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UMaine Today Magazine

Student Focus

Personal Best

Adi Levy
Adi Levy

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Ninth grade was a watershed for Adi Levy.

Diagnosed that year with mononucleosis and forced to give up competitive swimming for nearly 18 months, Levy came to the realization that "water is my life." As a result, she became more determined than ever to return to the sport.

The high school freshman also fell in love with computer programming, which for her became "a way of thinking" about the world around her.

Today at the University of Maine, the sophomore from Givatayim, Israel pursues both her life-passions. Levy is majoring in computer science, and considering a minor in mathematics or secondary education. As a member of the women's swimming and diving team, her events are the butterfly and freestyle.

"The important thing in life is to learn as much as you can," says the 21-year-old. "The detail involved in computer science is so interesting. Swimming is challenging and fun, an opportunity to be the best that you can."

In her first year at UMaine, Levy was one of 39 Top of the Class students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a 3.75 or better GPA. Any downtime poolside found her studying.

During the swimming and diving season that begins in October, the team is in the pool every afternoon, with additional 6 a.m. practices two days a week. In her first year, she placed second in the 200 butterfly and set two UMaine records in the 800 free relay and 400 medley relay at the America East Championships.

In the off-season at UMaine, Levy and her teammates teach swimming classes for youngsters in Wallace Pool on campus.

Levy has been swimming competitively since age 12. Before coming to UMaine, she served two years of mandatory military duty in Israel.

She came to UMaine on the recommendation of her friend, Karin Feldman from Israel, who swam for UMaine until she graduated in 2005. One of Levy's teammates, Tal Shpaizer, also is from Israel.

Levy's plans include graduate school to continue her work in computer science.

Protecting salmon rivers

Lucner Charlestra
Lucner Charlestra

The quiet backwaters of the Pleasant and Narraguagus Rivers in Washington County are a popular destination for many, offering paddlers and hikers alike scenic views of scented woods and rolling pastures. University of Maine doctoral student Lucner Charlestra has spent untold hours on the small rivers of coastal Maine, but he doesn't go there for the scenery.

He's looking for the rivers' dark side.

Charlestra is working with UMaine Professor of Chemistry Howard Patterson to determine the concentrations of harmful pesticides in Maine's salmon rivers. Charlestra first came to Maine from Haiti in 2003, using his Fulbright Fellowship to pursue his master's degree in environmental science and ecology. His research included a successful pilot project that pioneered the use of the Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Sampler (POCIS) to measure concentrations of dioxin.

Charlestra went home to Haiti this past summer, planning to continue his research in the fall as a UMaine Ph.D. student. However, his return to the States took considerable political wrangling.

New federal requirements for international students led to a nearly impenetrable tangle of bureaucratic red tape. But with letters of support from UMaine and Sen. Susan Collins, Charlestra's return to the state was finally approved and the second phase of his research began.

"We were the first to use the POCIS device for these pesticides. Now that we have proved that it works, we need to develop techniques that increase the accuracy of the measurements and we need to gather more data," says Charlestra, who is determining sampling parameters in the lab and will return to the field this summer.

Pesticides used on blueberry fields and farms, and in residential applications often find their way into Maine's rivers and streams, but in most areas, their concentrations are largely unknown. Under a federal mandate to protect populations of endangered Atlantic salmon in Maine's rivers, policymakers are looking for ways to better understand the relationship between the use of pesticides and the health of the rivers' fish populations.

According to Charlestra, the POCIS device has a distinct advantage over traditional water sampling techniques in measuring the concentration of pesticides and other compounds. Rather than measuring concentrations at a single moment in time, POCIS allows researchers to study changes in concentrations during longer periods by suspending the specialized sampler in the water column for several days or weeks.

Charlestra hopes that his research, supported by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Atlantic Salmon Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey, will provide new information for scientists and policymakers.

"In order to protect Maine's salmon populations, we need to better understand the extent to which they are exposed to contaminants," he says.


UMaine Today Magazine
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