College:College of Sciences
Degree Program:Chemistry PhD
Research Focus:Environmental remediation of nuclear waste
Jordan Stanberry never planned to pursue a graduate degree, but the enriching experience he had as an undergraduate student at UCF changed his mind. While working on his bachelor’s degree in chemistry, Stanberry was required to conduct research under the direction of a faculty member over the course of two semesters. Though he was initially apprehensive, he developed a newfound appreciation for the novelty of research. “I can’t imagine anything being more interesting than trying to answer a question no one has before, and that is what the essence of research is,” he says.
Currently, Stanberry is working on his PhD in Chemistry while conducting research in Dr. Vasileios Anagnostopoulos’s research group on the environmental remediation of nuclear waste. His research is centered around Technetium-99 (Tc-99), a byproduct of nuclear power generation. In the past, Tc-99 was produced as a result of nuclear weapons testing and production during the Cold War and World War II. Most nuclear waste generated during these times was stored, in underground storage tanks designed to last about 20 years. However, in recent years, some of the waste has leaked into the environment, contaminating the soil and groundwater in the area. Stanberry’s goal is to change the harmful waste from its dissolvable form into a solid form for easier management in order to reduce and prevent contamination.
For his efforts, Stanberry has received several notable awards and accolades over the course of his academic career. In addition to the Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D award, he received the 2019 ACS Undergraduate Student Award in Environmental Chemistry for his undergraduate research. He was also awarded the Fall 2020 Clay and Mineral Society (CMS) Travel Grant to present his research at the 2020 CMS conference and received the UCF 2019 Student Travel Award for participation and presentation in Waste Management Symposia. Most recently, he was awarded the ACS Environmental Chemistry Award this year for his work with Tc-99.
Stanberry credits his mentor, Dr. Anagnostopoulos, with making his success possible, describing how the professor was his greatest inspiration in pursuing a PhD and continuing his research. “He has helped me cultivate a passion for research and helped me grow as a professional in so many ways,” Stanberry says. The experience of working in Dr. Anagnostopoulos’ lab elevated Stanberry’s passion for discovery while helping him grow as a person.
Another professor that had an impact on Stanberry’s studies was Dr. Karl Chai from the College of Medicine. Stanberry describes how, in his molecular biology class, Dr. Chai would show students the raw research on which their material was based, which was very insightful since the models presented in textbooks are often polished and idealized.
Overall, what Stanberry appreciates most about UCF is the people. “When working on your PhD in chemistry, most of your time is spent on research and your faculty mentor plays a large role in how your PhD progresses and your personal growth through the experience,” he says. “We have some amazing faculty members who care greatly about their students.”
After graduating in 2023, Stanberry aims to start a career as a researcher at one of the several United States Department of Energy National Laboratories. “I strive to better myself and to contribute to our understanding of the natural world,” he says. He also aims to get more undergraduate students involved in research so that they too can experience the gratification of discovering something new.
- Awarded Fall 2020 Clay and Mineral Society (CMS) Travel Grant to present his research at the 2020 CMS conference
- UCF 2019 Student Travel Award for participation and presentation in Waste Management Symposia
- ACS Environmental Chemistry Award
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