Ian Sayers, an undergraduate in the chemistry department at Missouri State University, received the American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Environmental Chemistry’s 2021 Undergraduate Student Award in Environmental Chemistry .
The award recognizes his scientific success in academics and collaborative research.
Dr. Cyren Rico, assistant professor of chemistry, serves as Sayers’ research advisor. Rico nominated Sayers for the award.
Digging into studies of plant pollutants
In Rico’s lab, Sayers works with fellow students to investigate the effects of widespread soil contaminants on plants.
This includes those that harm agricultural crops like wheat and soybeans and consequently the people who eat them.
“When people consume contaminated crops, they can ingest pollutants through the plants,” Rico said. “They can also get less nutritional value from food crops following contamination.”
Sayers focuses on one specific plant pollutant: a chemical known as PFOS.
Researchers deem the contaminant a ‘forever chemical’ as it does not degrade. This means it can stay in the environment for an extensive period.
“There are no regulations yet on these pollutants,” Rico said, “so any information on how they affect food crops and the people who consume them can serve as key contributions to science and humanity.”
Sayers’ contributions to the research community involve a method he developed for testing how different treatments for PFOS affect plant health.
“The method provides a visually meaningful representation of the data, rather than just numbers in a spreadsheet,” Sayers said. “This makes the work of determining the pollutant’s impact that much easier, and provides clearer evidence of the effects to the general public.”
Working his way to success
Quality work often begins with a good work ethic.
Sayers’ excellent work ethic has led him to several achievements during his student career.
This includes preparing protocol for Rico’s lab, presenting at the CNAS Undergraduate Research Symposium and receiving the department’s Outstanding Environmental Chemistry Student Award.
His research contributions will also fuel material for presentations and two manuscripts for journal publications that he will co-author, Rico shares.
He is proud of Sayers for earning the ACS award as further recognition of his outstanding work.
“Ian is always ready for any project and works well with other students, which makes his contributions to lab studies so valuable,” Rico said.
Sayers considers the ACS award encouragement to keep moving forward.
“I’m grateful for ACS’ recognition of my contributions to Dr. Rico’s lab and the research community,” Sayers said. “It means a lot to know I can make a lasting impact on the work of our environmental chemistry group.”
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About the ACS award
Sayers will receive a one-year membership in the ACS Division of Environmental Chemistry as the award recipient.
He will also have publicized recognition as an awardee on the division’s website.