Environmental Sciences and Engineering News Briefs


Graduate Student Alma Beciragic Receives Eckenfelder Fellowship

Doctoral student Alma Beciragic is this year’s winner of the Dr. W. Wesley Eckenfelder, Jr. Scholarship from Brown and Caldwell. Each year, Brown and Caldwell awards this scholarship to a student pursuing education and a career within the environmental industry. Alma’s research will focus on the fate and transport of disinfection byproducts in drinking water.


Graduate Student Ariel Atkinson Receives Two Year Fellowship

Doctoral candidate Ariel Atkinson, under the advisement of Dr. Orlando Coronell, has received a two-year fellowship from the National Water Research Institute (NWRI) and the American Membrane Technology Association (AMTA). She was one of two national recipients of this honor, which supports graduate research pertaining to improving water quality and solving water supply and quality issues through widespread application of membrane technology. [more]


Characklis to Lead New NSF-USDA Grant

Professor Gregory Characklis will lead a team that has been awarded a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The interdisciplinary project, “Designing Robust and Adaptive Water Management Strategies for Regions Transitioning from Abundance to Scarcity,” will develop innovative strategies for sustainably meeting future water demands in the Southeastern U.S. [more]


Disparities in Water Access in NC

Associate Professor Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson and her team have mapped safe water access in North Carolina by county, showing disparities in access across the state. The project objectives include examining racial disparities in access to public water and sewer resources, said Hannah Leker, a master’s student on the team. The team is planning to have the project results published by the end of the year. [more]


Doctor SingerProfessor Emeritus Phil Singer Wins Career Award

Singer, who retired from UNC in 2010, is the recipient of the American Water Works Association’s premier award, the 2014 Abel Wolman Award of Excellence, recognizing those whose careers in the water profession exemplify vision, creativity, and excellent professional performance. During his 40 year career, Singer directly assisted many utilities in North Carolina and nationally on drinking water quality issues.


JHickey In Memory of Professor Hickey

Dr. Hickey passed away on May 24, 2014, at age 87. He graduated from Harvard in 1949 with an MS degree in Engineering and served on active duty in the Navy during and after World War II. Hickey returned to school at the University of North Carolina Graduate School of Public Health, receiving his PhD degree in 1977. He taught environmental sciences and engineering at the University until 1987.


Haiti-smallDeaths From Diarrheal Disease Can Be Prevented

The World Health Organization, along with collaborators from the Water Institute at UNC and 13 other research institutions, have estimated that 842,000 deaths from diarrheal disease in low- and middle- income countries can be attributed to poor water, sanitation and hygiene. The new analysis is reported in a series of publications in the journal Tropical Medicine & International Health.


waterfromtapStudy Finds Water from Improved Sources Not Always Safe

Digging a well or accessing water through pipes does not necessarily mean a household in the developing world will have safer drinking water than if they used more traditional, unprotected water sources. In fact, fecal contamination still occurs in about 25 percent of water from improved sources. These are the findings of a new analysis conducted by researchers at The Water Institute and published May 6 in PLOS Medicine. [more]


BoyerAlumnus Receives Prestigious Junior Faculty Award

Treavor Boyer, who received his PhD in 2008 under the advisement of Dr. Phil Singer, has been honored with the University of Florida’s 2014 Excellence Award for Assistant Professors. According to the award letter, “The committee focused on the quality and innovativeness of the research, and sought to balance the diverse intellectual streams the candidates represented…Dr. Boyer emerged as being uniquely worthy of this award.”


KolskyESE Announces 2014 Departmental Awards

ESE Chair Dr. Mike Aitken announced the departmental awards on April 15, 2014. Honorees included Professor of Practice Dr. Pete Kolsky, recipient of the Newton Underwood Memorial Award; Master of Science in Environmental Engineering student James McCann, recipient of the George C. Bunker Award; and Master of Science in Public Health student Kyle Onda, recipient of the ESE Achievement Award. [more]


KolskyKolsky on Expert Panel Addressing Cholera in Haiti

Dr. Pete Kolsky, ESE faculty and Associate Director of the Water Institute, served as a rapporteur and member of an expert panel for the World Bank hosted “Technical Meeting on the Elimination of Cholera from Haïti” on April 11th, 2014. The panel was convened to review a proposed strategy involving multiple interventions: strengthened case detection and treatment; water, sanitation, and hygiene; and targeted vaccination.


Kevin ChuESE Students Selected for UNC Celebration of Undergraduate Research

ESE undergraduates were selected to participate in the University’s 15th Annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research on April 14, 2014. ESE honorees included John Burrows, Rachel Housego, Katie Overbey, Zachary Locklear, Hannah Aichelman, Jamal Benjamin, Wilton Burns, Maritza Mendoza, Emeraghi David, Emily Cerciello and Kevin Chu (pictured).


Marjorie AelionAelion Receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Alumna Marjorie Aelion, PhD (ESE 1988) was honored with the Harriet Hylton Barr Distinguished Alumni Award from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health at the Foard Lecture on April 10th. Aelion is currently Dean of the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her recent research has focused on the study of heavy metals in residential soils, primarily arsenic, lead and mercury. [more]


WASHGibson Says Building Sidewalks Can Lead to Healthier Communities

Health benefits derived from pedestrian and bicycle improvements to the Blue Ridge Road corridor in Raleigh, N.C., would total more than $300 million, according to Associate Professor Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson. That amount is “far more than would be needed to build a complete network of sidewalks” in the area. You can read more about the Blue Ridge Road Corridor Health Impact Assessment on the City of Raleigh website.


WASHBartram Gives Keynote at “WASH for Everyone, Everywhere”

Director of the Water Institute at UNC, Jamie Bartram, was a featured speaker at the 2014 “WASH for Everyone, Everywhere Conference,” Australia’s leading water, sanitation and hygiene conference, held in association with World Water Day. Dr. Bartram has over 25 years experience in international policy, research and advisory work in public health and disease prevention, especially in relation to water supply and sanitation.


GibsonGibson To Speak at International Water Conference

Associate Professor Jackie MacDonald Gibson has been invited to be a plenary speaker at the “International Water Association Leading Edge Technology Conference” in Abu Dhabi, May 26-29, 2014. Recently she served as principal investigator for a three-year project funded by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi to quantify the environmental burden of disease in the United Arab Emirates.


ChappellChappell Wins Honor for Poster on Toxicology

Grace Chappell, advised by Dr. Ivan Rusyn, won first place for her poster at the annual NC Society of Toxicology meeting.  The theme this year was: “Systems Toxicology: Integration from the gene to the population.” Chapell’s poster was entitled “Epigenotoxicity determines tissue-specific effects of inhalational exposure to the genotoxic chemical 1,3-butadiene in male C57BL/6J mice.”


NexusWater, Food, Climate and Energy Conference Addresses the Nexus

Isolated solutions aimed at just one sector miss out on efficiently resolving the resource challenges our world faces. This was the intuitive, yet challenging, premise that was explored at the “Nexus 2014 Conference,” March 5-8, hosted by the Water Institute at UNC. The Conference attracted participants from over 33 countries, who represented both science and policy perspectives. [more]


FryFry Receives Teaching Innovation Award

ESE Associate Professor Rebecca Fry was honored on Monday, February 24, 2014 by the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health for innovation in teaching. Students vote for faculty members who “improve the learning environment by integrating new technologies, engaging students in interactive activities, and introducing and incorporating progressive curriculum ideas into the classroom.”


Steve ShoafAlumnus Elected VP of American Water Works Association

Steve Shoaf, who earned his MSPH from ESE in Aug. 1980, has been elected Vice President of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), a nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality and supply of drinking water. Shoaf is currently Director of the Water Resources Department for the City of Asheville and the AWWA Director from North Carolina.


Gary WhiteAlumnus Advocates for Universal Access to Safe Water

Alumnus Gary White (MSEE, 1995), who has been honored with Distinguished Alumnus Awards from the ESE Department and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, along with actor Matt Damon co-founded Water.org, a nonprofit that helps communities achieve sustainable water systems. They co-wrote a CNN opinion column about how safe water transforms lives.


SobseySobsey’s Portable Water-Testing Device Put to Use in Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan

A start-up company co-founded by a distinguished professor at The University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health is at the forefront of restoring critical water services to the people of the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation of the islands on Nov. 7. The Philippines government contacted the leaders of Aquagenx LLC to request the use [more]


Jason SurrattSurratt’s Dreyfus Foundation Award to Further Research on Isoprene Emissions

Jason Surratt, PhD, assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been awarded a two-year, $120,000 grant by The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation to further his research on air pollution and human health. Specifically, Surratt’s research examines how human-caused pollutants interact with natural emissions [more]


BertvanDijkcreditHow Much Does Human-Produced Outdoor Air Pollution Impact Health? 

A paper on this topic was the second most downloaded paper of 2013 from the journal Environmental Research Letters. Co-authored by Jason West, PhD, assistant professor, and Raquel A. Silva and Yuqiang Zhang, doctoral students, from the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, the study estimates [more]


BartramResearch From the Water Institute at UNC Scores High for Downloads

A paper about global access to safe water was the second most downloaded paper of 2013 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The article was co-authored by Director of the Water Institute at UNC Jamie Bartram. A second paper co-authored by Bartram made the top ten. Bartram also scored the first, second and ninth most downloaded abstract views.


Hans PaerlThe Danger of Toxic Algae

Professor Hans Paerl recently talked to WUNC Public Radio about how toxic algae blooms impact drinking water reservoirs and recreational waters. According to Paerl, toxic blue-green algae or cyanobacteria can damage the liver, intestines, and nervous system, and climate change worsens the threat because toxic blooms like it hot. Paerl is currently focused on the algae problem in China’s Lake Taihu.