EWR Faculty Research Interests and Activities

The Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Program offers research opportunities in a broad range of environmental and water resources areas. Below is a list of faculty members and their research interests and activities.

Dr. Gregory Boardman

Research interests: Water and wastewater treatment; industrial waste management; environmental toxicology.

Research activities:

1. Use of alternative substrates for biological denitrification
2. Characterization of solids and liquids from hydraulic fracturing operations
3. Production and treatment of gases generated by biological digestion processes
4. Physicochemical and biological treatment of industrial wastes
5. Evaluation of anaerobic digestion processes
6. Alternative means of managing biosolids

Dr. Charles Bott

Research interests: Municipal and industrial wastewater treatment; advanced water treatment and potable reuse; physical-chemical and biological treatment processes.

Research activities:

1. Advanced water treatment processes for potable reuse
2. Aerobic granular sludge processes
3. Advanced process control systems – sensors and automation
4. Thermal hydrolysis, co-digestion, and other digestion enhancements
5. Chemical and biological phosphorus removal
6. Sidestream and mainstream deammonification/shortcut nitrogen removal (anammox)
7. Denitrification with methanol and alternative carbon sources
8. Nitrification kinetics and evaluation of nitrification inhibition
9. Nutrient recovery
10. Environmental microbiology and biotechnology
11. Water quality
12. Biogas conditioning and energy recovery

Dr. Andrea Dietrich

Research interests: Drinking water quality; treatment and infrastructure; environmental analytical chemistry.

Research activities:

1. Assessing the role of aqueous metals in human nutrition and toxicity
2. Fate and transport of organic and inorganic chemicals in air, water, biota
3. Chemosensory analysis of environmental contaminants and tastes-and-odors in drinking water
4. Fate and transport of organic and inorganic chemicals

Dr. Randy Dymond

Research interests: Urban stormwater and hydrology; watershed management; land use change impacts; GIS.

Research activities:

1. Urban stormwater hydrology
2. Watershed master planning and geospatial analysis
3. Low impact development and Best Management Practices (BMPs)
4. MS4 compliance and illicit discharges in urban environment
5. Software development for BMP selection and runoff reduction
6. Sustainable land development
7. Thermal and erosion pollution potential GIS modelling
8. Analysis of Trends in U.S. stormwater utility & fee systems

Dr. Marc Edwards

Research interests: Water treatment; corrosion; arsenic removal; applied aquatic chemistry.

Research activities:

1. Corrosion and water quality in potable water distribution systems
2. Microbial growth in premise plumbing and distribution systems
3. Metals leaching to water supplies from plumbing (especially copper/lead)
4. Public health impacts of metal leaching
5. Energy-water-public health nexus in building hot water systems
6. Engineering and science ethics

Dr. Daniel Gallagher

Research interests: Environmental statistics and data analysis; risk assessment; food safety; contaminant fate and transportation; environmental modelling and simulation.

Research activities:

1. Exposure analysis from the crude MCHM spill in drinking water
2. Risk assessment for Shiga toxin producing  coliin beef
3. Use of customer complaints as early warning systems for contamination
4. Developing a Markov Chain model to describe retail deli worker behaviour
5. Analysis of face reader technology to describe emotional impacts of food
6. Canonical correlation analysis of drinking water quality with home-owner perceptions.

Dr. Adil Godrej

Research interests: Environmental modelling and simulation; nonpoint pollution monitoring and control; watershed, lake and reservoir management; water reuse.

Research activities:

1. Monitoring water quality in rapidly-urbanizing watersheds
2. Measurement of nutrient dynamics in water bodies
3. Characterization of BMP effectiveness
4. Water quality modelling of watersheds and reservoirs
5. Application of water quality modelling to climate change
6. Water and wastewater treatment processes as they relate to watershed stream health

Dr. Stanley Grant

Research interests: Water supply and water quality; environmental fate and transport modeling; coupled human-natural systems

Research activities:

  1. Nutrient and pathogen removal in streams and coastal waters
  2. Capture, treatment, and fit-for-purpose use of stormwater
  3. Collaborative investigations of water conservation behavior

 Dr. Zhen (Jason) He

Research interests: Environmental biotechnology; bioenergy production; microbial fuel cells; sustainable desalination technology; biological wastewater treatment; anaerobic digestion; water softening process environmental bio-electrochemistry; osmotic bioelectrochemical systems; membrane bioreactors; sustainable water reuse.

Research activities:

1. Technologies for sustainable water and wastewater treatment
2. Microbial process in engineered systems designed for biological wastewater treatment
3. Bioenergy production to improve bioreactor performance.
4. System scaling up of microbial fuel cells for wastewater treatment
5. Development of microbial desalination cells for brackish water desalination
6. Forward osmosis for water desalination and wastewater reuse
7. Membrane bioreactors and algal bioreactors
8. Anaerobic digestion, and nutrient removal and recovery (e.g., anammox)

 Dr. Erich Hester

Research interests: Hydrology; hydraulics; environmental fluid mechanics; groundwater; surface water-groundwater exchange; hyporheic exchange; floodplain exchange; surface coal mine hydrology.

Research activities:

1. Analysis of flow in streams, rivers, wetlands, riparian zones, and groundwater
2. Zonal exchange such as hyporheic exchange and floodplain exchange
3. Nutrient, pollutant, and heat transport in water
4. Mitigation of pollution by natural means in stream and river systems
5. Water quality impacts of surface coal mining
6. Measuring environmental sustainability of water resources management

 Dr. Clayton Hodges

Research interests: Urban hydrology and characteristics of urban stormwater runoff; stormwater best management practice (BMP) design, construction, and maintenance; geospatial analysis related to impacts of urbanization; optimization of hydrologic systems; land development technologies and practices.

Research activities:

1. Stormwater BMP selection optimization
2. Hydrologic software development
3. Stormwater management standards
4. Predicting and modelling thermal pollution in urban watersheds
5. BMP monitoring
6. Stream flow monitoring

Dr. Jennifer Irish 

Research interests: Coastal engineering; coastal hazards; storm surge; tropical cyclones; disaster resilience; natural and nature-based infrastructure; sea-level rise.

Research activities:

1. Probabilistic surge hazard assessment
2. Storm surge dynamics
3. Effects of sea-level rise on ecosystems
4. Disaster-resilient communities and infrastructure
5. Hazard assessment using tsunami and storm surge sediment dynamics
6. Impact of forests and mangroves on tsunami inundation
7. Storm-induced coastal erosion and barrier-island breaching
8. Storm surge forecasting

Dr. Gabriel Isaacman-VanWertz

Research interests: Natural and anthropogenic emissions transformation in the atmosphere; air pollution formation and removal.

Research activities:

1. Particulate matter in both indoor and outdoor environments
2. Interactions between gas- and particle phase compounds in the atmosphere
3. Composition of anthropogenic and natural emissions
4. Chemistry behind emission oxidation in atmosphere to form particulate matter
5. Processes that deposit emissions into other ecosystems

Dr. William Knocke

Research interests: Physical-chemical processes as applied to drinking water treatment situations; environmental processes; environmental chemistry and the geological sciences.

Research activities:

1. Control of trace metals (primarily iron and manganese) via adsorptive and oxidative methods
2. Characterization of natural organic matter in drinking water and suitability of conventional coagulation systems for removal of these organics
3. Characterization of the residuals streams (primarily solids materials) produced within water treatment operations, with emphasis on dewatering and disposal options

 Dr. John Little

Research interests: Cross-media mass transfer and process dynamics in environmental systems; indoor environment; surface water, lakes and reservoirs; sustainability and resilience from a systems perspective.

Research activities:

1. Management of water quality in lakes and reservoirs
2. Migration of chemicals from materials and products into air and water
3. Approaching sustainability and resilience from a systems perspective
4. Sustainable management of urban watersheds and the integration of watersheds with several other environmental, economic, and social systems

 Dr. Linsey Marr

Research interests: Transformation and fate of pollutants in the atmosphere; improved quantification of air pollutant emissions; environmental and health impacts of nanotechnology; airborne transmission of infectious disease.

Research activities:

1. Quantifying emissions of gaseous and particulate pollutants from different sources
2. Developing a mechanistic understanding of the airborne transmission of infectious diseases
3. Characterizing the airborne microbiome
4. Assessing the environmental impacts and health impacts of engineered nanoparticles
5. Predicting partitioning of organic compounds and exposure to them

Dr. Amy Pruden

Research interests: Applied environmental microbiology; antibiotic resistance genes as emerging contaminants; opportunistic pathogens in premise plumbing; environmental implications of nanotechnology; biomolecular tools; sustainable water infrastructure; microbiome of the built environment.

Research activities:

1. Antibiotic resistance in agricultural and wastewater influenced watersheds
2. Opportunistic pathogens in drinking water systems
3. Characterizing the microbiome of the built environment
4. Provide fundamental insight into wastewater, drinking water and recycled water systems

 Dr. Nina Stark

Research interests: Coastal and marine geotechnics; subaqueous sediment dynamics; beach dynamics; beach trafficability; structure-seafloor interaction; offshore renewable energies; instrument development and remote sensing.

Research activities:

1. Beach dynamics at mixed sand-gravel and sandy beaches
2. Wave energy converter developments
3. Pore pressure behavior under ocean wave forcing and the associated impact on sediment erosion and scour
4. Geotechnical investigations of sediment remobilization processes (particularly in energetic nearshore zones)
5. Development of in-situ instrumentation for controlled geotechnical testing, and sediment sampling.
6. Arctic coastal erosion

 Dr. Kyle Strom

Research interests: Environmental hydraulics; environmental fluid mechanics; sediment transport; geomorphology; experimental methods.

Research activities:

1. Sediment transport processes in coastal river mouth plumes
2. Turbulence and bed sediment motion
3. Hydraulics of distributive channels and their deposits (deltas and fans)
4. Movement of fine sediment in gravel bed rivers and estuaries
5. Experimental methods and instrumentation development

Dr. Peter Vikesland

Research interests: Nanomaterials in the environment; improved sensors for drinking water treatment.

Research activities:

1. Field-deployable sensors for detection of environmental contaminants
2. Characterization of the environmental implications of nanomaterials
3. Use of nanoparticle-enabled spectroscopies
4. Engineered nanomaterials interaction with biotic and abiotic surfaces

Dr. Zhiwu (Drew) Wang

Research interests:Water and wastewater treatment; nutrient removal and recovery; anaerobic digestion; biofilm reactors; bioprocess modeling and the bioconversion of waste into bioenergy and bioproducts.

Research activities:

1. Biotechnologies for environmentally safe waste stream disposal or reuse
2. Value-added bioenergy/bioproducts recovery
3. Biofilms as viable catalysts for wastewater treatment
4. Conversion of waste into methane, ethanol, electricity, diesel and bioplastics
5. Development of new biogranulation techniques and membrane bioreactors for energy efficient water purification

 Dr. Mark Widdowson

Research Interests: Groundwater resources; fate and attenuation of contaminants in aquatic environments; modeling and decision-support tools; subsurface remediation including natural attenuation; bioremediation; phytoremediation.

Research activities:

1. Forecasting cost-benefit of municipal water system upgrades
2. Regional water supply planning
3. Groundwater management and modeling in Eastern Virginia
4. Risk assessment to water supply and water resources infrastructure
5. Phytoremediation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds
6. Contaminant transport, attenuation and remediation of chlorinated solvents
7. Impact organic carbon in aquifer and river bed sediments
8. Arsenic mobilization and transport in aquifers