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Engineering  |  Grand Challenges Scholars Program

diana-pictureDiana Palma has a passion for research. In fact, she chose to attend ASU for the abundance of research opportunities the school offers. As she puts it, “I want to make research and the applications of it to the real world a large part of my college experience and have it influence my career.” Diana’s interest in research began at her high school in Long Beach, California when she and another student participated in a global marine data collection project.

The project, iBarge, stands for Invasive Bryozoan and Ascidian Recruitment and Growth Experiment. iBarge was recommended to Diana and her partner through her chemistry teacher, who put the two in contact with the project lead Dr. Joshua Lord, a professor at Bates College in Maine. The purpose of iBarge is to “establish growth rates and competitive ability of the invasive bryozoan and ascidian, to catalogue seasonal changes and fouling communities, and to use seasonal growth and recruitment data to predict the impact of invasive species.” Bryozoan are moss animals and ascidian are sea squirts; both organisms can be found underneath boats, docks, and aquaculture equipment.

After expressing their interest in the research project, Dr. Lord sent the two partners four panels to submerge into shallow seawater. Each week, Diana and her partner photographed each panel to record the growth of the organisms. Once Dr. Lord collected the data from a multitude of data collectors, he published an article in the journal Biological Invasions.

Diana’s involvement in the iBarge project ignited her desire to pursue research and to pursue Environmental Engineering. In fact, she still thinks about the various applications of the findings of the iBarge project, such as improving speed and fuel consumption of ships by efficiently removing these organisms from the ships’ hull.

Diana wants to continue to conduct research during her time at ASU, which is one of the major reasons she chose to get involved with GCSP. The opportunities to research and connect with professors appealed to her. “I hope to continue my academic journey through GCSP because it will push me to surpass my potential as a student and as a researcher.”