Archive for the ‘Emerging Investigators’ Category

Emerging Investigator Series – Changseok Han

Dr. Changseok Han is currently an Assistant Professor in Department of Environmental Engineering at the INHA University, Korea. He earned his B.S. and M.S. in Department of Environmental Engineering at Yeungnam University, Korea, in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Dr. Han achieved his Ph.D in Environmental Science and Engineering program, Department of Biomedical, Chemical, and Environmental Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, USA in 2014. He received the ORISE Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from 2014 to 2018 to work at The Office of Research and Development at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), Cincinnati, OH, USA (Now, it is the Center for Environmental Solutions and Emergency Response (CESER)). Dr. Han has published more than 70 scientific papers (H-index of 31) in high impact journals, including Environmental Science & Technology, Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, Chemical Engineering Journal, Chemical Communications, Environmental Science: Nano, and Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology.

His research interests are (i) Water treatment using advanced oxidation processes, (ii) Environmental nanotechnologies, (iii) Environmental chemistry, (iv) Treatment/sensing of algal toxins in surface waters, (v) Green chemistry, (vi) Nutrient recovery using nanotechnology in surface water and wastewater, (vii) Fate and transport of nanomaterials from commercial products in the environment and (viii) Formation and release of microplastics from polymer-nanomaterial composites by environmental aging. Currently, he is focusing on the development of innovative technologies for monitoring and removal of microplastics in the environment.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “Emerging investigator series: Quaternary treatment with algae-assisted oxidation for antibiotics removal and refractory organics degradation in livestock wastewater effluent” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on Quaternary treatment with algae-assisted oxidation for antibiotics removal and refractory organics degradation in livestock wastewater effluent. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

I have been extensively studied “Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOPs) for Environmental Remediation” since I entered into “Research World” to pursue my Master degree. Even though my knowledge and experience of AOPs are still being updated and expanded, most of them were obtained during my Ph.D. However, most of my research focused on very fundamental and scientific aspects of environmental engineering and science so I was eager to use them for solving real environmental problems, in particular, regional issues.

For this paper, my expertise in AOPs was used to take care of regional environmental issues of the presence of antibiotics in surface waterbodies. As known, an ample amount of antibiotics is commonly used to control livestock diseases but treated livestock wastewater by conventional wastewater treatment processes still contains significant amounts of antibiotics. Therefore, antibiotics in the treated wastewater directly enter into surface water, which can cause not only adverse effects on the health of humans, animals and ecosystems but also, an explosion of antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes. To discharge safe treated wastewater to surface waterbodies, further treatment, known as “Quaternary treatment”, is extensively required. An AOP is successfully used as the combination of algal treatment and subsequent oxidation for the improvement of antibiotics removal and refractory organics degradation in the effluent of livestock wastewater treatment processes. I am very excited to practically start applying AOPs to solve new real environmental problems in Korea as well as in the world.

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

Currently, we are facing “Microplastics problems” over the world even though their toxicity is still controversial. At the moment, I am interested in developing reliable technologies for decomposing microplastics in the environment. I believe that AOPs could be promising technologies to degrade them in the environment.

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

The investigation of degradation mechanism of antibiotics by the combination of algal treatment with AOPs and subsequent oxidation will be important but very challenging. Due to the presence of many antibiotics with different trace levels in livestock wastewater effluents, not all reaction intermediates produced during the treatment could effectively identified. Much effort to understand the degradation mechanisms and pathways must be put for the development of reliable treatment technologies to protect the health of humans, animals and the ecosystem.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Among AOPs, I am extensively developing highly effective catalysts to decompose water contaminants of emerging concern in wastewater and sources of drinking water supplies. Therefore, their practical applicability in treatments processes is the most challenging since additional treatment processes may be required. Also, for practical, the scalability of AOPs and the mass production of catalysts at industrial level are significant challenging at all times.

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

Hopefully, I would like to attend ACS meetings when we are free from COVID-19.

How do you spend your spare time?

I usually spend my spare time with my family. I also like listening to music and playing soccer.

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

I might be a soccer player. I was a soccer-crazy boy when I was a child.

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

Keep exploring black boxes, be patient and be yourself.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Xiaocheng Jiang

Xiaocheng Jiang is the John A. and Dorothy M. Adams Faculty Development Assistant Professor at Tufts University. He received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Harvard University in 2011. Prior to joining Tufts, he was an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. He is the recipient of NSF CAREER award (2017) and AFOSR young investigator award (2018). His lab is interested in exploring the unique physics and chemistry at the interface between living and artificial systems, with top priorities on (1) developing  bio-integratable platforms for probing, interrogating, and directing biologically significant processes; and (2) pursuing bio-derived materials and bio-inspired approaches for applications in energy harvest/storage, chemical sensing, and water treatment.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “Emerging investigator series: Emerging biotechnologies in wastewater treatment: from biomolecular engineering to multiscale integration” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on emerging biotechnologies for wastewater treatment. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

I was initially trained as a chemist working at materials/biological interfaces. My lab has specific interest in bio-inspired systems and approaches for various engineering applications. This frontier review article reflects our latest effort on biologically enabled solutions for water research.

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

I am extremely excited about the unique capability of engineered biosystems in environmental science, particularly for wastewater treatment. The possibility to design and program the bio-processors from the bottom up to enhance the treatment performance is simply amazing.

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

Some of the most important questions (to bioengineers) include: what’s the fundamental limits and structure-function relationships that determine the overall performance; how to rationally design and construct these systems at meaningful biological length scales to implement efficient water treatment; etc.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Most of our research effort to date has been under laboratory conditions. The translational application of engineered biosystems in real, complex environment, as well as their long-term ecological impact is yet to be critically examined.

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

I usually attend the annual MRS, ACS and BMES conferences. Looking forward to meeting and discussing with other colleagues/potential collaborators about the exciting opportunities in this highly interdisciplinary field.

How do you spend your spare time?

Reading, music, sports, photography.

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

I am very passionate about photography. I could have become a photographer (or at least a photogear collector) if not in academia.

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

While I don’t see myself qualified to share advice/wisdom yet, I did learn a lot from my former advisors about the importance of always staying open-minded to fearlessly pursue important scientific questions that truly excite you (vs. the “safest” or “fundable” ones).

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Emerging Investigator Series – Chu Wenhai

Dr. Chu Wenhai is currently a professor of  College of Environmental Science and Engineering at Tongji University. Dr. Chu’s research is mainly focused on the identification, formation, and control of disinfection by-products (DBPs) in drinking water. As project leader, he presided over 10 national scientific research projects and National Natural Science Foundation research projects about drinking water treatments and DBPs. He obtained 15 authorized national invention patents, some of which have been  applied successfully in large-scale water utilities in China. Dr. Chu and his team have published more than 100 SCI articles in leading journals (H index=29 with over 3000 citations). Moreover, he was elected to National Ministry of Environmental Protection Youth Top Talent Program, Shanghai Youth Top Talent Program, Shanghai Youth Science Technology Topstar  Program, and Tongji University Youth 100 Program. He is the secretary general of IWA Disinfection Professional Committee and the member of IWA China Youth Committee. He is also contributing as an editor to SCI journals such as Journal of Water Supply: Research and Technology-AQUA(associate editor);Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology (ESWRT) (guest editor). He was also the recipient of  the “National Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Nomination Award”, “Shanghai Graduate Outstanding Achievement Award”, “Shanghai Science and Technology Progress First Prize”, “Shanghai Science and Technology Progress Second Prize” and “China International Industrial Expo Bronze Award”.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “Emerging investigator series: Formation of brominated-haloacetamides from trihalomethanes during zero valent iron reduction and subsequent booster chlorination in drinking water distribution” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on Formation of brominated-haloacetamides from trihalomethanes during zero valent iron reduction and subsequent booster chlorination in drinking water distribution. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

Actually, my first SCI paper in Ph. D. was about DBPs. I started my Ph.D. in 2007, and was employed as a professor in Tongji University since 2016. I was dedicated to DBP research during the decade and published over 100 SCI paper till now. Under the support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the National Major Science and Technology Project, I have long sought to explore the identification, formation and control of DBPs, putting forward innovative theories and inventing comprehensive control methods of DBPs.

Despite DBPs have been studied extensively for decades, little knowledge is available regarding the formation of DBP during water distribution. Surprisingly, we found interesting reactions in the scenario of booster chlorination, which drives us to conduct the recent study. Also, DBP formation in wastewater collection system should also be concerned because a lot of disinfectants were used and discharged into wastewater collection system during the COVID-19 epidemic.

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

The most exciting thing to me is to applied research results to water engineering and industry. Some analytical methods we developed has applied successfully in Chinese water utilities and testing centers; DBP control technologies we invented are efficiently in improving water quality and are playing a role in dozens of large-scale waterworks with the capability up to 10,000,000 cubic meters per day, serving for tens of millions of people. As one of the constitutors, I was engaged in the establishment of DBP guidelines and regulations, including the first drinking water standard and the first N-DBPs local regulation, which is also very thrilling and delightful to me.

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

What’s the most important toxicity mechanism of DBPs? Which DBPs are most harmful in drinking water? To what extent DBP formed in disinfected wastewater can affect aquatic ecosystem? Which DBPs are most important in coming decades and supposed to be regulated?  What kind of DBP regulation are both efficient and economic?

What do you find most challenging about your research?

The underling mechanism between water quality and health, including drinking water versus human health and wastewater versus ecological health.

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

The 13th IWA International Conference or Gordon conference on disinfection and oxidation.

How do you spend your spare time?

I spend most of my spare time reading research articles and discussing with students. I enjoy playing soccer with a bunch of colleagues and friends. I also spend some quality time with my family.

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

Doctor.  Saving lives is the duty of doctors. Likely, we are doctors for water, coming up with different therapies for ill water varying symptoms. Our mission is to provide people safer, healthier and higher quality water

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

Concentrate on one thing and believe it.

Focus and dedication are codes for career success. Never give up!

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Emerging Investigator Series – Roland Cusick

Roland D. Cusick is currently an assistant professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He earned his B.S. in Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Riverside (2005), and holds an M.S. (2010) and Ph.D. (2013) in Environmental Engineering, both from the Pennsylvania State University. Roland has published 33 scientific papers (H-index of 21) in high impact journals such as Science, Energy and Environmental Science, and Environmental Science & Technology. The primary research areas of Dr. Cusick’s lab at UIUC include: (i) Electrochemical separations with energy storage materials- materials, process modeling, and systems analysis; (ii) Kinetic process modeling of nutrient recovery from wastewater and grain processing facilities; and (iii) Bio-electrochemical sensing for wastewater treatment system optimization.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “capacitive deionization for selective removal of nitrate and perchlorate: impacts of ion selectivity and operating constraints on treatment costs” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Seriespaper focuses on capacitive deionization for selective removal of nitrate and perchlorate: impacts of ion selectivity and operating constraints on treatment costs. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My work has evolved quite a bit since the first two papers I published as an undergraduate. A primary motivation for pursuing an Environmental Engineering degree came from growing up in Los Angeles in the 80’s and 90’s where we regularly couldn’t play on the playground due to high ozone levels. As a junior at the University of California, Riverside, I was fortunate to work with Janey Arey and Roger Atkinson on gas phase reactions redox reactions of organic compounds in the presence of ozone and hydroxyl radicals. I am eternally grateful to these two for encouraging my interest in research and entrusting me with my own projects. While I really loved the solitude and tactile experience of experimental work, I didn’t feel enough passionate for the topic to pursue a PhD in that field of research.

Following the completion of my BS, I spent a couple of years working as an environmental consultant. The experience of managing energy intensive soil and groundwater remediation technologies motivated me to pursue a career focused on resource recovery from waste. I spent five years working with Professor Bruce Logan at Penn State University to develop microbial electrochemical technologies for energy, nutrient, and heat recovery. My graduate research highlighted the need for process modeling and systems analysis of novel treatment technologies.

As an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I have been driven to establish a balance between experimental work with novel materials and systems analysis to guide future research and development. The paper we published as a part of this Emerging Investigator series strikes this balance well by connecting an ion-selective capacitive deionization process model to life-cycle treatment costs for two oxyanion pollutants.

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

I’m very excited by our work that connects the first principles of pollutant removal and resource recovery to cost. We are pursuing these lines of research in both electrochemical separations and nutrient recovery from wastewater.

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

In the field of electrochemical separations, I think the most important questions to ask and answer are: (i) what pollutant characteristics create a competitive advantage for electrochemical separations, (ii) what materials exist or can be developed to selectively remove pollutants and extend system lifetime? And (iii) how do we most effectively integrate these technologies with intermittent renewable energy systems?

What do you find most challenging about your research?

I have found it challenging to balance a strong desire for collaboration with the need to develop independence and as principle investigator.

 In which upcoming conferencesor events may our readers meet you?

Given the novel coronavirus pandemic, I am not sure when I will resume attendance of in-person conferences but in the past I have attended meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC), and the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP). I’d also like to plug the fourth Capacitive Deionization & Electrosorption Conference (https://www.cdie2021.com/) I am organizing alongside my colleagues Marta Hatzell and Xiao Su which will be held at Georgia Tech in May of 2021.

How do you spend your spare time?

I have two small children so most of my free time is spent caring for them. Brief solitary moments are spent practicing yoga and skateboarding.

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

Most of my early adolescence was spent trying to become a professional skateboarder but I wasn’t good enough to make a living at it! Before deciding to pursue graduate school, I considered culinary school because I really enjoyed working in commercial kitchens. I still get to cook for those I love and skateboard in my free time and things have worked out pretty well so far with research so I’m comfortable with my choices. A more practical answer is I would likely be working for a water technology start-up or a wastewater utility.

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

One thing I have learned is to not take negative feedback personally. When a response to your work, be it from your supervisor, reviewers, or colleagues, is over the top with negativity, that is an indication of how that person feels about themselves and not a reflection of the quality of your work or your worth as a scientist. Academia is filled with large and overly sensitive egos so keep that in mind as you navigate this institution. Pick out the constructive pieces and keep it moving.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Seungdae Oh

Seungdae Oh is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Kyung Hee University. Prior to joining KHU, he was an assistant professor (2015–2017) in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and a postdoctoral research associate at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received his PhD from Georgia Institute of Technology, after obtaining his BS from Chung Ang University and MS from KAIST in Korea, respectively.

He is interested in diverse aspects of environmental microbiology and biotechnology. Recent interests include fate, risk, and abatement of micropollutants, antibiotic resistance, and infectious pathogens in urban water cycles and advanced biological treatment of water and waste streams.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “activated sludge upon antibiotic shock loading: mechanistic description of functional stability and microbial community dynamics” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on activated sludge upon antibiotic shock loading: mechanistic description of functional stability and microbial community dynamics. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My master’s study involved process optimization of anaerobic sludge systems treating organic wastes. One day, I happened to look at tiny microbes swimming in the sludge through a microscope, which fascinated/led me to be more interested in microbial communities and their life. I could learn about ecology and develop genomic/bioinformatic techniques for characterizing diverse microbial communities during my PhD/postdoctoral works. Those fundamentals/techniques (and still with a microscope) help our laboratory explore microbes in sludge and various environments

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

I’m excited when I find out the role of a microbe in the environment one-by-one. The more excited is that there are countless to be characterized.

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

Water can be circulated via closed loops in urban cities, from toilet to tap. Since microbes/viruses (harmful or beneficial) are always carried with water, it would be interesting to address how they travel, whether they matter for health, and what affects their traveling.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Training students is challenging but worthwhile.

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

No plan due to the pandemic. Conferences I often attend include IWA, ASM Microbe and ISME.

How do you spend your spare time?

Spending time with my family. We enjoy going to parks/playgrounds and travel over the country.

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

If I had to pick, maybe performing art? I participated in a school theater club and performed acting in a play. I didn’t do well but surely enjoyed.

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

Work hard but not to the extent disturbing the family.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Noémie Elgrishi

Noémie Elgrishi is an assistant professor in the Chemistry Department at Louisiana State University. She began her higher education in Paris at École Normale Supérieure and Université Pierre et Marie Curie – Paris VI. During her Master’s degree she studied host-guest chemistry with Johnathan Nitschke at the University of Cambridge and energy storage with Daniel Nocera at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Next, she completed her PhD on electrocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide under the guidance of Marc Fontecave in Collège de France in Paris. She then pursued postdoctoral studies under the mentorship of Jillian Dempsey at UNC-Chapel Hill, which focused on mechanistic investigations of proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET) processes.

Read her Emerging Investigator article “Carbon Electrodes are Effective for the Detection and Reduction of Hexavalent Chromium in Water” and read more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on Carbon Electrodes for the Detection and Reduction of Hexavalent Chromium in Water. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My background is in chemistry for environmental and energy-related challenges. A key aspect of the research is focused on understanding the fundamental processes that underpin the key transformations. These transformations all rely on the movement of protons and electrons in either a stepwise or concerted fashion. These processes are, for example, central to the chemistry of catalytic mechanisms for energy storage. My first paper as a first author was on photocatalytic H-X splitting with a focus on enhancing the stability of catalysts. This work was in the lab of Dan Nocera, at MIT at the time. This theme stayed with me throughout my PhD in Paris with Marc Fontecave. I was then exploring the mechanism of simple complexes for electrocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide. The focus was on strategies to both control the competition between the production of hydrogen and of carbon containing fuels and orient the stability of the catalysts. These reactions all rely on understanding the detailed mechanisms of the chemical transformation, in particular the movements of protons and electrons (Proton Coupled electron transfer, or PCET). I continued this thread as a postdoctoral researcher at UNC-Chapel Hill under the mentorship of Jillian Dempsey.

It occurred to me that PCET reactions are central to much more than energy storage. As I started my independent career, I decided to expand beyond 2-electron/2-proton processes and explore how these reactions could impact the chemistry of oxyanions, in particular for water purification. This led me to study the electrochemistry of hexavalent chromium in water, as the fundamental challenge is the reduction of Cr(VI) to Cr(III) in an energy efficient manner. This relies on facilitating the movement of protons and electrons in PCET transformations. In this new paper, my group explores the reactivity in the absence of catalysts, and demonstrates that carbon electrodes are effective for both the detection and the reduction of Cr(VI). We identify a key rate limiting PCET step across a wide range of conditions, and we are looking forward to developing catalysts for these transformations.

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

My lab currently focuses on several projects related to energy and the environment. Parts of my lab are exploring how to use confinement of molecular catalysts to improve stability for sustainability. We are also exploring ways to encapsulate and selectively degrade emerging contaminants, as well as how solvent interactions shape the properties of ions in solution. All these projects rely on understanding PCET and non-covalent interactions.

For water purification, I am excited to explore electrochemical methods to control PCET processes in the reduction or oxidation of oxyanions. Oxyanions are a large class of polyatomic ions which impact our water. We can think of nitrite, nitrates, phosphate, sulfate from agriculture for example, or arsenate, pertechnetate, and, of course, chromate.

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

I truly believe that to advance beyond making observations of higher efficacy/activity/selectivity, we need to focus on understanding the mechanisms of underlying transformation. In particular, for hexavalent chromium reduction in water, I believe that understanding the mechanisms of the PCET processes involved is the key to cheaper and more effective water purification technologies. Shifting away from a concern about IF things happen and towards HOW things happen is a difficult but exciting task! In general, I think recognizing the strong influence of acid specificity, beyond simply the solution pH, will have a huge impact of the understanding of PCET in water.

The understanding of the fundamental steps will allow the development of catalysts for these transformations, mimicking the development of energy storing catalytic cycles, with a goal of highly active, selective and long-lasting catalysts for functionalized electrodes.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

When considering the chemistry of oxyanions in water, especially for chromate, the speciation is highly sensitive to conditions. This leads to challenges in measuring accurate thermodynamic data. As a result, a lot of the fundamental numbers and constants are not yet fully fixed in the literature.

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

This is a tough one with Covid-19. If the conferences are not cancelled, I will be at the Fall ACS in San Francisco in August 2020 as part of the GSSPC symposium Pushing the Boundaries: Women Scientists Catalyzing Change. I am also looking forward to the 2020 Joint SE-SW Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans in October where I will be organizing a symposium on Energy and the Environment. Whether or not the current situation is under control enough for these conferences to meet in safe conditions is another question!

How do you spend your spare time?

I spend time cooking and I enjoy walking. The LSU campus is fantastic for walking, and I am still amazed by the wonderful live oak trees everywhere.

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

It is hard to imagine a career not related to science at all. I used to really enjoy learning new languages, so probably a translator.

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

Read broadly and attend talks/seminars outside your field. It helps to make new connections between ideas and gain new perspectives.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Biplob Pramanik

Dr Biplob Pramanik is a Lecturer in the Civil & Infrastructure Engineering Discipline and member of Water: Effective Technologies and Tools (WETT) Research Centre at RMIT University, Australia. Before joining RMIT, he worked at LaTrobe University, Australia as a Lecturer and the University of Wollongong as a Vice-Chancellor Postdoctoral Research Fellow between Jan 2017 and Jan 2019. Biplob obtained his PhD degree from RMIT University in 2016. His research focuses on the development of a technology platform for simultaneous recovery of water, energy and resources from wastewater. His research also focuses on the fate of road dust associated emerging pollutants in stormwater.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “Phosphorus recovery from municipal wastewater by adsorption on steelmaking slag preceding forward osmosis: an integrated process” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on Phosphorus recovery from municipal wastewater by adsorption on steelmaking slag preceding forward osmosis: an integrated process. How has your research  evolved from your first article to this most recent article.

My first paper was on understanding the fate of perfluorinated chemicals in the water environment. Since then I have been focusing on the development of a separation-based technological platform (i.e., adsorption and membrane separation) for removing pollutants and resource recovery (e.g., phosphorus and lithium) from different water sources. This Emerging Investigator Series paper proposed a combined adsorption-membrane process can effectively remove, and thus recover, phosphorus from municipal wastewater. This article will further advance the separation-based technologies for water treatment and resource recovery.

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

My current work focuses on performing mapping (identify, classify and quantify) of the microplastics present in different water sources. At this stage, I am most excited about understanding the fate of road dust associated microplastics in stormwater. We identified the presence of microplastics in Australian road dust and stormwater. We plan to develop a simple flotation process to remove microplastics from stormwater before they are discharged into open waterways.

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

Dissolved air flotation is widely used for removal of suspended and colloidal solids from municipal wastewater and industrial wastewater. However, the fate of microplastics during flotation process is largely unknown. Hence, we need to understand the major kinetics of the interactions between air bubbles and microplastics in the flotation system.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Identifying different types of microplastics is one of the most challenging in my current research.

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

I do not have any plan to travel this year due to COVID19. But I will be attending virtual conference (Challenges in Environmental Science and Engineering) on 7-8 November 2020. I will attend IWA Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater in 2021.

How do you spend your spare time?

I enjoy spending my spare time with my wife. We watch movie together. I usually talk to my parents and relatives.

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

I would like to become a school teacher, more particularly math teacher.

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

I would advise to early career researcher for collaborating strategically with people from diverse research portfolio and developing your own research strength.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Andrea Achilli

Andrea Achilli is an Assistant Professor in the Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Arizona (UA) and affiliated faculty at the UA Water and Energy Sustainable Technology (WEST) Center. His main fields of research are membrane processes for desalination and water reuse, including membrane distillation and energy recovery. Additional research focuses on process integration, modelling, and optimization for water and wastewater treatments. Dr. Achilli is the principal investigator of several funded research projects focusing on membrane contactor processes, hybrid systems for desalination, and water reuse membrane processes.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “Membrane Distillation and High Salinity: Analysis and Implications in Water” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on the analysis of membrane distillation for high salinity waters. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

I started my PhD because of my passion on advanced wastewater treatment using membranes. Since then I have been increasingly focusing on desalination and water reuse, mainly because these systems are at the intersection between energy and water. There is a huge opportunity in managing concentrated waste streams from inland desalination and water reuse by realizing full resource recovery in wet streams.

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

Interacting with talented PhD students. Without any doubts. They challenge me and they’re doing great research. I am very proud of the work they are putting out and how they shaped the lab in the past couple of years. In terms of research, I am very fortunate to work in a research center that was created to tackle water reuse challenges. There I can do research at different scales, from surface chemistry to operating pilot-scale systems 24/7, and I am also forming close collaborations outside of engineering.

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

Overall, I think it goes back to the basics: how do we make sure that everybody has safe drinking water and a good environmental health? We just need to realize that the world we live in is rapidly changing. We are already observing large people displacement for various reasons and it is not going to decrease anytime soon. The water infrastructure is not designed for it. We need to move towards life support systems to support humans in harsh environments.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

In a relatively new lab, it took time to build a lab culture between all the members.

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

Because of the Covd19 disease I am not traveling much at the moment. Conferences I regularly contribute to are NAMS, the AEESP Conference, the Gordon Conference on Membranes, and the AMTA/AWWA Membrane Technology Conference.

How do you spend your spare time?

I like to be outdoor as much of possible and ride my bicycle, and spend time with my family. Now that I have a two-year son, I combine these activities towing Arturo around on his bike trailer from one Mexican pastries shop to the next J

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

My not so secret dream was to be as good and eloquent as Noam Chomsky. I love geopolitics and history, so that would have been a fun work and research area. Also, bike mechanic would have been another excellent choice.

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

It may be cliché, but follow your passion, stick to your guns, and play your strengths. Also, treat everybody well. Then remember to breathe and be kind to your body, even when you are too busy. And perform the task you hate the most first, it makes the rest of your day much better.

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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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