Emerging Investigator Series: Christy Remucal

Christina Remucal is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she focuses on aquatic chemistry. She is also affiliated with several interdisciplinary programs, including Environmental Chemistry and Technology, Freshwater and Marine Science, and Molecular and Environmental Toxicology. Dr. Remucal holds a BS (2003) in Environmental Engineering and Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MS (2004) and PhD (2009) in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. She completed her postdoctoral research in the Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics at the Swiss

Read Christy’s Emerging Investigators article ‘the efficacy of chlorine photolysis as an advanced oxidation process for drinking water treatment.’

– How has your research evolved from your first to your most recent article?
My first paper came out of my undergraduate research on solar water disinfection. I then studied the production of reactive oxidants by zero-valent iron nanoparticles as a graduate student and returned to photochemistry as a post-doc. My current research focuses on the formation and fate of reactive oxidants that are capable of degrading contaminants in both natural systems and in engineered systems (as discussed in this article). While I’ve worked in different systems, my research has always aimed at developing ways to clean water.

– What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?
My group is doing a lot of work characterizing the composition and reactivity of dissolved organic matter (DOM). DOM is present in all waters and is important for drinking water because it leads to the formation of disinfection by-products. It also plays a role in the indirect photodegradation of many contaminants in sunlit natural waters. I am excited about DOM because it is a really challenging problem, but also is very important for water quality.

– What do you see as the biggest challenge in drinking water?
Challenges in drinking water are related to both the quantity and quality of water resources. We only have a limited amount of available freshwater, but the stress on this resource is increasing due to a growing population. As a result, we are turning to lower quality water sources to meet our needs. We are also increasingly aware of the presence of emerging contaminants in our water, including pharmaceuticals and personal care products. While some of the solutions to these issues are technological, we also need to work on the social  and political aspects to meet our growing demand for water.

– You identified several gaps in knowledge of the chemistry of chlorine photolysis, what do you think is the biggest priority for future research?
A better understanding of the transformation of dissolved organic matter and the formation of disinfection by-products (DBPs) during chlorine photolysis is clearly needed. The data on this topic is limited and there is no consensus in the current literature about whether the treatment approach increases or decreases DBPs. Chlorine photolysis is a promising drinking water treatment approach to improve inactivation of pathogens and remove organic contaminants, but we need to know more about DBP formation in order to safely apply it.

– In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?
I am attending the Gordon Research Conference on Environmental Sciences: Water this summer, and will be at the spring ACS meeting in San Francisco in 2017 – How do you spend your spare time? Nearly all of my free time is spent with my family, including my daughter (5 years) and son (2 years). They are a lot of fun, and I really enjoy watching them learn about the world around them. Outside of that, I enjoy skiing, playing ultimate frisbee, and cooking.

– Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?
I have always loved science, even as a middle school student working on my first science fair project. If I had not gone into science, I would have pursued a career in medicine

– Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?
Work on something you are really excited about. Research has its ups and downs, and being passionate about what you do helps you stay motivated and get through challenges.

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