Profile: Trevor Bennin

Graduated: 2015
Majors: mathematical sciences and chemistry
Minors: physics and philosophy
Hometown: Manitowoc, Wisconsin

A dog drank from a pothole and got sick: Why?

This question posed by Professor of Chemistry Rick Dowd started Trevor Bennin and fellow chemistry students on a scientific quest.

“I love the idea of using something I’m good at and love—science—to the benefit of the environment,” he says.

Trevor has been accepted into the University of Wisconsin-Madison PhD program in chemistry, a package that includes tuition and a part-time teaching assistant position.

Trevor and his peers started their inquiry by looking at cigarette butts. Public policy has focused on the dangers of second hand smoke but what about butts thrown onto the ground? Public policy also focuses on human impacts. Trevor wanted to know if cigarette butts in small bodies of water harmed invertebrates.

They looked at vernal, or temporary ponds. They set up experiments, looked at chemistry, experienced mechanical equipment failure, switched gears and approached the question from a biological perspective. They discovered that cigarette butts left in water can be deadly to the smallest of creatures. “But in what quantity, remains unanswered,” Trevor says.


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