Academic Earth

November 15, 2010 by staff 

Academic Earth, University of Nevada, Reno student Jazmin Aravena received the Outstanding Student Paper Award at the annual meeting last year of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) for his pioneering work in hydrology. She will compete again at the meeting this year, 13 to 17 December in San Francisco, California, with another step in its innovative project.

In general, the project uses non-invasive X-ray direct quantification of potential transportation and storage of water, nutrients and contaminants in the soil surrounding plant roots.

“I am excited about December,” said Aravena, a doctoral student in environmental engineering, “We have some cool results of our research we will be presenting at the AGU conference this year.”

The AGU is the most prestigious and largest academic society of Earth Sciences in the professional world. At a meeting of nearly 15,000 scientists, students of the University of Nevada has received national recognition recently announced in the magazine of the weekly science, Eos, 2009 and there are high hopes again this year.

“We’re trying to better understand the physical process misunderstanding that occurs near the root,” Aravena said. “These processes will affect water and solute transport in this soil zone. A better understanding of these can have impacts in the environmental sciences such as carbon sequestration phytoremediation, soil, recycling of nutrients and gas exchange between soil and atmosphere. ”

Phytoremediation is the treatment of environmental problems through the use of plants to help mitigate the problem of the environment without having to excavate the contaminated material and dispose of it elsewhere.

Working with Professor Scott Tyler in 2009, Aravena presented his work entitled “The effect of global compaction in soil hydraulic properties,” and he received the outstanding Student Paper Award from the Hydrology Section. Aravena work has made use of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source to do, for the first time, ultra high-resolution CT images of actively growing roots.

This year, his work entitled “Rhizosphere compaction: Modeling a bed of aggregates multiple information using x-ray micro-tomography “With the right corner of the street in December, it still has to run simulations andanlyze results.

“The weeks before the conference will be very busy,” Aravena said. “AGU conference is great because I can talk with so many people on the ground and outside of my comfort zone. We can share experiences and ideas. It is a very dynamic meeting that I look forward too, even with all the work. ”

Aravena plans to graduate with a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering in December 2011.

“Learning here is different from learning in Chile,” Aravena said. “I had great access to equipment and techniques that are necessary for my research.”

Both research projects were funded by Aravena NSF.

Ellen Webb, a third year student of medicine at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, also received a 2009 award of the Geophysics Section nonlinear AGU for his work entitled “Trees Tokunaga why Did they emerge anywhere in the world ”

The work was conducted as part of the thesis of Webb’s Honors: Undergraduate Program terminated with Professor Ilya Zaliapin at the University of Nevada, Department of Mathematics and Statistics. The research focused on a particular type of fractal branching like trees that showed similar structures in botanical trees for watershed systems of blood to the interaction of gas molecules.

Webb is currently enrolled in medical school and after graduation in spring 2012; it plans to switch to a residency program.

For more information about the fall meeting of AGU, visit

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