STUDENT SPOTLIGHTS: IN CONVERSATION WITH Johan DeMessie, 12/15/2022
Reva Rampalli | The Chronicle
Tell us about yourself! Tell us your hobbies, interests, extracurriculars, and even fun facts!
Hi, my name is Johan. I’m a senior this year. I’m passionate about environmental science and sustainable engineering. I’ve always enjoyed the freedom that research provides me to explore topics that interest me. I’ve been doing science fairs since I was in the fourth grade and my love of science has expanded since then.
Outside of my interest in science, I enjoy playing the violin. I play violin in the Mason High School symphony orchestra. Outside of school, I also play violin in the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra. I also helped run the school science fair, helping to organize events and we also helped judge the middle school science fair. I also help out with peer tutoring and also with Tusk, which is a science demos club. Basically, we go around and help organize science demonstrations for kids in elementary school. Sometimes we go during our Connect time and we just put up fun science demonstrations for kids. Science is at the heart of my interest.
Tell us about your research work and about what you’ve accomplished!
Over the past five years, my research work has been looking at developing a low-cost sensor to treat heavy metals in drinking water. Across the world, over 3 billion people lack access to clean drinking water. Heavy metal contaminants like arsenic, chromium and lead are very toxic contaminants that can lead to serious and detrimental health effects. Because of this, I wanted to address these concerns in my work. My development absorbent deck uses recycled plastics in order to create a low-cost brand that’s over four times cheaper and two times more absorbent than conventional solvents like activated carbon.
What sparked your interest to create a water treatment system?
Ever since I was little, I’ve visited my relatives in Ethiopia. There, I witnessed the challenge of clean water firsthand. Seeing the lack of access to clean water and the struggle for clean water inspired me to look for a solution. Starting in eighth grade, I made a rudimentary absorbent in my garage. Since then, I moved on to lab work, working at a local university. I looked at simulating environmental effects in a lab and treating and testing adsorbents. I hope to pursue a degree in environmental science and want to continue pursuing the topic of sustainability in the future.
What is your favorite thing about your research?
I really like how research has been able to connect me with people I would have never met before. It is almost like a bit of a community that forms around science first, but seeing other people’s research, I was like ‘wow, it is so great to meet people.’ I’ve also met people who are either professors or they’re actually a part of modern management. It has been interesting to see how much their advice has impacted me by helping me to address issues I had not seen before.