Home is where the radon is
Physics student Michael Tripp has
completed one of the first detailed studies of how radon gas can vary
from room to room and month to month in a house ó his parent's home in
southern Maine, to be exact.
For an honors project, the University of Maine student worked with Tom
Hess, UMaine professor of physics and one of the nation's leading
authorities on radon. The undergraduate's research could be useful in
reducing human exposure to radon, a colorless, odorless radioactive gas
that is a leading cause of lung cancer, according to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Radon, a common component of granite, can seep into homes through
basements and from well water use in households. Homes in southern Maine
tend to have high radon levels.
"(Using) a couple of radon detectors, I found out that my parents' home
had very high radon levels in the air. The EPA action level is four
picocuries per liter; I found an average level in my parents' house of
about 11 picocuries per liter," says Tripp, who graduated from the
university in May, headed for a career in the nuclear industry.
Every month, Tripp measured radon levels in the air and water. He took
simultaneous air readings in the basement and on the first and second
floors. Tripp equipped an upstairs bathroom with three detectors to
track radon as it entered the room during showers, and he took monthly
samples of tap water. He brought all his recorded data and water samples
to the nuclear laboratory at UMaine for analysis.
Tripp found that levels of water-borne radon in the family's well water
doubled from NovemberóJanuary. He also recorded unexpected differences
in floor-to-ceiling levels of radon during showers in the bathroom. But
surprisingly, radon levels from the basement to the second floor of the
house appeared to be relatively even.
Tripp suspects that air flow and ventilation may help to explain some of
When Linda Gabrielson started graduate studies at the University of
Maine, there's no way she could have predicted how her education and
professional pursuits would coincide this year.
Gabrielson is finishing doctoral coursework in higher educational
leadership after three years of classes taught by some of the state's
foremost experts, including former University of Maine System Chancellor
Gabrielson has been in the classroom for a decade, teaching at Southern
Maine Technical College in South Portland. One of her responsibilities
last semester was establishing the college's new Center on Teaching
Excellence. In addition, Gabrielson is participating in the
transformation of Maine's technical college system to a statewide
community college network as of July 1.
"It's an exciting time," says Gabrielson. "I look forward to continuing
to work with students so we can open doors and change their lives. This
transition (from a technical to community college system) is part of a
bigger picture of making higher education the norm in Maine for those
who have not thought about college or need the opportunities to
Open access to higher education for all who want to pursue college has
long been important to Gabrielson. Academic rigor, coupled with
attention to the learning needs of students entering community college,
ensures that graduates attain the level of training, education and
knowledge required to pursue the next chapter in their lives. "Academic
integrity is alive and well, and I hope to continue to champion it,
whether I contribute as an administrator, teacher or educational leader
in a higher education organization."
Linda Gabrielson, a registered dietician, discovered her love of
teaching when she taught nutrition and diet therapy. Through the years,
her commitment to quality education, including service learning, has
only gotten stronger.