Hello, I am Miranda Kamukala, currently finishing my nursing prerequisites at STCC and will begin nursing (BSN) in the fall at AIC. I aspire to join the nursing profession and then get a masters in midwifery to be a Certified Nurse Midwife. I participated in the various student events and opportunities offered at STCC.

During the first week of this Spring semester 2021, we were made aware of STEM Starter Academy’s Research poster competition for the Sustainathon event. The theme was “STEM Innovation for Climate Action”. The competition was established to provide a platform on which STCC students can conduct research guided by an advisor and later showcase their creativity and innovative ideas to a wide audience during a conference or competition. It was also an amazing opportunity to present at the Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference. I was very excited since this was my first research experience and at the opportunity of interacting with my classmates. We broke into groups, picked the topic “Covid-19 Impact on the Environment and Public health”. We picked this topic since it was current and researching it could future our passion for learning and innovation. We decided to meet weekly on Wednesday evenings on Zoom to work on the project. My teammates were Nicole Bedard, Jonathan Pilat, Gulmira Niyazova, and Sandra Pradhan. Together we developed the team spirit attitude of harmonious camaraderie, cooperation and collaboration which I believe was the driver in our successful completion.

The objective of our research was to research the positive and negative impacts to the environment due to Covid 19 pandemic and demonstrate evidence of wellness fluctuations in public health. We hypothesized that the pandemic paired with lockdown has benefited the environment and that public population has suffered immensely as death rates escalated. Our research methods included primely review of scientific research papers and National Institute of Health and World Health Organization websites. We also collected data from Johns Hopkins University.

Each week we learned how to work together as a team, how to do research, and gathered information about Covid-19. We became more confident and even became close friends through it. When we finished the poster, it was time to present at the STCC Stem Starter Academy Sustainathon research poster competition on April 7th. There were 11 other teams who presented brilliant, and fascinating presentations about STEM innovation and climate action for Earth Day. It was an incredible feeling to present after all our hard work. We concluded that the environment was impacted because of measures taken such as quarantines, masks, and social distancing to help slow the spread of the virus. A benefit to the environment was the closing of many businesses, schools, restaurants, gyms, and theaters. It led to many losing jobs, staying home from school, and a decrease in public gatherings. People staying home slowed socioeconomic activities and led to improved air quality, water quality, and greenhouse gas emissions, especially in cities. Along with more waste from hospitals, discarded masks and protective gear cause an increase in solid waste. Covid testing can increase plastic waste as well. With increased use of sanitary products and disinfectants, there are future water quality implications.  Our study outlined sustainable ideas to improve the negative environmental impacts of the pandemic, reinforce the positive environmental outcomes, and highlight how public health has been changed due to the pandemic.

 After the judge’s deliberations we found out we won! We presented this poster at the STCC Stem Starter Academy 2021 Sustainathon on April 14th.  This win has given us the confidence that our ideas have merit and that we could face hundreds of participants to deliver a winning presentation.

During the Sustainathon event we were so honored to watch the keynotes from Senator Ed Markey and Mayor Sarno. It was amazing to listen to the presentations from Dr. Michael Rawlins, Dr. Susannah Lerman, Dr. Jun Yao, Dr. Elin Kelsey, and the other wonderful presentations. It was an eye-opening experience! I am so excited to be presenting at the Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Project on April 23rd. It was such an honor for our presentation to be accepted. This whole experience has taught me so much and expanded my research. I would do it all again if I could and encourage everyone to do it!

I want to thank Dr. Reena Randhir and Dr. Timothy Randhir for leading us through the process and giving us the amazing opportunity to participate in the events they worked so hard to organize. I also want to thank the STCC Stem Starter Academy for the events and support.