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Student Achievement Margaret Birks August 04, 2023

Hi, y’all! I am so thankful for this opportunity to write for UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences’ news site.

MaggieBirksMain forarticleMargaret Birks, NASA Alabama Space Grant Consortium scholarship recipient.Before diving into the research, let me introduce myself. My name is Margaret Birks, but I go by Maggie. I am going into my sophomore year at UAB as a double major in chemistry and physics. My ultimate career goal is to create a clean, no waste energy source at a low cost. And when I am not studying, or in the lab, you’ll definitely find me in the gym, exploring different coffee shops, and spending time with some of my favorite people, who I met at UAB.

The fall of my freshman year, I was blessed to be named an International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) scholar and a member of Dr. Andrei Stanishevsky’s lab in the Department of Physics, which has enabled my undergraduate research and allowed me to receive the NASA scholar award.

I spent most of my childhood in Columbus, Mississippi, which inspired much of my future career and current research. The town population is less than that of Tuscaloosa’s and deeply poverty ridden. I grew up reading National Geographic, which has a heavy narrative on climate change, global warming, and the importance of eco-friendly habits. Although the publication has many great ideas and solutions, they were often unrealistic for my hometown. In my opinion, most eco-friendly solutions negate low-income Americans, specifically, those in rural areas. Although electric cars and solar panels are great, these might not always be realistic solutions for many people. Thus, inspiring my research at UAB.

When I started my research at UAB, I worked with methane plasma. I chose methane because it is an extremely harmful greenhouse gas. Methane’s damage to the ozone is greater than carbon dioxide in some cases. After much work in the lab, plasma catalysis resulted in momentary successful separation of gas species.

After my research using plasma catalysis, I wanted to move forward with the extraction and storage of hydrogen. Over the past few months, I have been working in Europe developing Metal Organic Frameworks (MOF’s). An MOF is a chemical lattice that will allow me to store and extract hydrogen energy from methane.

Moving forward in my research, I hope to complete this project while I am an undergraduate and use my time as a graduate student to focus on expanding this project to reach rural and low-income communities in America. Facilitating my funding through the NASA scholarship, I hope to complete a project that has the potential to save American’s thousands of dollars in energy bills and save the planet from the harmful gas of methane.
Margaret Birks presenting her researchMargaret Birks presenting her research.

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