Student works in chemistry lab

Decreasing the impact of electronic waste on the environment is the goal of Alvernia chemistry major Michael Ulrich. Ulrich is building upon professor Joshua Smith’s research by looking toward new techniques to extract rare metals from electronic waste, such as LCD and LED screens. Once perfected, the technique, which uses silica-coated magnetic nanoparticles to attract the metal from the waste, will more than double the amount of metals extracted prior to waste disposal.

“When I started, I was weary about what I was working with. I didn’t understand how the particles interact with each other, and I didn’t understand what they were made of and why they look the way they do. Three months later, I’m still figuring it out. But, I have a way better understanding of what’s going on,” said Ulrich.

Ulrich’s research is funded through the Alvernia Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship (S.U.R.F) program, which awards students up to $3,000 and free housing with a kitchen for 10 weeks over the summer.

According to Ulrich, S.U.R.F. research has improved his understanding of the scientific method. “When you really dive into a specific idea and you blow it up over the span of weeks or months, it definitely changes your perspective on the process itself and the subject,” Ulrich explained.

Born in Russia and adopted by American parents at age three, Ulrich has flourished in the Alvernia chemistry program. “My situation gives me a better appreciation for the opportunities I am given and have been given. Not a day goes by where I forget where I came from,” said Ulrich.

Michael Ulrich
Chemistry major
Class of 2020
S.U.R.F Award Recipient

Student Success Stories