During the summer of 2020, Chan worked with the Audubon Society of Rhode Island to understand how stormwater structures filter runoff and reduce pollution in the ponds at Roger Williams Park. Her internship culminated in a visit to the park, where she was able to document maintenance of the infrastructure in-person.
Although Chan had never worked with stormwater structures prior to the internship, she’s developed a strong interest in them.
“What was really cool is that the infrastructure was all based on green elements,” says Chan. “Instead of putting in cement or unnatural elements, they tried to use grasses and stones to filter the storm water as it flows.”
“Tree filters are also en vogue,” she adds.
Chan, who studies chemical biology at Brown, had always been interested in how chemistry could be applied to solve environmental problems.
“It's always been sort of a distant wish for me. But getting involved last summer was a huge opportunity, and I think has even shaped where I want to take my career,” she says.
In addition to working on the stormwater structures themselves, Chan was charged with managing the social media and website of the Stormwater Innovation Center, a project run by Audubon.
Chan is particularly interested in scientific communications; at Brown, she writes for and edits The Triple Helix, the university’s science magazine.
“I love to write and also I really love science,” she says. “So combining those, and talking about topics such as the environment and stormwater pollution, would be really interesting for me.”
Chan hopes that her writing will motivate others to care about science and its applications to the environment.
“Our planet is facing the challenge of people not caring enough, or not knowing enough, about the problems facing the Earth,” she says. “In order to improve the environment that we have, we need to avoid apathy in general.”
Although Chan is unsure of her next steps, last summer’s IBES-sponsored internship instilled in her a strong interest in conservation.
“I want to incorporate this experience into a larger study of chemistry and communications about the environment, and what we need to do in order to make it better.”