McGowan South, one of DePaul’s LEED certified green buildings, is home to the environmental studies and science department. The building itself has over 30 labs used as classrooms and research. Environmental science majors are required to complete a senior thesis, where they conduct extensive research on any environment-related topic they’re interested in.
This is where Monica Pocs, a junior studying environmental science, spends most of her time on campus. She’s currently working on her senior thesis, which incorporates the research she started last spring with Dr. Mark Potosnak, an environmental science professor who specializes in atmospheric science. They’ve been using high-altitude balloons to measure carbon dioxide fluxes in the atmosphere.
Each student pairs up with a professor that can assist them in their research, but Monica started working with Potosnak before she started thinking about her thesis. She knew she wanted to do some kind of research as an undergrad, so she spoke to Potosnak, her professor at the time, and he offered her a chance to assist him with the research he was interested in exploring.
In order to collect data, Pocs and Potosnak drive out to rural Illinois every few weeks with a team of student volunteers to launch high-altitude balloons that contain a GPS and a radio that sends the data back to them. They’re interested in seeing how the agriculture of the area is affected throughout the seasons.
“We’re looking to see how much carbon dioxide plants uptake in the period of the flight. The first flight showed that they did uptake carbon dioxide, but the second flight showed that they were respirating more than they were photosynthesizing… we think it’s because there was a drought,” Pocs said. She hopes to have completed her research by this fall.