Cici Hall came to Nebraska from her native Sweden after being recruited for volleyball in 2011.
“I came to the United States in November. I visited Florida and Nebraska, but picked Nebraska,” said Cici. “The people here were nice and it reminded me of home.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a national championship with the Husker volleyball team, Cici was ready for a new challenge. She looked at master’s degree programs related to biological systems engineering before choosing the environmental engineering program offered by the University of Nebraska Department of Civil Engineering. Environmental engineers work environmental issues such as air pollution control, hazardous waste treatment and wastewater management.
Cici is currently conducting research under the supervision of Drs. Xu Li and Shannon Bartelt-Hunt. Her work focuses on identifying best management practices to protect the environment from the spread of antibiotic resistance genes following the land application of livestock wastes.
“It’s really fun, because I’m applying what I learned in biochemistry to my research now,” said Cici. “We’re looking at how far antibiotic resistant genes from animal feces travel through soil. We’re trying to keep these genes from reaching the water supply.”
Cici’s work involves gathering soil samples taken from a field test, extracting DNA from these samples, and then analyzing the antibiotic resistance genes in the DNA samples. The process is very precise, involving temperature-controlled samples, multiple centrifuge cycles, and small pipette extractions. Her work will help inform policies and best practices for the disposal of animal wastes.
“By studying this movement through soil, we can see if there’s a minimum safe distance from rivers to keep these genes from entering our water supply,” said Cici.
After she graduates, Cici is planning to put her degree to work. She plans to help others by keeping the environment free of contaminants.
“Sweden is bordered by the Baltic Sea, which is very heavily polluted,” said Cici. “It would be great if I could go back and help clean it up after I graduate.”
According to Cici, she is sometimes recognized around town because of her time with the Husker volleyball team. At over six feet tall, Cici was an integral part of the 2015 championship team.
“Sometimes people will stop me and talk to me about their experience with volleyball,” said Cici. “It’s nice to still get that support and recognition from the community.”
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