Emily Rothermel: Investigating Environmental Waste and Illness in my Hometown


Hi! My name is Emily and I’m a rising senior majoring in Nonfiction Writing and minoring in Theatre Arts. In my free time, I really like to bake, so if any of the Brackenridge Fellows get to meet up in person this summer, I’ll bring cookies! My research this summer is centered around my hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania.

Growing up, I always heard stories about pollution. How you can’t keep fish you catch in Bernhart’s creek because of the toxic sludge that gives them mutations like extra fins and eyes. How Muhlenberg High School’s football field was dug up because it was a dumping ground for old batteries, and kids were getting sick. How the empty lot in Laureldale off Route 61 is still fenced off because all the toxic metals and chemicals from the old Beryllium plant still contaminates the foundation.

This summer, I’m researching the extent of harmful waste in my hometown and finding proof for the stories I grew up with. Some of this research will happen within my own family as I look into the lives of those who died from Beryllium poisoning. With support from the Brackenridge Fellowship and my research mentor, Mark Kramer, I am excited to tackle this topic.

The research I conduct this summer will likely become the first chapter of the book I will write in graduate school. I hope to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. Professionally, I have interests in Journalism, Creative Nonfiction, Publishing, and Podcast Production.

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