Archive for the ‘Emerging Investigators’ Category

Emerging Investigator Series – Olya Keen

Dr. Olya Keen received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in civil and environmental engineering from the University of South Florida in 2008, and her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2012.  She has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte since 2013.  Her research interests are contaminants of emerging concern, UV-based treatment technologies, especially advanced oxidation, and water reuse.

Read her Emerging Investigator article “Transformation of common antibiotics during water disinfection with chlorine and formation of antibacterially active products” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on Transformation of common antibiotics during water disinfection with chlorine and formation of antibacterially active products. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My very first article was on biodegradability of the products of carbamazepine (a pharmaceutical) after advanced oxidation.  Essentially, my work continues to focus on the transformation products of pharmaceuticals.  Trace pollutants of emerging concern, and especially pharmaceuticals, sparked my interest when I learned about them as an undergraduate student.  When I decided to get a PhD, my aim was specifically to research this topic.  I haven’t lost my interest in it since.  There is still a lot to learn about the fate of pharmaceuticals and their transformation products in water and wastewater treatment processes, their human and environmental health effects at trace levels, and whether and how to control their concentrations in water resources.  While this paper is very close in the topic to my first paper, I have since studied a number of topics with the ultimate goal to develop a strategy for keeping pharmaceuticals from water resources.  I have investigated the impacts of hospital wastewater on antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes in wastewater collection systems, have researched how the disposal of pharmaceuticals into solid waste from households and hospitals can impact water resources via landfill leachate, and examined the fate of some pharmaceuticals in environmental buffers used in potable water reuse.  I have also been delving into other categories of contaminants of emerging concern (plasticizers, flame retardants, algal toxins, etc.) with some of my ongoing research.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

I am looking forward to continuing my work with the antibiotic transformation products we identified in this most recent publication and in some of the earlier papers.  We plan to study their occurrence in full-scale treatment processes and their role in the development of antibiotic resistance.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

I think one of the most concerning pharmaceutical classes in water resources is antibiotics.  More and more evidence comes out that environmental levels of antibiotics play a role in antibiotic resistance development.  The most urgent question is how to control the release of antimicrobial substances (non-matabolized fraction of antibiotics, antibacterial substances in soaps, etc.) into the environment in a way that is economical to wastewater treatment plants and that doesn’t generate new substances of concern, e.g. antibiotic transformation products.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

The part of my research that involves work with transformation products is challenging for a number of reasons.  Their definitive identification, and determining whether we should be concerned about them, is not an easy process and involves significant analytical research.  Often projects don’t have a sufficient budget or a timeline for research as thorough as I would like it to be.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I am planning to attend IUVA 2020 conference in Orlando and the next AEESP conference in 2021.  I also periodically attend national ACS meetings.

How do you spend your spare time?

I have a toddler, so I only daydream about spare time.  I do enjoy spending time with my family.  If I had a bit more spare time, I would use it to travel the world, read, and pursue painting.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I have a bit of an idealistic view of sustainable and organic farm living, and I sometime picture myself doing that.  This is what my ancestors did for generations.  My parents farmed in addition to their jobs when I was growing up, and now they are doing it full time in retirement.  It amazes me, how little waste they generate by living the way they do and the kind of life skills they have.  I hope to eventually teach my kid the knowledge of the traditional ways to make our own food and to live a truly low-impact and sustainable existence.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Have one day a week for which you do not schedule any classes or meetings.  It can be difficult to maintain focus on a paper or a proposal when the whole day is fractionated by various short-duration items.  Creative thinking on a topic takes getting immersed into it for hours, chasing a thought and then the next thought that it leads to, and so on.  Try to schedule most of the meetings on a single day.  That day will be draining, but if split into several days, it will result in several draining days with seemingly nothing accomplished.  Wise time management is a must, as the to-do list is never cleared, and it is easy to get overwhelmed and to feel like there is never any time to get things done no matter how long the hours.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Samuel Snow

Samuel Snow is an assistant professor of environmental engineering within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Louisiana State University. He earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2014 after completing a B.S. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, also at GT. After completing his graduate work, Dr. Snow briefly worked at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality before accepting a postdoctoral fellowship at Michigan State University in 2015. In the Fall of 2016, he began his appointment at LSU. Some of Snow’s research interests include the developing new water treatment processes and understanding the role of photochemical processes in environmental systems. One of the most motivating goals of his is to produce technologies that enable socio-economic progress in under-developed contexts: a topic that also bridges his teaching and research activities.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “Photocatalysis for MBR effluent post-treatment: assessing the effects of effluent organic matter characteristics” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on photocatalysis for MBR effluent post-treatment. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

When I was an undergraduate student, I worked on a project that aimed to better understand phosphorus cycling in an estuarine system. As a graduate student, I delved into photochemistry and nanotechnology in an effort to advance new disinfection technologies. Gradually, my focus has expanded from my graduate work to investigate the role that dissolved organic matter plays in interfering with photochemical processes. My recent article highlighted here takes a novel approach toward understanding the inhibitory interactions between organic matter and photocatalysts. This work continues in my overall theme of investigating processes related to water quality, and I have enjoyed the foray into the field of dissolved organic matter.

 What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

I am excited to be working in the field of photochemistry right now, because advances in LED technologies are opening up many new possibilities in water treatment. Whether it be retrofitting traditional UV disinfection systems or designing new advanced oxidation processes, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved with these new frontiers.

 In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

Regarding the field of photocatalysis, there has been an elephant in the room for a long time. Despite decades of research and promise, photocatalysts have found very few practical applications. I believe the most pressing question would be, ‘how can we solve the problem of radical diffusion limitations (and thereby poor Contact Time) in photocatalytic systems?’ Photocalytic systems will only find practical application in water treatment if a robust answer to this question is formulated.

 What do you find most challenging about your research?

I find that getting at the heart of any research question in the Environmental field requires extensive knowledge in other fields. At times, I feel I would need graduate degrees in materials science, analytical chemistry, and microbiology all at once to understand just one piece of the puzzle. Diving into literature outside my comfort zone is always challenging, humbling, and exhilarating.

 In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I will be in Orlando, FL for the American Chemical Society meeting in March/April, 2019. While I have not yet formalized my plans, I hope to attend the 2019 Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization conference with one of my graduate students.

How do you spend your spare time?

I enjoy spending time with my wife, with friends, and sometimes simply on my own for some introvert time. I tend to go with the flow in terms of recreation, but I particularly enjoy activities that challenge my mental and physical aptitude or simply involve peaceful time in nature. Basketball, Frisbee (ultimate and disc golf), fishing, hiking, and strategy games are all high on my list.

 Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I have a funny story here… When I was young, I always thought that I’d like to be a marine biologist. People always told me that there were too few jobs and they required so much school that I shouldn’t even bother trying. Ironically, I listened to that advice but then went on to jump through the equivalent academic hoops in environmental science & engineering. To answer the question: I probably would have followed my father’s footsteps and taken up computer programming.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Do not to put the cart before the horse, particularly with regard to academic metrics. During my brief time outside academia, I was encouraged to read a book called The 4 Disciplines of Execution, and I found one core concept to be profoundly meaningful: lag- versus lead-measures. Impact factors, publications, presentations, and the like are all measures of success that lag behind the daily work. Those are the metaphorical cart. The lead measures are the horse, and we have to bet on what kind of horse can pull the cart forward. My personal bet is that tenure and academic success will follow naturally if I can lead my research group towards answering meaningful scientific questions by making weekly, incremental steps and by embracing failures (aka the moments when learning happens). It’s easier to adjust a lead measure that isn’t generating progress than to forcibly move the lag measures.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Xian-Zheng Yuan

Xian-Zheng Yuan is a professor of environmental engineering in the School of Environmental Science & Engineering at Shandong University. He received his PhD from Qingdao Institute of BioEnergy & Bioprocess Technology (QIBEBT), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), MS from Research Center for Eco-Environmental Science, CAS, and BS from Shandong University. Before joining Shandong University, he worked in QIBEBT, CAS. His research group focus on anaerobic technology (e.g., chemical and molecular insights for emerging pollutants biodegradation) and environmental nanotechnology (e.g., micro- and nano-plastics in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems).

Read Professor Yuan’s Emerging Investigator article “Inhibition and recovery of anaerobic granular sludge performance in response to short-term polystyrene nanoparticle exposure” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on the inhibition and recovery of anaerobic granular sludge performance in response to short-term polystyrene nanoparticle exposure. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

As a graduate student, I published my first article on internal phosphorus control in the shallow lakes. I have shifted my research from drinking water to wastewater treatment during my doctoral studies. My current research is mainly on anaerobic biotechnology (e.g., chemical and molecular insights for emerging pollutants biodegradation) and environmental nanotechnology (e.g., micro- and nano-plastics in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems). So this Emerging Investigator Series paper focused on the response of anaerobic microbial community in wastewater to nanoplastics.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

Our self-developed on-line analyzer for total volatile fatty acids and early-warning system of anaerobic reactors have been equipped in a treatment plant of brewery wastewater.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

Anaerobic digestion, as a mature technology, has been widely used in the wastewater treatment plants for primary and secondary sludge stabilization and energy recovery. However, the fate of emerging pollutants during anaerobic digestion of sludge is largely unknown. Hence, we need to understand the behavior of emerging pollutants from chemical and molecular insights.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

The anaerobic digestion of sludge is a complex system. The response of microbial community for the emerging pollutants is the most challenging and most charming.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I will be attending the IWA Anaerobic Digestion Conference (Delft, Netherlands, 23th -27th, June, 2019).

How do you spend your spare time?

I enjoy spending my spare time with my wife and our six-year-old boy as much as possible. We enjoy outdoor activities as a family.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I might be a baker. The smell of freshly baked bread is out of this world.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Curiosity, passion, communication and cooperation.

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Emerging Investigator Series: Adam Smith

Dr. Adam L. Smith is an Assistant Professor in the Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Southern California. He received his M.S.E. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Environmental Engineering in 2011 and 2014, respectively. He received his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Marquette University in 2009. The Smith Research Group develops biotechnologies for resource recovery from waste streams.

Read Adam’s Emerging Investigator article “revisiting greenhouse gas mitigation from conventional activated sludge and anaerobic-based wastewater treatment systems and find out more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on greenhouse gas mitigation from conventional activated sludge and anaerobic-based wastewater treatment systems. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My first research endeavours focused on anaerobic membrane bioreactor development for domestic wastewater treatment at psychrophilic temperatures. Although that biotechnology still serves as the basis for many of my ongoing research projects, I have expanded my research portfolio by going deeper into understanding microbial ecology of anaerobic systems, infusing materials science principles to fabricate novel membranes, investigating bioelectrochemical systems compatible with mainstream anaerobic treatment, and exploring more contemporary issues such as greenhouse gas emissions and antibiotic resistance. I have also expanded from focusing exclusively on domestic wastewater to also investigating higher-strength waste streams (e.g., food waste, animal manure, and wastewater sludges).

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

I am most excited about our ongoing work investigating antibiotic resistance in mainstream anaerobic treatment systems. My collaborator Dr. Lauren Stadler at Rice University and I are characterizing resistance profiles during anaerobic membrane bioreactor treatment of domestic wastewater to evaluate correlations between influent antibiotic concentrations, understand dynamics of horizontal gene transfer, and establish operational protocols that limit resistance in effluents intended for reuse applications.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

Mainstream anaerobic treatment is an exciting research area that could drastically change how we manage wastewater. However, we still need to develop new energy-efficient membrane fouling control strategies and technologies that recover effluent dissolved methane. We also need a better mechanistic understanding of trace contaminant fate in these systems. Significant advancements in these areas are needed before anaerobic membrane bioreactors are ready for full-scale implementation.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Doing truly transformative research is always a challenge, and I know most of us cringe when we hear that word! It is all too easy to fall into a rhythm of incremental research that winds up as noise in our crowded field.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I will be attending the North American Membrane Society Conference, AEESP Conference, and IWA Anaerobic Digestion Conference this coming summer.

How do you spend your spare time?

I enjoy travelling, hiking, skiing, and playing with my munchkin cat Sprinkles Bodinkles.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

Astronaut! I went to Space Camp as a child and have been obsessed ever since. Maybe I will submit an application next time NASA is accepting them!

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Develop a diverse research portfolio that excites you. Do not be afraid to journey into new disciplines that are outside of your wheelhouse.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Yujie Men

We are delighted to introduce our latest Emerging Investigator, Yujie Men! 

Dr. Yujie Men joined the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as an Assistant Professor in March 2016. Before that, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Engineering Research Center for Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure at University of California, Berkeley, and a postdoctoral scientist at Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. She holds a B.S. and M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Tsinghua University, and earned her Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of California at Berkeley. Her research focuses on the development of sustainable biotechnologies for cleaner water and a safer and more sustainable environment, by advancing the fundamental knowledge of microbial metabolic diversities and microbe-microbe interactions in built and natural environments. She is a member of the International Society for Microbial Ecology, the American Society for Microbiology, the American Chemical Society and the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors.

Read Yujie’s Emerging Investigators article “Occurrence and fate of emerging organic contaminants in wastewater treatment plants with an enhanced nitrification step,” and find out more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on occurrence and fate of emerging organic contaminants in wastewater treatment plants. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My first article is on bioremediation of chloroethenes, which are traditional organic contaminants in subsurface areas. This Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on emerging organic contaminants in wastewater: their occurrence and transformation (mostly biological). No matter how the target pollutants change, from canonical to emerging ones and from anaerobic/anoxic subsurface environments to aerobic surface environments, my research goal remains the same: to obtain fundamental understanding of environmental microbial communities (physiological, molecular and ecological properties) and to apply to environmental biotechnologies solving real problems.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

I am most excited about my work on understanding interactions between environmental pollutants and the microbial communities they are exposed to. This includes how microbes transform/degrade the anthropogenic compounds and how the exposure to xenobiotic chemicals affect the metabolism of microorganisms.

In your opinion, what impact do you think this research will have on the development of wastewater treatment plants?

This research reveals important but limited roles of biological wastewater treatment steps (secondary treatment and the enhanced nitrification step) regarding the removal of emerging organic contaminants. Compounds recalcitrant to biotransformation were identified. Formation of incomplete transformation products and product-to-parent transformation were also observed. These findings suggest that advanced treatment of the residuals of emerging organic contaminants after biological treatment is needed in wastewater treatment plants for water reuse purposes, which require a significant reduction of dissolved organic carbon in the effluent.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

It is more and more challenging to find one single approach efficient enough to treat some emerging organic contaminants due to their persistence. A treatment train system combining physical, chemical and biological approaches would be needed to achieve effective separation and treatment.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I plan to attend ACS, ASM general meetings, and Gordon Research Conference in Applied and Environment Microbiology in 2019.

How do you spend your spare time?

I enjoy staying with my family and playing with my little one after work. If I still have extra time, I would go for Zumba and swimming. I hope I can go hiking with my family in a year or two when my little one grows bigger.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I would like to become a surgeon.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

A successful career is one you are fascinated about, one that makes you eager to learn more and persistent when facing hurdles, one that gives you a feeling of accomplishment and confidence, and one that never has a shortcut to reach.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Daisuke Minakata

We are delighted to introduce our latest Emerging Investigator, Daisuke Minakata!

Dr. Daisuke Minakata earned his Ph.D. in environmental engineering from Georgia Tech in 2010. He worked as a research engineer at the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable System at Georgia Tech for 3 and half years.  Then he became an Assistant Professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University in 2013. Dr. Minakata’s research interests include development of computational tools to predict the fate of various organic compounds in water and wastewater treatment technologies, including advanced oxidation and reverse osmosis membrane processes and engineered systems including in water distribution systems. Dr. Minakata also studies the nexus of food-energy-water to understand the interventions of sustainable technologies at household levels.

Read his Emerging Investigator article: “Ultraviolet and free chlorine aqueous-phase advanced oxidation process: kinetic simulations and experimental validation and find out more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on ultraviolet and free chlorine aqueous-phase advanced oxidation process. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

Predicting the fate of an organic compound and the degradation products in the aqueous-phase advanced oxidation process requires three components: (1) reaction pathways; (2) reaction rate constants; and (3) solving the ordinary differential equations of all species involved in the degradation. We previously developed linear free energy relationships to predict the chlorine radical reaction rate constants for various organic compounds. This study identified elementary reaction pathways of acetone degradation in UV/free chlorine advanced oxidation process using the quantum mechanical calculations and predicted the fate of the degradation products using the previously developed linear free energy relationships.  Our predicted fate was compared to the experiments we conducted and we validated our elementary reaction-based kinetic model. 

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

Couple ab initio and density functional theory quantum mechanical calculations with experimental measurements to predict the mechanistic fate of an organic compound and the degradation products in the aqueous phase advanced oxidation processes. With this approach, we can provide mechanistic insight into the degradation mechanisms and a comprehensive picture of radical-induced fate of organic compounds in complex aqueous phase advanced oxidation processes.

In your opinion, why is it important to understand the reaction mechanisms behind advanced oxidation processes and how does the model you have developed aid our understanding?

Understanding the elementary reaction mechanisms provides the most fundamental reaction pathways and kinetics and this information can be applied for many other products. It is not practical to study the degradation products of hundreds of organic compounds experimentally but understanding the most fundamental elementary reaction pathways and kinetics advances our ability to predict the fate of organic compounds in more comprehensive manners. 

What do you find most challenging about your research?

We have demonstrated our capability of predicting the fundamental elementary reaction pathways and kinetics for structurally simple organic compounds using ab initio and density functional theory quantum mechanical approaches. However, challenges remain in applying this approach for structurally more complex organic compounds because of numerous possible reaction pathways and difficulties in validating the predicted pathways and kinetics with the experiments. Also, predicting the fate of structurally diverse organic compounds requires a high throughput screening tool that will be developed based on the fundamental knowledge about the reaction pathways and kinetics discovered by both experiments and computational calculations. Combining the knowledge about the fate of organic compounds with toxicity to develop a comprehensive tool to predict the toxicity of degradation products is the ultimate challenge in this field.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

ACS National Meeting in Boston, Division of Environmental Chemistry, Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) session in August, 2018. I co-organize an AOP session with colleagues every year.

How do you spend your spare time?

I walk with our dog in nature.  

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I would run a bookstore/coffee shop, collecting a lot of history books and providing good quality of coffee.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Keep your mainstream research with you and focus on longer-term research goals.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Manish Kumar

We are delighted to introduce out latest Envrionmental Science: Water Research & Technology Emerging Investigator, Manish Kumar! 

Manish Kumar is an associate professor of Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering at Penn State University. He received his bachelors degree from the National Institute of Technology in Trichy, India in Chemical Engineering. He completed an MS in Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois, and then worked for approximately seven years in the consulting industry on applied research projects (lab, pilot, and full scale) on various technologies for water and wastewater treatment. Manish returned to Illinois to complete a PhD in the area of biomimetic membranes and then conducted postdoctoral research at the Harvard Medical School on the structure of water channel proteins, aquaporins, using cryo-electron microscopy. His current work focuses on adapting molecular scale ideas from biology and materials science for use in sustainable water and wastewater treatment. He has received the US National Science Foundation CAREER award and the Della and Rustom Roy award for outstanding materials research. His independent academic career has resulted in approximately 50 publications so far.

Read Manish’s Emerging Investigators article ‘Prospects and challenges for high-pressure reverse osmosis in minimizing concentrated waste streams’ and find out more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on high-pressure reverse osmosis. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My first paper was on pre-treatment strategies for seawater reverse osmosis utilizing a combination of bench scale and pilot scale studies back when I worked in industry. I have since worked on various aspects of reverse osmosis membrane fouling and new materials development using biomimetic strategies. The current paper has evolved out of our interest in treating high salinity brines, something that I also worked on during my industrial career and have not really focused on much since.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

I am most excited about developing channel-based alternatives (both based on artificial and biological channels) to current reverse osmosis and nanofiltration membranes.

In your opinion, what is the biggest advantage of using reverse osmosis for concentrated waste streams over traditional methods?

The biggest advantage is perhaps the high energy efficiency followed by the ease of implementation for reverse osmosis compared to current thermal processes.  Even though thermal processes in some form may be required to achieve zero liquid discharge but, hopefully, by combining high pressure reverse osmosis with these traditional methods the overall energy efficiency can be greatly improved

What do you find most challenging about your research?

The multidisciplinary aspect of it and the constant feeling that there is so much more to learn – this is perhaps also the most exciting part of it.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I am chairing the Gordon Research Conference on Membranes this year (New London, NH, USA 12th to 17thAugust, 2018) and am the deputy chair for a Faraday Discussions meeting on Artificial Water Channels (Glasgow, UK, 25th -27th June, 2018). I will also be attending the American Institute of Chemical Engineers meeting in Pittsburgh in November. My favorite conference to attend is the AEESP conference, which is organized every two years. I am looking forward to the AEESP conference in Phoenix in 2019.

How do you spend your spare time?

I enjoy spending my spare time with my family. We enjoy exercising, traveling, and reading as a family.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I would have loved to be a writer (even though I struggle with writing papers on a day to day basis).

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

I would recommend collaborating strategically with people from different fields and developing your own unique “research brand”.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Jingyun Fang

We are delighted to introduce out latest Envrionmental Science: Water Research & Technology Emerging Investigator Jingyun Fang! 

Jingyun Fang is now an associate professor at the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Sun Yat-sen University. She received B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Municipal Engineering from Harbin Institute University. She was a postdoctoral fellow, working with Prof. Chii Shang at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology from 2010 to 2012. Her research focuses on advanced oxidation processes in water treatment: kinetics and mechanisms of degradation of micropollutants and formation of disinfection by-products.

Read Jingyun’s Emerging Investigators article ‘Comparative study of naproxen degradation by the UV/chlorine and UV/H2O2 advanced oxidation processes’ and find out more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on naproxen degradation by UV/chlorine and UV/H2O2 advanced oxidation processes. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article? 

My first research article was on the formation of disinfection byproducts from algae containing water during my PhD study. My current paper is on the control of emerging contaminants by advanced oxidation processes. So, over the years, the focus of my research has shifted from disinfection byproducts to advanced oxidation processes in water treatment. I am fascinated by the performance of some free radicals in water treatment, particularly for some newly identified radicals such as halogen radicals, sulfate radicals and carbonate radicals.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment? 

I am most excited about exploring new radicals formed in engineering and natural aquatic systems with the ultimate goal of discovering their potential in promoting water sustainability.

In your opinion, which of the two advanced oxidation processes studied was the most effective at degrading naproxen? 

For kinetics, the UV/chlorine process is much more effective at degrading naproxen than the UV/H2O2 process, due to the good reactivity of naproxen with reactive chlorine species (RCS) produced in UV/chlorine. RCS are more selective than hydroxyl radicals (HO•), thus the efficiency UV/chlorine process to the degradation of different pollutants are compound specific. Meanwhile, the formation of toxic halogenated byproducts and toxicity alternation induced by RCS during UV/chlorine should be further assessed.

What do you find most challenging about your research? 

The most challenging aspect of my research is the combination of laboratory experiments and computer-based modeling to identify the roles of primary and secondary radicals in different advanced oxidation processes, as the databases for the reactivity of some newly identified radicals with emerging contaminants or water matrix components are not available.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you? 

I will be at the upcoming American Chemical Society National Meeting held in Boston, MA on August 17-18, 2018. Also, I usually attend IWA events.

How do you spend your spare time?

I enjoy spending time with my spouse and our one-year-old boy and twin girls. If there is still time, I enjoy reading, playing yoga and walking.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist? 

If I am not a scientist, I think I might enjoy being a chef. I love cooking and sharing food with friends. Nevertheless, being a scientist is much better as there are a lot of unknowns and it is fun.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists? 

Being able to enjoy the research that you are doing, working hard and being persistent will eventually bring you what you dream.

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Emerging Investigators Series – Greg LeFevre

We are delighted to introduce out latest Envrionmental Science: Water Research & Technology Emerging Investigator, Greg LeFevre!

 

Greg LeFevre is an assistant professor of environmental engineering and science in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa and an assistant faculty research engineer at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering. He did his BS at Michigan Tech, MS/PhD at University of Minnesota, and postdoc at Stanford University, all in environmental engineering. The focus of his research group is elucidating novel biotransformation products and pathways of emerging contaminants to inform improved design of engineered natural treatment systems for non-point pollutants. Much of Greg’s work has been dedicated to improving bioretention stormwater green infrastructure.

Read Greg’s Emerging Investigators Series paper “the role of vegetation in bioretention for stormwater treatment in the built environment: pollutant removal, hydrologic function, and ancillary benefits” and find out more about him in the interview below:

 

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on the role of vegetation in bioretention for stormwater treatment in the built environment. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

In some ways, this article has threads that connect my graduate research, my postdoc work, and some elements of my lab’s current research. During my PhD at the University of Minnesota, I studied the fate and biodegradation of hydrocarbons in stormwater bioretention cells and discovered that plants played a critical role in facilitating removal. During my postdoc at Stanford with ReNUWIt, I studied large-scale stormwater capture-treatment-recharge systems for aquifer replenishment in arid regions and also the uptake of trace organic contaminants by plants when recycled water is used for irrigation, including the elucidation of novel metabolites following plant uptake. I have fused these experiences together in my new lab at the University of Iowa where we focus on discovering the biotransformation products and pathways of emerging organic contaminants to inform improvements to low-energy engineered natural treatment systems, including bioretention and other practices to capture and degrade non-point pollutants. One aspect that has certainly evolved has been my focus on elucidating pollutant transformation products rather than simply classifying contaminants as having “degraded.”

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

There are two aspects that greatly excite me at the moment. First, innovations in analytical tools (especially high res mass spectrometry) are allowing us to discover novel transformation products at an unprecedented pace in plants (including food crops) and water. Second, I’m really interested in coupling biotransformation with innovations in materials to create novel infiltration media for stormwater systems that capture and degrade trace organic contaminants.

In your opinion, what is the biggest environmental impact presented by stormwater in the urban environment?

Stormwater disrupts nearly every aspect of hydrologic processes and has severe impacts to water quantity and quality. The most well-known impacts relate to flooding and sediment/nutrient flux to receiving water bodies. I think one of the most underappreciated aspects of stormwater impacts is the rapid transport of trace organic contaminants from highly diffuse sources that, collectively, exert pressures on biota in water ways.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

The suite of trace organic contaminants in stormwater is constantly evolving as, for example, new pesticides get phased in/out, additives to vehicles evolve, or biocides are added to building materials that leach into stormwater. The non-point nature of stormwater makes everything a challenge (accurate field measurements not the least of which!). Of course, the big important ‘so-what’ questions regarding the ecotoxicological impacts of these compounds and complex mixtures are a major challenge, and that is where we love to collaborate with experts in the tox field.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I am typically at ACS, the GRC Environmental Sciences: Water, AEESP, Emerging Contaminants (when it’s in the US), and sometimes SETAC. This year I was invited to participate in the NAE Frontiers workshop in Japan.

How do you spend your spare time?

I have an 11-month-old baby, so ‘spare time’ is trying to be with her as much as possible. I try to get outside as much as possible into wild areas; this is why I went into environmental work. Fortunately, our baby loves hikes!

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

Honestly, I never really thought of being anything but scientist. I knew that I wanted to be an environmental scientist from early in grade school. My family participated in restoration ecology volunteer work at a local NGO every week for as long as I can remember (I got my ten-year service award at age 14, har har) and we had a restored prairie for our yard. The only question in my mind was what kind of environmental scientist. Aldo Leopold also has always been a strong role model, as an academic scientist, writer, natural philosopher, and land steward.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Work on important problems and don’t lose sight of why you are here.

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Emerging Investigators Series – Takahiro Fujioka

 

Takahiro Fujioka received his B.Eng. in 2000 and M.Eng. in 2002 both in Chemical Engineering from Hiroshima University, Japan. He worked as a project manager at Fuji Electric Systems Co. Ltd. from 2002 to 2005. He undertook postgraduate training in Water Supply Engineering at UNESCO-IHE, Netherlands and graduated in April 2009. Thereafter, he worked as a project engineer at Mitsubishi Electric Co. until December 2010. From December 2010 to December 2013, Takahiro undertook a Ph.D. training project at the University of Wollongong, Australia. From December 2013 to April 2015, Takahiro worked as a research fellow at the University of Wollongong. In addition, he served as the secretary and a board member of the Membrane Society of Australasia from May 2013 to May 2015.

Takahiro is currently an Associate Professor at Nagasaki University. His research interests centre on water reuse using membrane technologies. He has published 34 international journal papers.

Read Takahiro’s Emerging Investigators paper “A steric pore-flow model to predict the transport of small and uncharged solutes through a reverse osmosis membrane” and find out more about him in the interview below:

 

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