Red Cloud Junior Myriam Rama '15 learned about the Research Apprentice
Program, or R.A.P., at the University of South Dakota, she knew
it would give her exactly what she wanted: the opportunity to work
with a professional chemist in a university lab. She spent this
summer in the lab of Dr. Kadal Marriappan, focusing on metal ions
and how to increase the efficiency of metal detectors.
What she didn't expect was that a small mistake in her research
would lead to an innovative breakthroughand put her name in
print alongside seasoned scientists.
Myriam remembers the exact moment in the lab when her minor
error became a major breakthrough.
"I had two chemical solutions that I needed to work with that
day. I was given very explicit instructions to evaporate one of
the solutions and to filter the other when I got into the lab. Once
I was ready to perform the task, I found what I thought was the
solution and set it up to be evaporated. What I didn't know was
that my lab partner had already taken the first solution and that
I had just mistakenly evaporated the second" Myriam recalls. "When
I took the dried product to show Dr. Marriappan, he asked 'What
did you do?'"
Initially disappointed, her mentors knew they would need to
redo a sequence of procedures to correct the mistake. They began
to backtrack, testing along the way to ensure that more of their
experiment would not be compromised. What they found in those tests
"The next day my mentors told me that while trying correct the
mistake, they were actually able to obtain specific results more
easily because of the evaporation 'mistake.' They were able to further
the research beyond what they were expecting, because of what I
What Myriam had done was inadvertently set a chain of events
in motion that would alter the course of the experiment. The resulting
breakthrough earned her a spot in the published findings of her
mentors, Dr. Marriappan and Dr. Andrew Sykes.
The experience was something Myriam won't soon forget. And while
she's not sure that being a 'metal ion and luminescence sensors'
chemist is in her future, she knows that her time in the lab this
summer have shaped her future career choices.