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CIE Researcher of Distinction, May 2016

Benedette AdewaleBenedette Adewale

Each month, the Center for Inclusive Education showcases the outstanding research being conducted by one of our talented scholars in our Research Café series. In addition, we recognize this scholar as a Researcher of Distinction and share the details of his/her journey to becoming an accomplished scholar. This month's Researcher of Distinction is Benedette Adewale, PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry. Benedette presented her talk, ‘Chemical characterization and sediment sorption properties of surfactants found in the dispersants used to mitigate the effects of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico’ on Monday, May 9, 2016. 

Benedette's Path Into Research

I was born in Lagos State, Nigeria and found my passion for science in high school.  After emigrating to the US, I attended CUNY, College of Staten Island and City College of New York, where I majored in chemistry. As an undergraduate student, my participation in the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program and subsequently the Bridges to Doctorate (BD) program as a graduate student in City College, strongly influenced my decision to enroll in the doctoral program in chemistry at Stony Brook University. I am currently an AGEP-T FRAME and Turner Fellow in the Center for Inclusive Education.

Benedette's Current Research

Describe the work you presented for your Research Café.

Chemical dispersants were extensively used in the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. In this talk, I will present my research using high resolution, liquid chromatography – time of flight mass spectroscopic (LC-ToF-MS) to characterize the identity and persistence of the complex mixture of surfactants and other component in Corexit® dispersants used in this spill. Our methods revealed a more complex and hydrophobic mixture of fatty acid esters than previously recognized.  I will also discuss my data evaluating how these chemicals sorb to sediments collected from the Gulf of Mexico, data is important to understanding their fate and transport in this system.

Dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DOSS), a major ingredient in Corexit 9527 and 9500 dispersants used to mitigate some effects of the Deep-water Horizon oil spill is known to be relatively persistent in seawater and was detected in water column and sediment samples after the spill.  Because of its hydrophobic character, a better understanding of DOSS sorption is important for predicting its fate in nearshore environments.  Experiments with 12 coastal sediments with varying combinations of properties (e.g., organic carbon contents of 0.18 – 8.59 %) resulted in nearly linear concentration dependence of DOSS partitioning between sediment and water at environmentally relevant concentrations (1-200 µg/L).  Total organic carbon content was found to be a good predictor of sorption, with carbon normalized sorption coefficients averaging 7500 ± 2500 L/Kg. These data will give a better basis for predicting the sorption of DOSS at environmentally relevant concentrations.

Are there any other projects you are currently working on?

I am currently exploring to test a Donnan equilibrium model to explain the effects of specific solution composition and pH that have been observed. To gain insights into results and role of organic matter and ionic composition, this model will be applied (portioning of organic ions into charged organic matter and competitive binding of metal counterions). The Donnan model has been applied to the sorption of fluorinated anionic surfactants.

What was the deciding factor for you to come to Stony Brook for your graduate studies?

The deciding factors for me to come to Stony Brook for my graduate studies were the opportunities and interest in chemistry faculty research.

What are your future goals?

My future goals following the completion of my doctoral degree is to continue research in a national lab or academia as a post-doctoral fellow and then a scientist. Ultimately, this would include teaching and mentoring with research.

What do you enjoy most about research?

What I enjoy most about research is the brainstorming, critical thinking, creativity and the ability to answer challenging questions. In our case, we have a better understanding of dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DOSS) sorption importance for predicting fate in nearshore environment.