Biological sciences Ph.D. student wins STEAM Challenge

Héctor Esparra-Escalera working in the field.

Héctor Esparra-Escalera, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Donna Kashian's lab, joined a group of civil engineering and communications students to create Detroit AirNet, winner of the 2020 STEAM Challenge.

Together they developed a proposal to install low-cost sensors to monitor volatile organic compounds (VOCs) throughout greater Detroit. These compounds are linked to preterm births and other health problems. Hector's role focused on the role of plants in VOCs emissions.

He also established connections with other researchers that can use the data produced by this project.

Hector is an NSF fellow working to evaluate the effectiveness of Green Infrastructure on water sustainability in the T-RUST program (Transformative Research in Urban Sustainability Training). He earned his B.S and M.S in Biology at the University of Puerto Rico. At UPR, his main research interest was on the taxonomy and ecology of freshwater macroinvertebrates.

Wayne State University launched the STEAM Challenge three years ago to inspire interdisciplinary groups to focus their talents on social problems in the city of Detroit.

This year $25,000 was split between the top three finalists.

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