Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento
May 4, 2005
Research team brings science skills to real-world problems
One-stop shopping for environmental expertise is the goal of a group of Sacramento
State scientists from a variety of disciplines.
The Center for Regional Environmental Science and Technology, or CREST, brings
together 17 scientists from the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Economics,
Environmental Studies, Geography, Geology and Mathematics to apply their collective
research expertise to real-world scientific problems, especially in areas like
water quality, air quality and eecology.
"These are important issues in Sacramento, where rapid growth is impinging
on the environment," says chemistry professor and CREST director Susan Crawford.
"The research areas are far too complex for one scientist. Environmental projects
Established earlier this year within the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics,
CREST is so new it doesn't yet have facilities, staff or even a budgets members
are still searching for permanent lab space for the center. Yet Meanwhile,
they're CREST faculty members are already performing research for project sponsors
using their own facilities and resources.
Crawford is the principal a researcher on a project for the U.S. Geological
Survey to determine the source of organic compounds found in water from the
Delta that produce chloroform, a toxic byproduct, when the water is chlorinated
for drinking. In a separate CREST project, also funded by USGS, Crawford is
testing various methods for removing the compounds prior to chlorination.
In another CREST project nearing completion, Crawford is helping engineers
at the Office of Water Projects, a unit of University Enterprises, test a method
for removing contaminants from stormwater run-off. as it flows through campus
storm drains into the American River and nearby streams.
Meanwhile, biologistBiologist Ron Coleman and geologist Tim Horner, who serve
on CREST's steering committee with Crawford and environmental scientist Ed
Martinez, are conducting research for the Sacramento Water Forum and the U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation on various aspects of salmon spawning in the American
River. The river's salmon are also the focus of a Water Forum-sponsored project
Coleman and biochemist Linda Roberts recently started to examine the biochemistry
of salmon reproduction.
Crawford says Sacramento State is well-positioned within the Capital Region
to perform multidisciplinary applied research. "By looking at applied research
problems, I found there is non-traditional funding from government agencies
and local industry that larger traditional research universities are less interested
in going after."
Crawford says CREST has several advantages in this market. "As part of a university,
we're typically seen as neutral. We don't have a particular bias that some
private-sector vendors may be perceived to have. Plus, where else are you going
to find a team of 10 PhDs who can think about a research topic?
"The environment is a complicated, fragile system and the science of it is
very intricate, often involving several scientific disciplines. In order to
study environmental issues, you have to do very careful science," Crawford
At the same time, CREST projects give student assistants the opportunity to
work alongside faculty on real-world problems. "That's a big CREST goal," says
Crawford. "We want to train students to be able to work effectively in the
local community when they graduate."
Ultimately Crawford sees CREST as one way for the University to build its research
infrastructure. She'd like to see a proposed new science building include laboratory
facilities large enough to be shared by CREST and other research centers such
as the Molecular Biology Interdisciplinary Group.