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UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH IN OUR COMMUNITY : Development of a Low Cost Program to Measure Radon Concentrations in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School.

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Presentation on theme: "UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH IN OUR COMMUNITY : Development of a Low Cost Program to Measure Radon Concentrations in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School."— Presentation transcript:

1 UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH IN OUR COMMUNITY : Development of a Low Cost Program to Measure Radon Concentrations in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, Palos Verdes Estates, California UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH IN OUR COMMUNITY : Development of a Low Cost Program to Measure Radon Concentrations in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, Palos Verdes Estates, California Lauren E. Fukumoto Joseph S. Duval Joseph M. Fukumoto 2003 GSA Annual Meeting & Exposition November 2-5, 2003 Seattle, Washington Lauren E. Fukumoto Joseph S. Duval Joseph M. Fukumoto 2003 GSA Annual Meeting & Exposition November 2-5, 2003 Seattle, Washington

2 Background Literature Work Assessment of Resources Develop Expert Contacts Laboratory Location Measurements Required Cost & Labor Estimates Initial Concept Clearances, Approval, Legal Considerations Measurement Execution Data Analysis Presentations, Publications PLAN ACTUAL Generate Project Plan Presentation Layout Initial Concept Background Literature Work Assessment of Resources Develop Expert Contacts Laboratory Location Measurements Required Cost & Labor Estimates Clearances, Approval, Legal Considerations Measurement Execution Data Analysis Presentations, Publications Generate Project Plan

3 General area of problem choice: Usually wiser to consider a problem that can be understood and defined with a focused literature effort as opposed to one that would require years of study to master fundamental physical concepts. Major theme in low cost undergraduate research: Exchange labor and good ideas for lab facilities, instrument access, and analysis costs. A carefully crafted, detailed research proposal addressing an important problem has real value and can be leveraged for services, support, and instrument use.

4 This is the single most important step; saves months of work. Essential for: 1. Defining the problem in detail. 2. Learning what others have done and how they did it. 3. Determining what hasn’t been done and what should be done. 4. Generating evidence that your approach is viable and will result in new, noteworthy data. 5. Identifying key individuals for opinions and suggestions. 6. Establishing what approaches are sound, what are ques- tionable, and why.

5 Your project and its success will be largely determined by the resources available to you. At the outset you should consider: 1. What instruments can you access, what is their availability? 2. Consider trading your labor for learning to operate specialized instruments. 3. Key contacts willing to donate instruments, labor, analysis? What’s in it for them? 4. Government grant funding turn-around time is usually greater than 9 months; more rapid funding may be available through local clubs, agencies, professional societies. 5. Securing funding after a successful preliminary study is easier than prior to results.

6 Expert contact development is critical, but time-consuming. You should first become well read in the field. Experts can: 1. Critique your approach and assess importance of possible outcomes. 2. Suggest key papers/literature sources for approach modifica- tion or refinement. 3. Guide you to avoid non-obvious pitfalls. 4. Give real-time feedback during data collection. 5. Recommend conferences and/or journals for presentations. 6. Help promote your work through professional networks, committees, conferences.

7 Work at distant laboratory very costly due to travel time and travel costs. Coordination of schedules with laboratory personnel is added complication. Should consider access to lab during off-hours, liability issues, clearances.

8 Carefully executed measurements are typically your most valuable contribution and the most costly program element. Think carefully about: 1. Type of measurements required, amount of measurements needed, access to critical instruments. 2. Cost of instruments and training vs. contract laboratory use. 3. Sample preparation costs and logistics; turn-around time. 4. Packaging and shipping costs. How do you know if your measurements are trustworthy? Be aware of relevant protocols, references and standards, laboratory certifications and standards.

9 Costs to consider: 1. Contract lab use, instruments, sample preparation. 2. Packaging & shipping, literature searches, Xeroxing, reference materials. 3. Travel, conference fees, phone, fax, internet. 4. Meetings with regulatory and local agencies, meeting presentations. 5. Consultant, support personnel labor. Travel only when absolutely necessary. Trade your labor for use of instruments and/or supplies whenever possible to minimize costs.

10 Identify agencies needed to approve and/or support project: Districts, commissions City, county, state agency approvals Societies, associations, unions Agencies that might offer grants or service support Identify individuals within key agencies whose approvals are required for project commencement. Filling out and filing approval forms: Lead times can be signi- ficant, must plan and submit in advance if necessary. Thorough knowledge of legal and political issues can be used to your advantage.

11 A project plan is useful for: 1. Keeping focused on the right task at the right time. 2. Controlling costs and budgeting time. 3. Organizing and coordinating efforts of team members. 4. Communicating your intentions and execution strategy to key individuals, agencies, and organizations. Milestone timeline will help track progress and alert you for deadlines that must be met. Cost projections for various project tasks will help you control costs and keep on budget during the course of the program.

12 Preparation is the key to a successful measurement run: 1. Mentally project the detailed steps you need to take. 2. Do as many tasks ahead of time as possible to minimize the number of steps during measurements. 3. Have detailed contingency plans and supplies ready. 4. You may have limited access to critical instruments and/or facilities, so make your usage time count. The quality of the data is paramount and your primary responsibility; it must be of the highest quality possible. If your findings are significant, your approach and data will be very carefully scrutinized.

13 Ask expert contacts, search web for relevant conferences, journals to present results. Contact conference chairs, session chairs to discuss results and suitability of data for presentation/publication. Prepare presentation/manuscript for specific target audience; review by expert contacts prior to submission. Review of rough draft by session chairs can help refine presentation/manuscript. Watch travel costs, conference registration fees, manuscript fees.

14 Radon concepts were mastered in a few months with thorough background literature reading and the help of radon experts. California Department of Health Services (CDHS) provided free radon detectors and analysis in exchange for organizing radon measurements in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District (PVPUSD). A two-page proposal was sent to the PVPUSD outlining information about radon, why the school district should be tested, and our measurement plan. Cost: ~ $200 Labor: ~ 2 m-w

15 Background literature review took about 8 man weeks, and most literature was found online. We estimated that there was a high probability of elevated indoor radon concentrations in the PVPUSD classrooms, based on a small number of residential measurements. We identified and contacted key individual such as Dr. Joe Duval from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Dr. Ron Churchill from the California Geological Survey (CGS), and Mr. Richard Blood from the CDHS. All were instrumental in the success of the project. Cost: ~ $380 Labor: ~ 8 m-w

16 Mr. Richard Blood provided detectors and analysis; the PVPUSD provided us with manpower and access to their classrooms. We did not need any instrument or lab access. We are currently pursuing government funding to expand the project, based on our current results. Cost: 0 Labor: ~ 2 m-w

17 Mr. Richard Blood, Head of the California Radon Project, CDHS Dr. Ron Churchill, Senior Geologist, CSG Dr. Joe Duval, Senior Geologist, USGS Mr. Bruce Auld, Deputy Superintendent, PVPUSD Dr. Stuart Salot, Radon Consultant for the PVPUSD Cost: ~ $500 Labor: ~ 5 m-w

18 CDHS contracted Alpha Energy Laboratories for radon detector analysis. No direct laboratory usage was necessary. Cost: 0 Labor: ~ 0.5 m-w

19 500+ measurements taken. Used short-term activated charcoal detectors (typically cost $10 per detector). Closely followed US EPA Indoor Radon Measurement Protocol. Total shipping costs ~ $ more than anticipated. Alpha Energy Laboratories calibrates detectors every 6 months in insure accuracy. Cost: 0 Labor: ~ 3 m-w

20 Total project cost to date: $6,080 Total project labor to date: 46 man-weeks. Background reading, expert contacts, actual measurements, and publications/presentations took longer than expected. District approval of project and turn around time for analysis of radon detectors was faster than expected. Conference/travel costs exceeded initial estimates due to the success of the project. Cost: 0 Labor: ~ 0.5 m-w

21 We needed support from the CDHS (to provide detectors) and PVPUSD approval for school site access. Support from CDHS took about 2 months, and approval from PVPUSD took about 3 weeks. We were also supported by the USGS, especially Dr. Joe Duval, and Dr. Ron Churchill from the CGS. Cost: 0 Labor: ~ 1 m-w

22 We carefully planned out each measurement run by bringing extra supplies, preparing detectors beforehand, and confirming support personal. To ensure accurate measurements, we checked with Alpha Energy Labs for calibration frequency and dates. Directly followed US EPA Indoor Radon Measurement Protocol, which requires 5% of the measurements to be blanks, and 10% to be doubles. For any significantly high readings, we retested to insure we could repeat the data. Cost:~ $1,000 Labor: ~ 18 m-w

23 We contacted Mr. John Mallon (2003 American Association of Radon Scientists and Technicians conference chair), and presented a paper at the 2003 AARST Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Joe Duval is working on a USGS web publication. We are presenting two posters at the current 2003 GSA Conference. We are looking into submitting a paper for the 2004 Health Physics Society Annual Meeting in Washington D.C., and have contacted Dr. Andrew Karam, a Director of the Health Physics Society. Cost: ~ $4,000 Labor: ~ 6 m-w


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