Pragmatic Engineering Greatly Influences Tucsonan Science Teachers

This summer Dr. Wendell Ela (Department of Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering) and his doctoral student, Muhammed Mukiibi have been sharing their lab, time and their considerable understanding of the potential for arsenic mobilization in mixed solid waste landfills with eighth grade Science Teacher, Diana Barnes. Diana is participating in the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program through The University of Arizona Department of Engineering, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Currently, Arizona State Science Standards require science teachers to provide students with a broad introduction to chemistry and the physical sciences.  While Diana has a Masters in Biology, her Chemistry experience was limited. Working with Muhammed in Dr. Ela’s laboratory has greatly improved Diana’s understanding of basic Chemistry and has provided an excellent framework from which to teach her students.

In addition, in 2003-2004, Dr. Ela and Mr. Mukiibi also mentored Jeff Weger, a Chemistry and Physics teacher from Salpointe High School.

As stated by Diana:

*Landfill leaching and possible drinking water contamination with Arsenic is a serious health issue that Arizonans need to be aware of.  Contamination is a result of complex geochemical-microbial cycling processes that occur following Arsenic disposal. Understanding the science behind Arsenic fate following landfill disposal is critical because there are economic and political considerations that will be better addressed by an informed public.  This is a broad and relevant scientific issue that I look forward to teaching and sharing with my students.

*Working with Muhammed in Dr. Ela's lab will be a hallmark of my teaching experience.  I have learned so much about water and landfill chemistry, and I will be able to develop richer learning experiences for my 8th grade science students in the coming years.