Graduate STEM Fellow Profile

Reena Rahi

Project Title: City as Lab
Thesis: Catalytic hydrogenation of N-heterocyclic compounds promoted by metal nanostructured materials
College/University: City University of New York - Brooklyn College
Research Advisor: R. A. Sanchez-Delgado
Degree Sought: Ph.D., Chemistry
Department: Chemistry
Research Focus: Synthesis, characterization & catalytic studies of a series of nano-structured catalysts composed of metal nanoparticles
Teaching Partner(s): Julius Buh-Mbi, Rony Charpentier

Description of Research

My research focuses on the synthesis of a series of metal nano-structured catalysts that will promote hydrogenation of aromatics, as well as N- and S- containing hetero-aromatics, with a main focus on heterolytic mechanisms. These catalysts have applications in the oil refining industry, where they can potentially be used to lower the levels of sulfur and nitrogen contents through hydrodesulfurization and hydrodenitrogenation. Fossil fuels contain high level of sulfur and nitrogen containing aromatics that are difficult to remove with the current refining technologies. With the use of these new catalysts, we hope to achieve the new lower levels of sulfur and nitrogen set by governments.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience

As GK-12 fellows, our goal is to take our students on an authentic scientific journey. In this project, they are learning about air pollution: what are the causes, sources, and solutions. Air pollution is a serious issue in urban environments and causes many life-threatening diseases, particularly respiratory diseases. Since my thesis involves the synthesis of catalysts that can be used to clean fossil fuels to make them more environment friendly, I was able to integrate my knowledge of air pollution into raising awareness about it, and how students can make small changes in their daily lives to decrease the negatives impacts on the environment. To study the adverse effects of air pollution on Brooklyn residents, we examined the health of students’ lungs by determining their lung capacity using the FEV1 (Forced Expiratory Volume in the first second) meters. Through this project, students have learned the issues related to air pollution, what are some of the causes and sources, how it affects their health, and what is their role as the citizens of the world in helping raise awareness about air pollution, as well as making changes in their own daily lives that can lead to a cleaner, better environment for them and the coming generations.