Call Me Curious: Exploring Electrochemistry and Water Remediation

student smiling with brick wall in background

Written by David Berroa, fourth year Industrial Engineering student.

About Me

David Berroa is a fourth year, Industrial Engineering student. He is currently a Torch 8 scholar, ROUTES scholar, and a member of the Huntington 100 class of 2015. While at Northeastern, David has interned in various engineering fields, including, construction at Consigli, water remediation research with PROTECT, and manufacturing engineering at Hollingsworth and Vose. In addition, David is also a member of the club basketball team, volunteers as a core member in the Jump Start program, a basketball coach in the Manny Wilson league at the Roxbury boys and girls club and will join Enabling Engineers this semester.

Call Me Curious

When I’m asked, “What do you like most about yourself?” I never hesitate to respond “I never get bored!”

Whether it was creating milk crate basketball hoops, setting up obstacle courses in the living room, or just watching a series of “How it’s made” episodes, I’m naturally interested in the world around me, and seek to make the most of it with whatever resources I have. This attitude motivates me to willingly learn all that I am capable of, and hope to reach my full potential. I guess you can say curiosity is my daily vitamin, my premium fuel, and if my parents were mistaken, it’s probably my real name.

During the summer of 2015, my curiosity lead me into learning more about electrochemistry and water remediation. It began when Dr. Akram Alshawabkeh, currently the Associate Dean of research and Professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering, e-mailed me  about joining his research team as a ROUTES scholar (Research Opportunities for Undergraduates: Training in Environmental Health Sciences) in a project called Puerto Rico Test-site for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT).  When I sat down to talk with Dr. Alshawabkeh for the first time, his smile and excitement for his work was contagious, and it didn’t take much time before I became really curious about the opportunity to help out in any way that I could. I did my own investigation about PROTECT and noticed how the opportunity to assist the program as a ROUTES scholar would expose me to the world of electrochemistry and water remediation. Most importantly, it was allowing me to work on an environmental health issue that is significantly affecting the people I love in Puerto Rico, including my grandfather, aunt and uncle who live in the Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. This motivation led me into a lab for the first time.

On my first day, I met Dr. Ljiljana (Lily) Rajic, who gave me a brief introduction of how PROTECT studies the exposure of environmental contaminations in Puerto Rico and the contributions to preterm birth (less than 37 weeks of gestation). Right away I was locked and loaded with questions, and didn’t hesitate to ask when they arrived in my mind,

How was the project defined? What tools/methods do you use to measure and analyze the contamination? At what point will the project be ready to be installed into the communities?

Bold as I was asking the question, Lily always explained the process in a very intuitive way. She was honest about the challenges and was never shy to show her excitement for the progress and advancement of the project. Working under her supervision was great, and I found myself learning to use equipment I was never exposed to. I also got a well-rounded introduction in learning the grammar and the logic behind the remediation process. Her persistence and guidance prepped me to represent at conferences in Puerto Rico, and exhibits in the Boston area. Overall, the experience has giving me a voice, to bring awareness to environmental health issues, and their influence in the inner cities.


Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering