Luqman Issah ’20, Chemical and Biological Engineering

The increase in the world’s population has caused a rising demand for food and a need for greater food security. While vertical farming is a possible solution to increasing the world’s food supply, little is known about how soil microbes and bacteria would affect the nutrient acquisition of plants in a vertical-farming setup. I investigated how the use of microbes and iron chelators — which bond to metal ions to reduce their reactivity — affected the growth and acquisition of iron in plants. I designed a hydroponic system in which I germinated several varieties of seeds and cultivated multiple species of plants. I measured and maintained the pH of the nutrient solutions in which the plants grew. I collected nutrient solution samples and analyzed their trace metals using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). I also used spectrometry to analyze chlorophyll concentration in the plant leaves. Through this internship, I learned a myriad of laboratory techniques, furthered my data-analysis skills and developed coding experience in Python. While my future career may not involve plant research, this internship increased my interest in continuing to study the sciences. It also gave me insights on how plants can be used to understand biological issues in humans.