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Researcher of the week: Apurva Shah

Jasir Qiydaar

Contributing Writer

Apurva Shah, Chemical Engineering major and member of UMBC’s Class of 2016, is a part of a research effort dedicated in part to better understanding “the fate and transport of pharmaceuticals.”

Many students at UMBC see that research opportunities are extremely valuable since they allow students to attain practical knowledge that can be added to the theoretical knowledge learned in classes.

One such student is Apurva Shah, member of UMBC’s Class of 2016 and chemical engineering major, who has been doing research with Dr. Lee Blaney, a Chemical Engineering professor at UMBC, on “pharmaceuticals and other contaminants [that] have been detected in drinking water and other water matrices.”

Shah says, “[contaminants in water] pose a significant issue as it impacts human and environmental health.”

To combat this issue, Shah is “investigating the removal of these contaminants by using adsorptive methods.” Adsorption involves the binding of atoms, ions or molecules to a particular surface.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website echoes Shah’s concern for the environment’s health. “Water pollution prevention and control measures are critical to improving water quality and reducing the need for costly wastewater and drinking water treatment.”

The EPA sets legal limits for the presence of contaminants in drinking water. The EPA’s website states, “The legal limits reflect both the level that protects human health and the level that water systems can achieve using the best available technology.”

Shah said, “I have used a variety of methods in my research, ranging from basic chemistry experimental design to analysis using high-performance liquid chromatography with post column fluorescence derivatization.”

According the the University of California, Davis website, liquid chromatography is, a technique used to separate a sample into its individual parts. The separation of the sample occurs based on the interactions of the sample with the mobile and stationary phases.

The website of Pickering Laboratories, a prominent laboratory based in Mountain View, California, says post column fluorescence derivatization, “renders visible certain compounds that are normally invisible.”

After a sample is separated, the process is carried out by performing a chemical reaction on the substances that gives them an easily-detectable physical property.

In the case of Shah’s work, the physical property that can be easily detected is fluorescence.

When asked if he planned to create a new technology from his research, Shah said, “Not necessarily a new technology, per se. More so, we are trying to better understand the fate and transport of pharmaceuticals.”

Shah describes his start in research by saying, “I began working in my sustained research lab during the summer after my freshmen year. I emailed Dr. Blaney about my interest in his work and after a few meetings and some trial experiments he accepted me into his lab.”

Shah sees his research as “very beneficial to [his] college experience”. He said, “For me, it acts as a supplement to my class work because it is an opportunity to apply concepts picked up in lecture and vice versa.”

Shah’s advice to students who are interested in starting research is, “to take initiative!” He said, “Put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to approach potential principle investigators. Starting early allows you to develop a strong relationship between you and your mentor.”