Marvourneen K. Dolor
- Bachelor of Science in Marine and Environmental Sciences from the United States Coast Guard Academy
- Master of Science in Chemistry, University of Maryland
- Worked as a physical science technician at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Interesting Fact: Navigated ships, flew a plane, and was dropped from a helicopter all before the age of 23.
“Do what likes you and don’t worry about what you like,” Marvourneen’s mother always told her and what “liked” Marvourneen was chemistry. It always came easily to her – so easy, in fact, that as an undergraduate at the United States Coast Guard Academy, Marvourneen would treat herself to her chemistry homework as though it were a dessert! This ease of understanding paired with the motivation to leave a lasting mark on the scientific community led Marvourneen into research.
Marvourneen's research may enable scientists to assess the historical incidence of 'dead zones' in the Chesapeake Bay.
Following Her Passion For Chemistry and Environmental Research
Marvourneen worked with Dr. George Helz at the University of Maryland for her master’s degree and was so interested in their research together that after one year working at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, she decided to return for her PhD in Environmental and Analytical Chemistry. Her research aims at determining what chemical processes control the build up of the heavy metal rhenium in marine sediments. Knowing how rhenium ends up in sediments may enable scientists to assess the deterioration of coastal marine environments due to human impacts.
Understanding the Chemistry Behind Marine "Dead Zones"
One particular effect of human activity on natural water-bodies is the formation of "dead zones" which contain extremely low concentrations of oxygen. This is a seasonal phenomenon that is exacerbated by the inadvertent fertilization of natural water bodies, such as the Chesapeake Bay, by nitrate- and phosphorous-rich agricultural runoff. This fertilization leads to algal-blooms that are eventually decomposed by microbes. This process uses up all the available oxygen resulting in the formation of ‘dead zones,’ areas which cannot support marine life.
Marvourneen is studying rhenium, which is scavenged by the marine ecosystem from the water column when the amount of oxygen in the system is very low or non- existent. Its concentration in sediment cores could thus be used to determine the extent of dead zones historically. However, before this can be done effectively the chemical form of rhenium present under oxygen reducing conditions must be determined. One of the main goals of her research is to experimentally determine the thermodynamic properties of rhenium-sulfur and rhenium-oxygen compounds in order to determine what compounds would be stable under reducing conditions.
Advancing Her Career With Colleagues' Support
Marvourneen chose to pursue her graduate degrees at the University of Maryland because of the reputation of the faculty and the great community and resources that support research here. Marvourneen is proud to be part of the NOBCChE (National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers) student chapter at Maryland, which she helped to get off the ground by serving as one of the first presidents of the organization.
After completing her PhD, she joined the U.S. Department of Transportation, Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, as an Environmental Science Consultant. The role bridges the gap between scientific research and policy decision-makers.