Hands-on experience? Check. Education? Check. God put physics major Ed Lum exactly where he needed to be at just the right times to receive these valuable prerequisites for his future career.
Ed enlisted in the United States Air Force Reserves in his junior year of high school. Upon graduation, he entered the service as an avionics technician on cargo aircraft, where he says he learned “the basics of electronics and mechanical engineering.”
Because he was part of the reserves, he only had to be on base one weekend a month in addition to two full weeks of the year, so he had the chance to pursue higher education. He started out at the Community College of the Air Force but soon began looking to transfer.
That’s when God brought Ed to Geneva.
In the summer of 2008, Ed had the opportunity to put his Air Force experience to work for the college. Sunoco had donated an expensive instrument — an ICP-AES (Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectrometer) — to the science and engineering departments of Geneva College. The faculty members were delighted, but before they could use the machine, they needed someone who could set it up. While that’s a job that usually has to be done by a technician from the manufacturer, they found someone on campus who could do it for them.
Ed’s extensive knowledge in machinery made him the perfect student to work on the newly-acquired ICP-AES, and he spent his entire summer figuring out the intricacies of the instrument.
While Ed was working on the ICP-AES, Professor of Chemistry Dr. Rodney Austin and some of his students were busy working on a project of their own. At least once a month since February 2008, Austin had been testing the water in a local stream for three metals: aluminum, iron and manganese. When Austin heard about the instrument, he knew exactly what he could do with it.
“It’s the cutting-edge, best way to test,” he says. “Normally, testing the water sample would take an extensive amount of time and man-power, but the machine makes it a lot easier.”
With the ICP-AES, what would be up to a five-hour process only takes 10 minutes. And rather than testing water samples for one type of metal at a time, Austin now has the ability to test for many types at once.
The $100,000 dollar machine uses a high-temperature torch to separate the protons and electrons from each type of metal, turning the sample into plasma. Austin can then read the amount of each metal according to the absorption of ultra-violet and visible light.
After Ed was finished with the machine, he began teaching Austin how to use it. But his involvement in the water analysis project soon expanded beyond the realm of mechanic.
“After showing Dr. Austin how to use the machine, I moved on to preparing samples for analysis, both for the machine and for the other tests that Dr. Austin performed on the water,” Ed says.
Ed was deployed to Qatar in 2009, but he still kept in touch with Austin and sent him mechanical advice via e-mail. He may be graduating a little behind schedule, but his work on the ICP-AES and the water testing project have already given him a significant head-start in his pursuit of graduate school and a career in research.
- Lindsey (Walker) Strength '10
More about Ed
Ed Lum transferred to Geneva College in the fall of 2007, and since then, he and Geneva have made quite an impression on each other.
Ed came to Geneva solely for the education, thinking he could ignore the Christian perspective. What he didn't realize was that there was no separation between the two. One of his first classes was an introductory Bible course.
“This was where I really had my first spark from the Lord,” Ed says. “I didn't quite realize at the time, but I was slowly changing.”
He began a search that led him to accept Christ as his Savior, and God has given him a sense of purpose that Ed never dreamed was possible.
“Before Geneva … I really was unsure about my future, probably because I was trying to be in control of it,” Ed says. “Now coming to the Lord, I have faith about my future. It’s in His hands, not mine. I feel now that I am more prepared for the future. It is through Geneva the Lord did his work on my life. No other institution would have been able to do that.”
Ed returned from his tour of duty in Qatar in May 2010 and is now in a summer internship at Idaho State University, performing experiments on a nuclear reactor. He will be back at Geneva in the fall.
“It seems like a lifetime from now, but I can't wait to come back!” he says.
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