Professors Explore Language, Culture and Environmental Pollution With CUNY Research Grant Support


Academic Literacy and Linguistics Professor Sharon Avni and Science Professor Abel Navarro have each been selected to receive a research grant of $7,500 through the CUNY Research in the Classroom Ideas Grant (RIC) program.

“We are proud of the outstanding research and scholarship of our faculty, and the unique opportunities provided to our students as a result,” said Karrin E. Wilks, BMCC Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Gaining insight through a linguistic landscape

Professor Avni’s project, “The Languages of Religious Institutions in New York City: Integrating Discovery-Based Research into the Linguistics 100 Curriculum,” focuses on exploring the linguistic landscape of religious institutions in New York City.

“We can learn a lot about the role of language in society by examining the way languages are used in religious communities,” she says. “What kind of language is used in signage is part of a linguistic landscape that provides insight into what a community values,” says Professor Avni.

Students will each choose a religious site to investigate, and that site could be a house of worship, a religious school or a religious community center.

“They will become more aware of the protocols of qualitative research, as well as learning about inductive data analysis, transcribing and analyzing spoken and visual language, coding and categorizing data, and writing up findings,” she says. “Their critical thinking skills will also be heightened in this writing intensive course.”

Using organic compounds to remediate pollution

Continuing his research addressing environmental pollutants, Professor Navarro’s project, “House Trash as Lab Treasure in Organic Chemistry,” will involve students in research designed to remove organic pollutants from chemical waste.

“By using organic compounds such as those found in spent tea bags, we will explore ways to remediate pollution,” says Navarro. “These concepts reinforce the sustainable practice of chemistry and recycling of solid waste for positive applications.”

Students in Navarro’s Organic Chemistry I class will extract and identify caffeine from tea bags, then further condition the bags by removing color and other impurities. They will learn lab protocols, and how to record and evaluate data, as well as gaining understanding of biochemistry and its applications. They will also visit the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Queens, New York, and learn first-hand about water treatment techniques.