Jennifer Look has spoken with several Macon residents who are worried about the chemicals in their environment.
But really, theres a lot about Macon that is very healthy, said Look, assistant professor of chemistry at Mercer University. There is good air and water quality, good nutrients in the soil.
Look decided to educate the community about their environment through student research and tests. Now the project is a reality thanks to a two-year, $50,000 grant from The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. The university matched the grant for a total of $100,000, which is helping students study the neighborhoods around the Macon campus.
The project officially began last month, when Look purchased some necessary equipment. For now, students are learning to use those instruments and have taken a few soil and air samples. They also are learning GPS and computer programming skills as they post their data online.
This summer, students will spend the majority of their time collecting data. They will gather water, soil, paint and air samples, and they will study the chemical components of everyday items, such as jewelry and cellphones. Look wanted to collect that data to show people -- especially the younger generation -- how science impacts their lives.
By understanding that science impacts everything around us, were trying to get kids interested in math and science careers, she said.
After data is collected, the second year of the project will be dedicated to going public with that information, Look said. Through tests and research, students should be able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the local environment, and they will hold community events to unveil their findings, according to a news release.
The grant, which is part of the foundations Special Grant Program in the Chemical Sciences, funds projects that seek to enhance the understanding of science, the news release said.
It will fund student research and community presentations, as well as special instruments that will be used. And it means Look will be able to pay the students who spend their summers working on the project, she said.
Its much harder to get good workers if you ask them to volunteer, she said. Without the grant, we could do little bits and pieces of (the project). But we would not be able to have the new instruments, and I would not be able to pay the students to work over the summer.
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.