2011 Climate Talks in Durban, South Africa

Five students attended and blogged their observations about the United Nations climate talks held Nov. 28 – Dec. 9 in Durban, South Africa. Read the press release.

The students are:

“The five students traveling to the United Nations climate conference in Durban will be reporting from the epicenter of climate negotiations,” said York College of Pennsylvania (YCP) chemistry faculty professor Keith Peterman who supervised the students’ work. “They will employ social media tools to engage and educate their peers back home about the issues. We believe that with greater climate literacy, America’s youth can and will accept the challenge of addressing climate change.”

Student Bios

John Canada

John Canada is a sophomore chemist at The University of Alabama. In addition to his studies and research, he is also very involved in the Alabama Crew team and in community service projects, particularly in the wake of the tornadoes in Alabama and in helping children with muscular dystrophy.

Canada is conducting research under the direction of Robin Rogers in the field of Ionic Liquids (IL’s), liquid salts whose melting point is under 100 °C. Because these liquids are composed solely of ions (and are not dissolved in a solvent), they have an astounding number of applications ranging from pharmaceuticals to propellants. Through his research under Rogers, he gave a presentation at national American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in Anaheim, Calif., in spring 2011 and presented a poster at the international Congress on Ionic Liquids (COIL) in the summer of 2011 in Washington, D.C.

In March 2012, Canada, will give a talk on Herbicidal Ionic Liquids, which have the potential to be not only more efficient, but also more environmentally friendly, herbicides.

He is very excited about attending the U.N. climate talks and is eager to speak with members of the U.N. and scientists from around the world about the issue of climate change. Then, he plans to spread this information to those in colleges and high schools via social networking outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other forums to engage his peers and involve them in the issue as well.

Kiersten DeBlaker

Kiersten DeBlaker is a senior at York College of Pennsylvania majoring in forensic chemistry with a minor in psychology. She is treasurer of the Chemistry Society for the second year and served as a lab assistant for two years as well for the chemistry department.

Recently, she traveled with fellow classmates, Patrick Lestrange and Timothy Cummings, and professors, Dr. Keith Peterman and Dr. Gregory Foy, to Denver, Colo., to attend the 242nd National American Chemical Society meeting to deliver a presentation about their involvement in the International Year of Chemistry (IYC). Lestrange and DeBlaker also conducted an interview with Pieter Tans, a senior researcher at NOAA in Boulder, Colo. (See also Lestrange bio above.) They discussed current climate changes, the Keeling curve, and greenhouse gases.

DeBlaker is looking forward to conducting interviews in Durban, South Africa, with leading scientists and U.N. officials and blogging about her experience.

“All the information I have obtained about climate change and global warming has opened my eyes intensely,” said DeBlaker. “I am starting to become more observant with my surroundings and noticed the small changes in the environment and weather. It honestly scares me to think that we could one day experience even more dramatic weather changes than we are currently experiencing. On the other hand, becoming ‘greener’ has helped me become more aware of how other nations have gained their knowledge on the situation, and it relaxes me in a way to think that everyone else is on board with trying to fix the obvious problem of climate change.”

Patrick Lestrange

Patrick Lestrange is a senior chemistry major at York College of Pennsylvania. He has consulted for industry in the York area and is currently engaged in a calibration study of theoretical methods used to model VCD spectroscopy. A native of Green Brook, N.J., he is also an avid runner training with professional athletes in the York area in an effort to break into the professional circuit.

In celebration of the 2011 International Year of Chemistry (IYC), Lestrange has been making a series of videos corresponding to the four quarterly themes of the year: water, energy, materials, and health. Working with another York student, Kiersten DeBlaker, Lestrange interviewed Pieter Tans, a senior researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colo., in August 2011. The IYC videos and the Pieter Tans interview can be seen on his YouTube channel: IYC2011. DeBlaker and Lestrange have made a Facebook page and acquired a blogging space to detail their trip to the U.N. climate talks in Durban, South Africa: http://acsstudents.weebly.com.

Through social media outlets, Lestrange hopes to foster greater awareness of climate change science and policy issues and to increase community responsiveness to improve environmental policy. He hopes to witness the drafting of a successor policy to the Kyoto Protocol.

“By sharing knowledge from the talks and giving an undergraduate perspective on the issues, I hope the younger generation may take notice and change their own feelings on climate issues.”

Matt DeNardo

Matt DeNardo is a research assistant at Carnegie Mellon University in the Department of Chemistry working towards his Ph.D. under the direction of Terry Collins on the synthesis and evaluation of Fe-TAML® activators of hydrogen peroxide. He attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2008 with a B.S. in chemistry and a biosciences option. He has received several scholarships and awards for both his research and his outreach activities.

A native of Pittsburgh, he enjoys kayaking and other outdoor sports, which have guided and influenced his interest in environmental issues. The main goal of his work with the Fe-TAML® research program is the development of catalysts for the mild, environmentally friendly degradation of persistent organic pollutants in water. His graduate research is dedicated to generating more effective and environmentally benign activators for chemical reactions. He views issues surrounding water quality as closely impacted by climate change and he hopes his trip to the U.N. talks will grow his understanding climate change, its predicted impacts, and potential means to mitigate those effects.

DeNardo is also interested in learning how public policy decisions on a global scale are developed, and hopes his participation in blogging about the U.N. climate talks will help him develop new skills in communicating more effectively with other scientists and with the public about climate issues.

Lauren McCullough

Lauren McCullough is a fourth-year Schreyer Honors College student at Penn State University studying Chemical Engineering with a minor in Environmental Engineering. A native of Saxonburg, Penn., she also serves as a resident assistant in the honors college and is a member of the inaugural class of the Presidential Leadership Academy lead by President Graham Spanier and Schreyer Honors College Dean Christian Brady.

McCullough is engaged in research with the Darrell Velegol group, conducting studies on the development of socially and environmentally sustainable water treatment processes for developing communities in Puerto Rico and in Haiti, working with international student partners from Hungary as well as U.S. student teams. She helped author a manuscript detailing the team’s findings, which was recently accepted for publication in Langmuir, and was appointed Student Lead of a team that received a grant through the Environmental Protection Agency, which was titled “People, Planet, and Prosperity” to further this water treatment technology and present their findings at the National Sustainability Expo in Washington, D.C. in April, 2011. Moving forward, they will be collaborating with colleagues in Thailand and Senegal on studying the effect of the maturation process of Moringa oleifera seeds for use in treating drinking water.

As a scientist, McCullough is particularly interested in climate change issues and hopes her participation in the U.N. talks in Durban will help stimulate increased knowledge about climate science among her fellow students and foster informed and constructive dialogue.