Training in the Stable Isotope Ecology Lab at UGA

MS Student Julia Sharapi has been funded on a graduate research assistantship (GRA) through the Stable Isotope Ecology lab (SIEL; PI Tom Maddox) at the Center for Applied Isotope Studies during her first year at the University of Georgia. Over the past 9 months, she has been trained in a variety of sample and standard preparation techniques and data collection and has also learned more about the chemistry theory and principles behind the work at SIEL.

Sharapi has worked with numerous sample types in the several months she’s been with SIEL, including plant and animal tissue, carbonate, collagen, enamel, and soil. For stable isotope carbon and nitrogen analysis preparation, she weighs samples and lab standards using a microbalance to ensure precise measurements. Occasionally, she is required to freeze-dry, subset, and/or grind samples. She also has experience in the lab standard certification process. For stable isotope carbon and oxygen ratios in carbonate materials, Sharapi has been trained in the Gas Bench workflow (purging, acidifying, and heating) for samples and standards. Sharapi also works closely with Yi-Ting (Emmy) Deng analyzing water samples for SIEL clients. She has expanded and developed her benchtop chemistry skills through the pipetting, dilutions, and solution preparation necessary to prepare water chemistry samples for nutrient analyses. At the end of analysis, Sharapi also neutralizes sample material for safe discard, sometimes with the aid of an autoclave. Sharapi has been trained in the operation of several isotope ratio mass spectrometers, including the TC/EA, Gas-Bench : 1 Thermo Gas Bench coupled to Thermo Delta V IRMS system, and Gas-Bench: 1 Thermo Gas Bench/Pre-Con (for ultra-high sensitivity) coupled to Thermo Delta Plus IRMS System.

Working at SIEL has been a rewarding experience and Sharapi enjoys the versatility in the research applications of SIEL’s work across disciplines like ecology, geology, archaeology, geography, and marine sciences. She plans to continue her engagement with chemistry through her master’s research on local wastewater infrastructure in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia. Following her MS, Sharapi is currently considering pursuing a PhD and hopes to apply her science-based skills in government work, advising policy decisions at the local level.