Abdul Elnajdi is the winner of the Farouk El-Baz Student Research Award. The award is named in honor of Dr. Farouk El-Baz who is an accomplished scientist and geologist. Abdul is a doctoral student in the Department of Environment, Geology and Natural Resources. This award is given annually for an outstanding body of work in the field of desert research. Dr. Jessique Haeft, an Assistant Professor of Soil Science in the Environment, Geology and Natural Resources Department, said this about Abdul’s research, “Abdul is studying the presence of lead in soils across Muncie, likely left from the legacy of manufacturing in the area. He is looking to see where it is concentrated in surface soils and dust samples to see if it coordinates with high blood levels of lead across the region. His work is timely and has important health implications for residents in the area.” 

Here is our Q and A with Abdul:

Please tell us about the Farouk El-Baz Student Research Award? 

The Farouk El-Baz Student Research Award is one of the GSA (Geological Society of America) Graduate Student Research Grant Programs. The goal of this award is to encourage and promote desert research worldwide. Up to two students will be awarded $2,500 each based on a proposal for arid land research and a recommendation by an advisor. The recipients are determined by the GSA International Interdisciplinary Interest Group (IIG). (According to the GSA website)  

 What made you select your research topic?  

The main idea of my research is to look for links between lead-contaminated soil and blood lead levels in Muncie’s residents, especially the children. Children are the group most exposed to the toxicity of lead and its impact on their health more than adults. First, we were working on soil, but I decided to look inside the dust too. The dust from children’s playgrounds can be another source of blood lead levels in children because of their small body size, developmental stage, and tendency to engage in hand-to-mouth behavior. My advisor told me we need more money for this part, and one sample can cost $40. I wrote a proposal and submitted it to the GSA – Farouk El-Baz Student Research Award committee members. Their review letter said, “this is an interesting, worthwhile, and clever study with a high likelihood of success, and the results could help many people.”  The study is the first to look at outdoor dust as another source of blood lead levels in Delaware county, which makes it unique research.  

 Please tell us about your research and how your project is coming along.  What do you hope to find out or accomplish once the project is complete? 

The main title of my study is “A Spatial Analysis of Muncie’s Soils and Playgrounds Dust Associated with Elevated Blood Lead Levels,” as I explained above. The assessment of environmentally available Pb in the soil and dust samples, along with their soil properties in the City of Muncie, could ultimately improve the health of its residents. Of course, when the project is done, I’ll get my Ph.D. degree. However, I’d like to work with Ball State University after we evaluate the results and share them with the city of Muncie because this research aims to improve people’s health, especially the children, and make sure they live and play in a very safe environment. The project is going well, and I’m at evaluating and writing the results with my advisors.  

 What brought you to Ball State University?  

Well, I studied Martian soil when I did my master’s at Florida Tech, and I was looking for another program that does research on the soil. The Ph.D. program at BSU is excellent and well-constructed. The program allows you to choose any course that benefits your research from any other discipline, such as Chemistry, Geology, Biology etc., which is a brilliant way to do research. Dr. Dowling chose my application because she believed I was a good candidate for the program and the research.   

 What are your future goals/career goals? 

My future goals are to find a job that fits my degree. It will allow me to continue researching and do my part to protect the environment, improve people’s health, and educate people about the environment and how we can live better.  

 Anything else you would like us to know?  

I’d like to thank my advisors, Dr. Dowling, Dr. Haeft, Dr. Berland, Dr. Subir, and my department for offering me a scholarship, which is an excellent opportunity to continue my studies and research. I’m grateful to BSU for this fantastic opportunity and the support they are giving me and my research. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.