By Bob Fowler, Roane State staff writer
A recent Roane State Community College graduate is researching climate change and the microorganisms that contribute to it.
Rachel Andrews, a Morgan County resident who graduated from the community college in May 2019, is an intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She’s doing research with Christopher Schadt in the Biosciences Division at the lab.
They are investigating methane production in peat, which is formed by the partial decomposition of plants in wet, acidic conditions of bogs. Scientists say methane gas is one of the major contributors to a warming planet.
“We study the methanogens that live in peatland soil,” Andrews said in an emailed response to questions about her research. She said these microorganisms produce quite a bit of methane and carbon dioxide, also identified as a culprit in climate change.
Andrews said she’s been part of an experiment where jars containing peat were incubated for weeks at a time. “We were looking to see how much methane and carbon dioxide methanogens that live in peat were producing.” Peat covers a large swath of parts of the globe.
“Through this research, we should be able to predict climate change in the future to understand how continuous rising temperatures will contribute to methane production,” Andrews said in the email.
She was a participant in the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program at the lab. The program is offered through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science’s Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists. Andrews was involved in the fall of 2019 and earned honors for creating the best poster explaining the results of her research project.
Andrews started a new appointment this year under the Higher Education Research Experiences program and continues to do research with Schadt on climate change. She will also be doing “a mix of other group research along with that and helping in a few other projects.”
The Roane State graduate, who obtained an associate’s degree in pre-health professions, says she plans to seek a bachelor’s degree but is thinking “about taking a few more classes at Roane State” in the summer to “ease off what I’d have to do at university.”
Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs, and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has campuses in Crossville, Harriman, Huntsville, Jamestown, Knoxville, LaFollette, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge, Wartburg, and Clinton. For more information, visit www.roanestate.edu or call (865) 882-4554. Eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at http://www.roanestate.edu/reconnect.