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REU in Arizona: Quantifying P in Anaerobic Digestion

In our fifth story about the STEPS Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, we feature a scholar at Arizona State University. This summer, Sarah Roza is working with Dr. Bruce Rittmann, a Theme 2 Researcher with a focus on Environmental Biotechnology. Together they are working to characterize and quantify P in anaerobic digestion. 

What does a typical week at Arizona State look like? Each week Roza, from Mesa Community College, works with her mentor Maven Mahmood and uses the analytical instruments in the laboratory, including gas chromatography, high-performance liquid chromatography, and ion chromatography. Roza also spends time processing data in Excel. 

Roza was initially hesitant to apply to the REU program due to coming from a community college, as she worried the experience may be too “high-level.” But after the initial hesitation, Roza felt this could be a wonderful experience because of how deeply she cares for the environment and her desire to go into the field of sustainable technologies. 

One of Roza’s favorite things about the program is how everyone feels included, feels heard, and still manages to have fun. From the time she arrived in North Carolina for the program orientation, she felt like STEPS faculty and mentors supported and lifted up the scholar’s ideas. Additionally, Roza says, “I have enjoyed working towards something tangible” and believing that she is making a difference in the world, however big or small. Overall, she says this experience has made her feel “so special” because of the potential impact her research may have on the field. 

Roza reflected on her REU experience, saying, “it has taught me about the importance of patience, camaraderie, time organization, and communication.” Additionally, Roza feels this program has taught her a lot about herself, her skills, her preferences in the workplace, and her intellect. Roza wrapped up her work last Friday by presenting her research with fellow REU students. 

Scholar Sarah Roza (highlighted in green) presents her REU work to STEPS participants.

To catch up on the series following the REU scholars at different universities, see To learn more about the REU program, visit