One minute with Jorge Alvarado, removing toxic pollutants from contaminated soil and water

When did you first know you wanted to be a scientist?

If you asked my mom, she would say I always wanted to be a scientist—from an early age I was always mixing things together. I wanted to find the formula for invisibility, I think.

“Learning something every day, that’s the best part.”

Then when I started college, I had this one professor, Juan Solano, who was very clearly in love with chemistry. His classes were amazing. I took every one of them. He knew everything by heart—all the oxidation numbers, everything. Later I told him, “It was your fault I went into chemistry!”

What do you do now?

Our research group combines geologists, chemists, computer scientists and hydrologists. We are working in the characterization, assessment and remediation of contaminated sites. The main contaminant in our research sites is called carbon tetrachloride. For decades, before it was discovered to be toxic, the Department of Agriculture used it extensively as a pesticide for the storage of grains throughout the Midwest.

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