the United States.

Lamb-Faffelberger says Raibeck had a lot of trouble with the language and understanding people at the beginning of her stay in Germany, but made incredible progress during her three-month stay.

“I owe her [Lamb-Faffelberger] the ability to complete my degree in German,” says Raibeck. “My internship abroad was only possible with her guidance and insistence that I take advantage of my desire to study German. Now that I feel more comfortable speaking German, I can build upon my chemical engineering background and begin to tie the two together. Her knowledge of East Germany and environmental issues there is immense.”

“Gretel, who comes from a Pennsylvania Dutch family, jumped into this project with energy, vigor, and excitement,” says Lamb-Faffelberger. “Her love for her heritage is truly unique.”

Last semester, Raibeck collaborated with Kenneth Haug, assistant professor of chemistry, through Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program. She worked on two computer-simulation projects that may help scientists understand the biology that keeps human hearts beating regularly and have applications in the manufacture of semiconductor and magnetic devices. In EXCEL, students assist faculty with research while earning a stipend.

As part of Lafayette’s alumni externship program, Raibeck shadowed Richard Coleman ’71, an environmental chemist at HawkMtn labs in West Hazleton, Pa., an independent laboratory specializing in a variety of environmental testing and related services.

“At Lafayette, I have many opportunities,” says Raibeck. “I have also discovered that it takes me, the student, to find and initiate such projects. I will learn more of what interests me and what I find applicable to both majors by being in control of my independent study.”

A member of American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Raibeck is program director of WJRH, the campus radio station, and plays trumpet in Pep Band. She also serves as alumnae relations and ritual coordinator for Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.

Categorized in: Academic News