Water Sciences Lab Undergoes Challenges and Growth in 2021
Like many research operations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was a rebound year for the Water Sciences Laboratory (WSL). On the heels of a rocky 2020 that saw sharp declines in the number of samples analyzed, the lab corrected course last year, running more samples by the year’s end than ever before. The lab managed this despite significant staffing changes. In July, WSL bid farewell to Laboratory Manager Saptashati (Tania) Biswas and after a competitive search promoted Victoria Dey into that role. To keep up with sample loads, the lab added temporary research technicians Gabriel Casper and Jean David Bizimana and a roster of undergraduate student interns. Finally, the lab’s visibility grew thanks to business and marketing interns Callie Svoboda and Rachel Williss who promoted WSL through articles, videos, photos and events. The facility also had more to offer its community in 2021. A federal equipment loan program allowed for the addition of a Thermo ICS 5000+ Ion Chromatography System (ICS) and an Agilent 720 Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) system. The new ICS replaced an obsolete Dionex ICS-90, while the ICP-OES supplanted a labor-intensive atomic absorption spectrophotometer. Both “new” instruments have been busy with increasing demands for anions and metals analysis. Meanwhile, WSL debuted a new course in the fall semester titled "Environmental Laboratory Instrumentation and Methods" to train students on lab equipment, procedures, housekeeping and safety. WSL also participated in several in-person and virtual events, including the inaugural East Campus Discovery Days and Farmers Market, virtual educational events with Conservation Nebraska and a mass spectrometry workshop series hosted by Waters Corporation. Plans are developing for an open house in 2022 to showcase new equipment, renovations and staff. A key part of NWC, the lab’s mission is to provide technology, expertise, services, and training in advanced analytical science supporting today’s water and natural resources students, researchers and stakeholders.