Engineering Student Takes on Nanotechnology

TESSA BECK | THE SPECTRUM NDSU student Cody Ritt’s research removes phosphate from lakes and so it can be put back into the land as fertilizer.
NDSU student Cody Ritt’s research removes phosphate from lakes and so it can be put back into the land as fertilizer.

As a research university, North Dakota State provides opportunities for both students and staff to push their studies beyond the classroom and into the laboratory.

Cody Ritt, a junior studying civil and environmental engineering, is one example of a student researcher. The Spectrum’s Features Editor Tessa Beck met with Ritt to learn more about his research in nanotechnology and how NDSU has been helpful in his development.

Tessa Beck: For someone who isn’t totally familiar with nanotechnology, could you elaborate on what it entails?

Cody Ritt: My research with nanotechnology involves taking advantage of the unique properties of nanomaterials (any material that is 1-100 nm in size) and the much larger surface area that nanomaterials possess as compared to their larger material counterparts.

Ritt further explained that he deals specifically with surface water mitigation, and removing the phosphate from eutrophic lakes. His team has produced FCA Beads, also known as metal-crossed biopolymer beads, which enhance phosphate absorption due to the existence of nanomaterials. The beads will then be applied to agricultural purposes, using slow releasing methods to fertilize plants.

TB: How did you get involved with this type of work?

CR: When I was just coming into my first year at NDSU, I heard about research opportunities through my cousin, Nicole Snyder, who partakes in research in the biology department. I thought it was an extremely exciting idea and would be a very rewarding job opportunity.

Luckily, there were research positions made available by Dr. Achintya Bezbaruah who supported Ritt as an undergraduate in his funded project for the National Science Foundation.

TB: How has NDSU and your professors aided in the development of your research?

CR: NDSU has provided me with sufficient laboratory equipment and space to hold my experiments, test the results and analyze the data.


TB: Can you explain the benefits of studying nanotechnology?

CR: The study of nanomaterials and their uses is one of the hottest topics in research and development at this time … The emergence of nanotechnology benefits the whole world. Nanotechnology is used in things as common as household paint used for coloring your wall to fighting growing global food demands with advanced fertilizers and seed treatments.

Ritt has been provided a solid support system in his undergraduate research, but he does not plan to stop with a bachelor’s degree.

TB: What is your future with nanotechnology?

CR: I plan to continue on to a Ph.D. program after graduation with my bachelors. I would like to continue my research in the field of nanotechnology and focus it around my passion. I am very passionate about desalination because I would like to make fresh drinking water more available for everyone on this Earth.

TB: Is there anything else I should specifically mention in this story?

CR: I would really enjoy seeing more students take an interest in research and development in the science and engineering fields. I see the majority of students go into the work field right after their bachelors, but I believe that there could be a large amount of benefit to our society if more students continued on to graduate studies and contributed to research of new technologies and practices.

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