Linzi Thompson took a break from her customary environmental research projects this summer.
But it wasn’t one of relaxation and spending time on the beach.
The East Central University fifth-year senior has been spending the summer in Sitka, Alaska as an environmental health intern with the Southeast Alaska Native Health Consortium (SEARHC) which works in conjunction with the Indian Health Services to promote health for Alaskan natives.
The Sulphur native and Ada resident managed to break away from Alaska to accept an Association of Environmental Health Academic Programs (AEHAP) Student Research Competition Award at the National Environmental Health Association Annual Conference in Orlando, Fla., in mid-July.
She presented her McNair Scholars research project at the conference in which she was one of only four winners from across the country.
The project, completed with the help of Dr. Scott Huling at the Kerr Laboratory in 2014, was over the potential effects of certain nanoparticles (found in sunscreens, paints, cosmetics, etc.) once they reach surface waters. More specifically, it focused on the photo-catalytic oxidation of natural organic matter due to UV photoactivation of titanium dioxide nanoparticles.
“Each winner received a $1,000 cash prize as well as paid travel/food to present the research as a poster and PowerPoint at the national conference,” said Thompson.
Thompson’s time in Alaska as an environmental health intern consists of traveling with a coworker to remote communities/villages via bush plane.
“While there we complete environmental tours in which we inspect their healthcare facilities, senior centers and landfills to ensure that proper health and safety measures are being met,” Thompson said. “We then write up reports and recommendations on how they can further protect the community’s citizens.”
According to Thompson, the villages, consisting predominately of native population, typically range from 100 to 500 people and can only be accessed by boat or plane.
“I’ve also worked on home inspections. The U.S. Government built homes for thousands of Native Alaskans in the area and many are beginning to rot and mold, causing serious health risks,” said Thompson. “We inspect the homes and write up reports as a third party. The information is used to apply for a U.S. grant to have the homes fixed at no cost to the homeowner.”
Thompson picked up the internship with the help of Dr. Patrick Bohan, professor of environmental health science at ECU. Pay, housing and travel were included in the internship.