Briana McDowell is gaining momentum on her path to a career in chemistry, and the catalyst is an internship with the National Sea Grant College Program.

For the past year, McDowell, a Suffolk senior majoring in biochemistry, has been part of a research team investigating carbon storage in Massachusetts Bay sea grass beds.

Fighting climate change

She and her colleagues in the area’s Sea Grant program, housed at MIT, mapped sea grass meadows in the waters off Gloucester and Nahant using sonar, and divers collected samples to determine the amount of carbon within these areas.Briana McDowell and Sea Grant colleagues

“We then went back to the lab and processed the samples,” says McDowell. “Sea grass meadows can store a lot of carbon if they’re healthy. And that’s good, as it may help mitigate climate change. On the other end, we’re losing sea grass meadows, mainly from pollution, which adds another source to global CO2 emissions.”

“This is all about the fight against climate change and how we can make it better.”

The National Sea Grant College Program, operating within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, works to promote the conservation and sustainable development of marine resources through research, education, and outreach.

The MIT Sea Grant program sponsors a wide range of marine research aimed at providing real-world solutions to coastal problems.

Research report

McDowell is now writing up her findings with her colleagues. She says that the most rewarding part of her internship is “sharing the results with my peers and seeing that our results are similar.”

She plans to pursue graduate studies with the goal of working on the cleanup of hazardous waste as a geochemist.

“This position has expanded my knowledge of the types of work I can pursue and also makes me a more competitive applicant for graduate school,” says McDowell, who is a McNair Scholar at Suffolk.

Professor Melanie Berkmen praised McDowell for her determination and ability to network.

“She is passionate about environmental science and has become enthralled in her research on sea grasses,” says Berkmen. “I am very excited about her research through the MIT Sea Grant program and cannot wait to hear about her future successes in graduate school and beyond.”