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Trustee Scholar Alexander Goergen ’08 (Allegany, N.Y.) is determining the fate of iron in the environment, particularly how it interacts with aquatic systems, in an intensive research project.

Goergen, a varsity tennis player, has been working since last summer with Steven Mylon, assistant professor of chemistry. They are collaborating through Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students assist faculty with research while earning a stipend. The program has helped make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate in EXCEL each year go on to publish papers in scholarly journals and/or present their research at conferences.

Mylon and Goergen plan to make a presentation on the study this month at the 231st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Atlanta, Ga. ACS is the world’s largest scientific society dedicated to a single discipline. More than 8,000 presentations highlighting important research advances are scheduled at the meeting, and more than 12,000 scientists are expected to attend.

Iron oxide is the type of iron often found in natural aquatic systems. The goal of the study is to determine the effect iron oxide might have on plants and other microorganisms in marine life.

One of Goergen’s primary responsibilities is to measure zeta potential, which calculates specific surface properties of iron oxide colloids, or suspensions of very small particles, in aquatic systems.

“Goergen has played an important role in the study so far, and it will help him in his studies and his career,” Mylon says. “EXCEL allows go-getters like Goergen to gain real-life experience in the lab, including an understanding that results can be unpredictable.”

“Alex now knows what research is really like and doesn’t need to have his hand held. Sometimes we go down a certain path, and there’s nothing there. Sometimes we go down a road, and there are nice results. It’s fun, it’s scary, it’s great!” Mylon says. “All those experiences are good because they show students early on what research really is. I hope to work with him right through his senior honors thesis.”

Goergen says he took a lot of time deciding where to attend college and found Lafayette suited his needs best. The collaboration with Mylon has been an opportunity to extend himself and his interest in chemistry.

“I chose chemistry because it’s challenging and interesting, plus I want to have a future job in chemistry. It’s a close-knit group in the chemistry department here, and they are really helpful,” Goergen says. “Doing EXCEL research is really helpful as far as contacts and experience go. It’s been really positive, definitely worthwhile.”

Selected from among Lafayette’s top applicants, Trustee Scholars like Goergen have distinguished themselves through exceptional academic achievement in high school. They receive from Lafayette an annual minimum scholarship of $7,500 ($8,000 effective with the Class of 2009) or a grant in the full amount of their demonstrated need if the need is more than $7,500.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty students have been accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News