Doctoral student awarded fellowship to study water purification process

January 12, 2017

Kasia Grzebyk

Kasia Grzebyk

Kasia Grzebyk, third-year doctoral student in environmental sciences and engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has received the American Membrane Technology Association (AMTA) 2016 AMTA-USBR (United States Bureau of Reclamation) Fellowship Award.

Grzebyk is one of four national award recipients.

The fellowship is designed to support graduate student research related to AMTA’s mission to solve water supply and quality issues through the widespread application of membrane technology.

Grzebyk’s research involves the incorporation of porous nanoparticles into water purification membranes for the purpose of improving membrane performance in water reuse applications. She studies various nanoparticles and their ability to maximize water passage through the membranes while minimizing the passage of unwanted pollutants such as pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors and disinfection byproducts.

These and other pollutants are found in the treated wastewater used in water reclamation and reuse operations.

To understand the size of the nanoparticles being examined for incorporation into the membranes to improve their performance, consider, for comparison, the millimeter, which is roughly the diameter of the graphite (“lead”) in a pencil. A nanometer is one-millionth of that millimeter, and nanoparticles are between one and 100 nanometers in size. By comparison, a human hair has a diameter of 75,000 nanometers. (See a helpful description in Forbes magazine.)

“Kasia has made good progress in her project,” said her academic co-adviser, Orlando Coronell, PhD, assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School. “Already, she has fabricated membranes that rival the performance of those existing in the market and has identified nanoparticles that may be key to improving performance further.”

Howard Weinberg, PhD, associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School, also co-advises on Grzebyk’s dissertation research.

Grzebyk will attend the March 2018 AMTA-AWWA (American Water Works Association) Membrane Technology Conference and Exposition in West Palm Beach, Fla., where she will present her research and receive recognition for the fellowship award.


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu