Senior Samantha Geier’s study on bacteria in the Ballona Wetlands was honored recently by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Geier received the best undergraduate poster presentation award for research she began two years ago under the guidance of her adviser John Dorsey, professor of civil engineering and environmental science.
The project entailed studies on fecal indicators and whether wetlands act as a natural filtration system for bacteria. “The bacteria we’re seeing can tell us a lot about what is happening in the wetland,” Geier says.
Presenting her data at the SETAC conference was almost as exciting as winning the award, she says.
“What I loved most was the number of people from different fields who stopped by my poster,” Geier says. “It’s really validating to win the award. People recognize it’s important, and it was put together well.”
Geier, who uses a wheelchair, is grateful for the guidance from Dorsey and to LMU for removing any barriers that could have derailed her research. The Poway, Calif., native chose LMU in part due to accessibility on the campus.
“Going to college was a big eye-opener for me,” she says. “I didn’t have my parents there to advocate for me; I had to advocate for myself. One of my goals has been to pave the way for other students who need accessibility to have an easier time. I’ve worked with different departments to try to raise awareness.”
Geier has traveled to France as part of the LMU Choruses and to Japan and South Korea for environmental science classes. She also interned last year with the Coastal Research Institute.
“They made it so I could go on the beach and take samples and do things I haven’t done before,” she says. “Dr. Dorsey has been a fantastic mentor, too. He has gone out and helped collect water samples early in the morning that I couldn’t collect.”
Geier will finish her degree in the fall and plans to savor her final months on campus. She will take a gap year, perhaps performing public service, before applying to graduate school.
“The location is absolutely gorgeous,” she says. “But the people are the best part of LMU.”