Next Generation: Katie Martin

February 6, 2019
Katie Martin is discovering the different ways septic wastewater is contaminating local waterways.

Hometown: Newark, DE
Dr. Michael Gonsior

What are you researching? I am researching different ways to tell if septic wastewater is contaminating local waterways. Some of the tools we use are measuring artificial sweeteners and chemicals from soaps and detergents.

Why it makes a difference: Everyone produces waste that then pollutes the environment, and this contamination can have health effects on people and the ecosystem. It is important to have tools to understand where wastewater and the chemicals from wastewater are ending up, and to understand the composition of wastewater to be able to treat it.

How did you get interested in environmental science? I went on multiple field trips to mining areas of Western Maryland and Central Pennsylvania for geology courses in undergrad, where I was impacted by the number of polluted sites we saw. I became interested in types of environmental contamination, ways to detect it, and ways to remediate it.

Why choose the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science? I interned at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in the summer of 2015 through the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, so I was already familiar with its strength in research. I knew I wanted to study human impacts on water quality in graduate school and became interested in the Septic Tracer Project after learning about it from one of my REU advisors.

Share an experience that stands out most about your time with UMCES. I have gained analytical experience that I don’t think I would have received at another institution. At many larger institutions, scientific instruments have dedicated operators; whereas here students learn how to use advanced analytical equipment themselves. These skills make students more competitive professionally.

What would you like to do after you graduate? I would like to work for a federal or state environmental agency doing remediation or water contamination research.

Have you received a scholarship, grant, travel award or gift from a donor? What did it allow you to do and why was that important? I received $500 from the Graduate Education Committee and an additional $600 from the Geological Society of America through the On To the Future Program. This allowed me to present my Master's research at the 2017  Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA, where I received valuable feedback and got to meet researchers and professionals in my field.