A photo of Andrew Shaugnassy standing on a riverbank. He holds a plastic sample bottle. As a doctoral student in geosciences at The Pennsylvania State University, Andrew Shaughnassy’s research focuses on how agriculture, specifically nitrate, can alter the structure of bedrock. When farmers use excessive amounts of fertilizer to stimulate crop growth, a surplus of nutrients, including nitrate, can develop in surface and groundwater. Drinking water with high levels of nitrates can cause harm, particularly for infants.

Shaughnessy’s research examines the effects of the elevated levels of nitrate on the bedrock weathering process. In particular, he’s investigating how the introduction of the mineral pyrite (found in some bedrock) will do. He’s discovered that pyrite can actually remove nitrates from groundwater, a kind of natural cleaning process. “Depending on the concentration of pyrite in the bedrock, our research could provide an appropriate strategy for individual farmers’ land management methods,” Shaughnessy said.

Shaughnassy was awarded a 2019 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to support his work. “I was very happy to receive the fellowship and felt it was a great honor to be selected,” said Shaughnessy, who hopes to become a professor and continue his research. To learn more about Andrew, visit the Penn State website.

Image Credit: David Kubarek