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Working toward a Healthier Environment

A cleaner and safer environment is the goal of researchers working in a new facility at the University of Kentucky. The Environmental Research and Training Laboratory (ERTL) is a shared-use, core facility funded for $2.3 million by the National Science Foundation. ERTL includes renovated laboratories in the Raymond Building and Anderson Hall for a variety of organic, inorganic, microbial, and stable isotopic analyses.

"ERTL's mission is to improve environmentally related research by providing researchers and students access to, and training on, state-of-the-art laboratory equipment and techniques," says Gail Brion, a UK associate professor of civil engineering, who is director of the facility. Her research interests include water treatment, water refuse and pathogens in water environments.

Since it opened, ERTL has been a magnet for both graduate and undergraduate students. The facility has supported research for 37 graduate students in eight disciplines, ranging from agronomy to engineering to geology, and nine undergraduate students.

"Right now, faculty are involved in about a dozen studies," Brion says, "including an EPA-funded project to define sources of fecal pollution in the Kentucky River, an NIH-funded project to determine effects of PCB on selenium uptake, and identification of toxic contaminants deposited on firefighters' clothing.

"One of the goals of this award was to enhance the visibility of UK research by supporting faculty and students with access to not only state-of-the-art equipment, but computer facilities where they can analyze their data and produce presentations," says Brion. Both students and faculty have access to computers loaded with statistical analysis software and graphic presentation programs purchased for use in ERTL, she adds.

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