Posted on December 17, 2013 by Tia Lalani

BSc Chemistry student Emily Ervin was one of 50 undergraduate students from around the world selected to present her research.

Emily Ervin poster pic“Hi, Emily. I have no idea if this would interest you or not: this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You already have a poster that you could use, so this wouldn’t really be any additional work. Brian”

When fourth-year B.Sc. Chemistry student Emily Ervin received a brief email from her professor, Dr. Brian Rempel, she had no idea how far it would take her. On January 18, she will depart for a week in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, where she will join 50 of the top undergraduate students from around the world to present the results of her research.

“No, I have never been to Saudi,” laughs Emily. “In fact, until this past spring’s national chemistry conference in Quebec, I had only ever seen Alberta and B.C.! This is going to be a serious adventure.”

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is an international, graduate-level research university committed to advancing science and technology through trans-disciplinary research of global significance. Its third Research Poster Competition was open to undergraduates from around the world as part of the university’s Winter Enrichment Program. The program of events, short courses, lectures and seminars aims to broaden intellectual horizons and expand cultural perspectives, with a vast range of subjects in many areas including science, technology, business, entrepreneurship, innovation, and Middle Eastern arts and culture.

Emily Ervin Lab pic“I have been doing some reading on what to expect,” says Emily, “and am hoping to talk to a few people that I know have been to the region. But for the moment I am just excited to experience the culture – I can’t wait to visit the Red Sea! – as well as the state of the art technological advancements of KAUST.” She adds with a nervous grin, “Though, as with any good adventure, there is definitely a bit of terror mixed in with the excitement.”

Emily’s research under Dr. Rempel concerned developing a way to use electrochemistry to detect the activity of beta-glucosidase, an enzyme which plays important roles in natural systems and has significant potential particularly in the pulp and paper industry.

“I decided to submit our abstract and hope for the best, though I definitely thought it was an extreme long shot since only the top fifty worldwide get in,” Emily says. “In all honesty, I am still in shock that I got in!”

“Emily has a ferocious work ethic,” says her professor Dr. Brian Rempel, “and it was her dedication in the lab that made the research project succeed. She poured an amazing amount of effort into this project, so it is so gratifying to see her get the chance to present her results at an international conference. She will represent Augustana very well.”

Emily plans to graduate this spring and apply to the University of Alberta’s Dentistry program or a chemistry-related graduate program.

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