University Water Lab Accreditation – An HBCU 1st
Dr. Kimberly Milligan has had an accomplished journey at Delaware State University and thankfully it has continued with a significant distinction for the institution.
After completing her undergraduate to doctoral years at the University, Dr. Milligan’s work as an Associate Professor of Chemistry has resulted in an additional accreditation for the institution that is opening up new doors of opportunities.
Largely due to the efforts of Dr. Milligan and a group of students who assisted her over the last decade, Delaware State University’s Water Analysis Laboratory is the only one at an HBCU to possess a National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation. The University is also one of only two institutions of higher education in the country to boast that accreditation.
The first seeds that led to the accreditation fruition were planted in a 2012 partnership agreement between Delaware State University and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Among the numerous goals and objectives of that agreement, it also promoted efforts to increase the University’s participation in federal programs, specifically pointed to laboratory certification as one of the capacity building outcomes.
Dr. Cherese Winstead-Casson, the then-Chair of the Department of Chemistry (now the Dean of the College of Agriculture, Science and Technology), took the first initial steps in exploring the possible accreditation of its Water Analysis Lab.
That same year, Dr. Milligan completed her Ph.D. in Applied Chemistry and one year later in 2013 she joined the University’s Department of Chemistry faculty. In assuming the role as the Director of the Water Analysis Lab, Dr. Milligan took on the challenge of working toward the accreditation and also made it a methodical process in which students also contributed work.
Over the next eight years, items were checked off a list of requirements for the accreditation. That included completing the documentation of the lab’s standard operating procedure and quality assurance measures, as well as training students on the major instruments, procedures and processes pertaining to the analysis.
For the proficiency of the type of analysis within the capability of the water lab – which is set up to run tests for microorganisms and inorganic chemicals – the water lab needed to obtain an ICP-MS (Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry) system. That costly analytical equipment was acquired through an instrumentation donation by Agilent Technologies Inc.
All the requirements were met, and the University’s Water Lab was formally accredited in 2021. According to the EPA, Delaware State University is the only HBCU to possess a NELAP accreditation, and is only one of two institutions of higher education in the country that are so certified (the other is Southern Utah University). Because the accreditation is good for two years, the Water Lab will be up for its reaffirmation in May 2023.
Dr. Milligan is not only making her mark through the accreditation accomplishment. In addition to being the Director of the Delaware State Water Analysis Group, she is also the Director of the Hemp Analysis Lab, as well as the Co-Chair of Student Success for the Department of Chemistry.
Dr. Cherese Winstead Casson, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Sciences and Technology said Dr. Milligan’s expertise in water quality education and training – which has enriched more than five cohorts of students since the lab’s inception – makes her an invaluable member of the University’s scientific community.
“Dr. Milligan has implemented citizen science activities focused on water quality and outreach to underrepresented communities,” Dean Winstead Casson said. “The importance of this work in the areas of clean water access and water security are global challenges that will face our next generation of students.”
To be technically correct, Dr. Milligan is a quadruple graduate of Delaware State University. In addition to earning her bachelor, master and doctoral degrees at the University, she began her journey at the institution in the early 1980s when she attended the Early Childhood Laboratory School and graduated from its kindergarten class.