University of Delaware Environmental Soil Chemistry Members In The News


Cooperative Extension

University of Delaware

College of Agricultural Sciences



Plant and Soil Sciences
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Newark, DE 19717

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June/July 1998

Volume 6 Issue 6

Soil Science Grad Student Receives NSF Scholarship


From backpacking and river rafting in the Sierra Nevadas to yard work at the family home in Simi Valley, growing up in California gave Darryl Roberts a great appreciation for the outdoors. Looking back now, this doctoral student in environmental soil chemistry never imagined that his interest in the outdoors would eventually lead to the distinguished honor of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellowship, an honor he was awarded this spring.

Although Roberts is already in esteemed company as a grad student in UD's world-class soil chemistry program, he is the first in recent history to be honored with an NSF graduate fellowship.

During his senior year of high school, intrigued by a government class that addressed California's challenges with pollutants, Roberts made up his mind to pursue a career in environmental studies.

After receiving his undergraduate degree from California Polytechnic State University in 1996, Roberts entered the plant soil sciences department at UD, under the advisement of Dr. Donald Sparks."While many soil science graduate programs limit students to the classroom during their first two years, Dr. Sparks puts a priority on encouraging his students to mix research with classroom learning," says Roberts. "I have really benefited from this."

Roberts is currently researching the reaction mechanisms of metal contaminants with Delaware soils. He is employing state-of-the-art kinetic approaches (time-dependent) and spectroscopic techniques at Brookhaven National Laboratory to predict the fate and movement of metals in soil.

As a result of Sparks' encouragement to present papers at professional meetings, Roberts has already had the opportunity to present his research at several major national soil science and chemistry conferences. This summer Roberts will go to Montpelier, France to present an invited paper at the 16th World Congress of Soil Sciences.

Roberts credits his fellow graduate students and post-docs in the group, and Sparks, his academic advisor, for his winning of the NSF fellowship award.

"This is a highly competitive award and we are very proud of Darryl," says Sparks. "He is articulate, creative, intelligent, and very motivated. I am confident that he will be an outstanding scientist."

Roberts' long-term career goals are to continue to conduct research in soil and environmental chemistry and to teach at a major university.


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