HPU students give presentation at Texas Academy of Science meeting

Cooper presentingBROWNWOOD – May 16, 2018 – Two Howard Payne University chemistry majors recently presented at the 2018 Texas Academy of Science meeting at Midland College. Abraham Cooper, senior biochemistry and piano performance major from Early, and Richard Treviso III, junior chemistry major from Oak Cliff, each presented on different aspects of implementing cactus fiber and mucilage for water purification.

Faculty advisors Dr. Derek L. Smith, associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Dennis Gibson, assistant professor of physical sciences, accompanied the students to the conference and, under their guidance, the students explored different aspects of the potential benefits of the abundant natural material that has been demonstrated to be effective at removing heavy metals from contaminated waters.

Treviso presentingTreviso confirmed that the gelling extract also reduces calcium and magnesium concentrations.

“Even if waters are not impacted by heavy metals, such as arsenic, the quality can be impaired by excessive hardness that is treatable with this method,” he said.

Cooper focused his presentation on the potential biocidal effects of the cactus fibers. To date, the natural fibers have only been applied to inorganic contaminants, but biological impurities may also be present.

“The results are preliminary but indicate that the water treated with fibers impedes the development of bacterial colonies on culture plates,” he said.

Dr. Smith said that, to his knowledge, this is the first application of this proven treatment method to this class of contaminant.

“This could be significant for communities where water sources are bacterial-laden rather than mineral-laden,” he said.

The trip was facilitated by faculty development funds.

“Those in the research group are greatly appreciative for the sponsorship that allows students to participate in technical conferences,” said Dr. Smith.

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Cutlines: HPU senior Abraham Cooper of Early presents at the 2018 Texas Academy of Science meeting at Midland College.

Richard Treviso III, HPU junior from Oak Cliff, speaks to attendees of the 2018 Texas Academy of Science meeting.