Environmental Sciences and Engineering News Briefs

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Chang Honored in Doctoral Student Poster Competition
Shih Ying Chang won third place in the 2015 doctoral student poster competition, hosted by the Air and Waste Management Association. Under the faculty advisement of Will Vizuete and Sarav Arunachalam, Chang researched the spatio-temporal kriging technique traditionally used in air pollution health studies and its potential exposure error. His poster was entitled, “Evaluation of model-based exposure metrics for multiple pollutants at fine resolution.”


Vizuete To Present at GEM Conference
Will Vizuete, PhD, associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering, will present a talk entitled “Insight Into Atmospheric Chemistry” in August at the 2015 Annual GEM Conference. The mission of The National GEM Consortium is to enhance the value of the nation’s human capital by increasing the participation of underrepresented groups at the master’s and doctoral levels in engineering and science.


Characklis Talks About Water Planning on UNC Public Television
Greg Characklis, PhD, professor of environmental sciences and engineering, discussed state and local water planning on the show North Carolina Now, which aired June 3, 2015, on UNC-TV. While North Carolina is experiencing population growth, the number of water reservoirs remains constant. Characklis says planning for the future makes sense, even when citizens are not immediately threatened by drought conditions.


BSPH Student Emma Kelly Wins Award to Conduct Field Research in Ghana
BSPH student Emma Kelly was one of eight University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students who received a Class of 1938 Summer Project Abroad Fellowship. Kelly will be conducting field research in Ghana with a research team from the Water Institute at UNC. The team’s goal is to better understand the sustainability and functionality of community-managed drinking water systems in the developing world.


The Water Institute at UNC Hosts Second Water Microbiology Conference
The Water Microbiology Conference, hosted by the ESE-affiliated Water Institute at UNC, created a forum for researchers and practitioners focused on microbiology and public health. The conference sponsors were: Bio-Rad, NSF International, Aquagenx, Artel, Charm Sciences, InnovaPrep, and Bawell. Presentations from the Conference as well as photos and other materials will be added to the archived 2015 website as they become available.


Singer Honored with 2015 AEESP Outstanding Publication Award
Professor Emeritus Phil Singer (pictured) and alumnus Dave Reckhow, currently on the faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, co-authored the 1990 paper entitled “Chlorination of Humic Materials: Byproduct Formation and Chemical Interpretations” published in Environmental Science and Technology. The AEESP selected the paper for the 2015 AEESP Outstanding Publication Award.


Kyle MessierDoctoral Student Kyle Messier Co-Authors New Study Of Drinking Water Quality
A new study finds that combined sewer systems can contaminate drinking water supplies with bacteria and viruses. Combined sewer systems collect both sewage and stormwater runoff before reaching treatment facilities. When heavy rains overload the capacity of such systems, untreated contents may be discharged into local bodies of water. This study, co-authored by doctoral student Kyle Messier, was featured in ASPPH’s Friday Letters.


Department Presents 2015 Awards
Chair Michael Aitken announced the departmental awards on April 15, 2015. The Newton Underwood Memorial Award for teaching went to lecturer Courtney Andrews; the Bunker Award for the most outstanding scholarship and professional promise was given to MSEE student Yuzhi Chen; and the Achievement Award for outstanding work in the MSPH or MS degree program was presented to Hannah Leker (pictured).


Tori Klug Wins Scholarship from the American Water Works Association
Master’s student Tori Klug has received the 2015 Larson Aquatic Support Research Scholarship from the American Water Works Association. This scholarship is funded by AWWA members to support the development of professionals interested in service to the water industry. Ms. Klug will be publicly recognized at the Annual Conference of the American Water Works Association to be held June 7-10, 2015.


Ismail Awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Indonesia
Safiyah Ismail, currently in her senior year in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, will travel to Indonesia later this year as a Fulbright Student. Ismail, a Bachelor of Science in Public Health student from Cary, N.C., seeks to learn important lessons in cultural diversity and inclusion during her time as an English Teaching Assistant. [more]


New Report Reveals Alarming Lack of WaSH in Health Facilities
A new World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF report, released March 17, calls for immediate action to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) in health-care facilities in low- and middle-income countries and outlines a way forward. Ryan Cronk (left) and Dr. Jamie Bartram of The Water Institute, part of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and the Gillings School of Global Public Health, authored the report. [more]


Kyle Messier Wins 2015 Impact Award from the Graduate School
ESE graduate student Kyle Messier was honored for his research in nitrate contamination of groundwater, which has harmful impacts to human and ecological health. “Kyle’s work has a significant impact because it introduces a state-of-the-art mapping method that can be used to map nitrate. Using this method, Kyle was able to find the sources of nitrate in North Carolina — and the extent of pollution,” said adviser Marc Serre, Ph.D. [more]


Maiko Arashiro Wins 2015 Impact Award from the Graduate School
Isoprene, a naturally occurring emission from trees, does not pose a significant threat to human health and the climate. However, in combination with emissions from coal-fired power plants and vehicles, isoprene can lead to the formation of particles with potentially adverse effects. Doctoral student Maiko Arashiro is investigating whether or not inhalation of these particles can contribute to lung inflammation. [more]


Marie Patane Curtis Wins 2015 Impact Award from the Graduate School
Vehicles release air pollutants that can cause severe respiratory and cardiac issues. Recent master’s degree graduate Marie Patane Curtis studied conventional fuel sources imported from outside North Carolina, as well as in-state sources of renewable electricity and compressed natural gas as transportation fuels to improve air quality, increase energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in North Carolina. [more]


2005 ESE Distinguished Alumnus Creates Endowed Professorship at Clarkson University
Former Clarkson University Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty member and 2005 ESE Distinguished Alumnus James Edzwald and his wife, Joan, of Potsdam, N.Y., have provided a generous gift to create the James K. Edzwald Professorship in Environmental Engineering at Clarkson University. He is editor of Water Quality & Treatment: A Handbook on Drinking Water, considered the seminal book on water quality and treatment resources. [more]


ESE’s Coronell and Noble Receive $1.68M in UNC Grants for Water Studies
The University of North Carolina General Administration has awarded six three-year grants totaling nearly $9 million to support game-changing faculty research in areas of strategic importance to the state. Each of the funded projects involves partners from two or more UNC campuses. Orlando Coronell, PhD, assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering (pictured), is co-PI of a team awarded $997,996 [more]


ESE Postdoc Awarded Michigan Fellowship
Ying-Hsuan Lin, PhD, postdoctoral research associate, was selected as a fellow with the Michigan Society of Fellows and was also appointed as an assistant professor in the University of Michigan’s Department of Chemistry. “She is a rising young star in this interdisciplinary research field,” said Jason Surratt, PhD, assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School of Global Public Health [more]


2014 AEESP Distinguished Lecturer Bruce E Logan Presents Special Seminar
Professor Bruce E Logan is an Evan Pugh Professor, the Stan and Flora Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering, and Director of the Engineering Energy and Environmental Institute at Penn State University. His current research efforts are in bioenergy production. On February 6, 2015, he presented a special seminar at UNC entitled, “Energy Generation From Water: Just Add Salt,” which is available online.


Former Faculty Member, Dr. Richard Francis Cole, Passes Away
Dr. Cole passed on December 11, 2014. He received his PhD from the Department, was a faculty member in the Department and the field coordinator for a project called the Regional School of Sanitary Engineering (or ERIS), which served all of Central America and Panama. In 1972, he went to work for the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel, where he served for many years.


Dr. M. Katherine Banks Honored As 2014 ESE Distinguished Alumna
Department Chair Dr. Michael Aitken presented the 2014 ESE Distinguished Alumna Award to Dr. M. Katherine Banks, who is currently the vice chancellor for engineering for The Texas A&M University System and Dean of the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University. A video of her seminar entitled, “Bacterial Biofilm Characteristics in Environmental Engineering Applications” is available online.


Study to Examine Ebola’s Survival Rate, Disinfection in Sewage
Kenan Distinguished Professor Dr. Mark Sobsey will conduct a National Science Foundation-funded study to examine potential hazards for sewer workers and others who come in contact with human fecal waste infected with Ebola. “We really don’t know how long the virus survives in fecal wastes and sewage and how it can best be inactivated or killed by chemical disinfection methods,” Dr. Sobsey said. [more]


West Selected as Stanford University Leopold Leadership Fellow
Jason West, PhD, associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering, was one of 20 researchers in the U.S. and Canada selected as a 2015 Leopold Leadership Fellow. Based at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, the Leopold Leadership Program provides outstanding academic environmental researchers with skills for working with partners to integrate science into decision-making. [more]


Study Calls for New Global Standard for Water and Sanitation
A new study conducted by The Water Institute at UNC calls for a new global standard for improvements in household drinking water and sanitation access. The study, “Does Global Progress on Sanitation Really Lag Behind Water?,” published in Plos One highlights that current benchmarks for access, established by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), treat water and sanitation differently, masking deficits in household water access. [more]


Glaze, Pioneering Environmental Scientist and Former ESE Chair, Dies at 80
William Howard Glaze, PhD, former professor and chair of environmental sciences and engineering (ESE) at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, died Dec. 17 at the age of 80. He was selected as chair of ESE in 1989 and left to direct the Carolina Environmental Program in 1997. In 2003, he established an interdisciplinary program at Oregon Health Science University, aimed at integrating human and environmental health. [more]


New Study Finds Compact Development Reduces Air Pollution But May Harm Health
The first-of-its-kind study, led by doctoral student Theodore J. Mansfield and Associate Professor Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson along with other North Carolina-based environmental and planning researchers, links a transportation demand model used by regional planners to health risk models. Their paper was posted online Dec. 9 in the journal Risk Analysis, published by the Society for Risk Analysis. [more]


Employee Excellence Awards
At the Department holiday party on December 4, 2014, the Department launched a new tradition, the Employee Excellence Awards. The inaugural awards were presented to Kriste Smith, Business Officer; Marissa Streyle, Research Associate, Director of Networking for The Water Institute (pictured); Jack Whaley, Student Services Manager; and Robin Whitley, Administrative Systems Coordinator. [more]


Nylander-French Part of a $2.5M NIEHS Grant to Study Indoor Air Pollution
Professor Leena Nylander-French, in collaboration with other UNC researchers, has been awarded a $2.5 million National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) grant to study “The Health and Poverty Effects of a Large-Scale Cookstove Initiative in Rwanda,” a project that will evaluate the impact of a private-sector cookstove and fuel-distribution intervention upon exposure to airborne pollutants, health and poverty. [more]


Student Wins Poster Competition at the Superfund Research Program Annual Meeting
PhD student Alden Adrion won the “Best student poster in environmental sciences and engineering session 1” award at the annual National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Research Program (SRP) meeting, November 12-14, 2014, in San Jose, California. His winning poster was entitled, “Using Surfactants to Improve the Bioremediation of Soil Contaminated with Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons.”


Patsy Polston Awarded Fellowship for Work at Institut Pasteur
PhD student Patsy Polston is one of two inaugural recipients of the Dennis and Mireille Gillings Global Public Health Fellowship, a collaboration between UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and and the Pasteur Foundation, the U.S. affiliate of Institut Pasteur in Paris. The two-year postdoctoral fellowships, renewable for a third year, are designed to acknowledge and advance the very best of the next generation’s public health leaders.


Maya Nadimpalli Awarded Fellowship for Work at Institut Pasteur
Along with fellow student Patsy Polston, PhD student Maya Nadimpalli is a recipient of the prestigious Dennis and Mireille Gillings Global Public Health Fellowship, offering her the opportunity to work at the Institut Pasteur in Paris or one of the Institut’s international network sites. Founded by Louis Pasteur in 1887, Institut Pasteur is one of the world’s leading private nonprofit centers for scientific research.


Prenatal Arsenic Exposure May Lead to Gene Reprogramming in Children, Study Finds
Rebecca Fry, PhD, associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School, and colleagues found that arsenic, a metalloid that can contaminate drinking water around the world, can affect the control of gene expression — the process by which information from a gene is used in the synthesis of a functional gene product — and lead to impaired fetal growth, preterm labor, low birth weight and early pregnancy loss. [more]


Student Wins Poster Competition at the American Association for Aerosol Research
PhD student Sri Hapsari Budisulistiorini, under the direction of Dr. Jason Surratt, was a student poster competition winner at the annual conference of the American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR). Her poster was entitled “Chemical characterization of gas- and aerosol-phase products from isoprene ozonolysis in presence of acidic aerosol: Re-examination of secondary organic aerosol formation.”


Swenberg Delivers Keynote at Korea Toxicology Conference
James Swenberg, PhD, Kenan Distinguished Professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School, delivered the keynote address at the 30th annual meeting of the Korean Society of Toxicology/Korean Environmental Mutagen Society, held at Muju Deogyusan Resort, in Jeonbuk, Korea, Nov. 6-7. Swenberg’s lecture, “Using Science to Improve Risk Assessment,” addressed use of the IPCS/EPA Framework …[more]


NIOSH Awards Nylander-French to Study Susceptibility to Toxic Compounds
The National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety has awarded more than $1 million to Leena Nylander-French PhD, CIH, professor of occupational and environmental health in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, for two studies to find biomarkers that might help determine which workers are most susceptible to diseases caused by toxins in automotive spray paints and other surface coatings. [more]


Characklis Invited to Attend National Academy of Science Symposium
Greg Characklis, PhD, professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been invited to participate in the U.S. Kavli Frontiers of Science symposium, the National Academy of Science’s premiere activity for distinguished young scientists. Attendees are selected by a committee of Academy members from among young researchers who already have made recognized contributions to science. [more]


Folt Named Professor in Environmental Sciences and Engineering Department
Chancellor Carol Folt, PhD, has received joint appointments in the Department of Biology and in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering. “She is an outstanding scientist who has worked on water quality issues her entire career, and her recent work on exposure of human populations to toxic metals such as mercury and arsenic is particularly relevant to the Gillings School’s mission,” said Michael Aitken, chair of ESE. [more]


Water and Health Conference Attracts A Global Audience
The affiliated Water Institute at UNC hosted its fifth annual Water and Health Conference: Where Science Meets Policy, October 13-17, 2014. The Conference brought together 530 participants from over 30 countries to consider drinking water supply, sanitation, hygiene and water resources in both the developing and developed worlds. The best of 450 submitted abstracts were presented along with 36 side events.


Zoe Frolking Selected as 2014 CDC Millenial Health Leader
MSPH graduate student Zoe Frolking was chosen as a Center Disease Control (CDC) Millennial Health Leader and invited to attend the 2014 CDC Millennial Health Leaders’ Summit, an interdisciplinary symposium on health disparities. As a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) trainee at Gillings, Zoe shared with the other participants the often-overlooked environmental components and determinants of disparities in public health.


In Memory of Professor Emeritus Morris Shiffman
Professor Emeritus Morris Shiffman, 91, (pictured) died October 6, 2014, after a prolonged illness. Prior to joining the ESE faculty in 1964, Dr. Shiffman served in the US Public Health Service and directed the Milk and Sanitation Program for the City of Philadelphia Health Department. He held an MBA degree from the Wharton School of Business, an MPH from Michigan, a DVM degree from the University of Paris… [more]


Graduate Student Alma Beciragic Receives Eckenfelder Fellowship
Doctoral student Alma Beciragic, who was born in Zagreb, Croatia, and came to the United States as a refugee in 1992, 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.


Characklis Writes Op-Ed About Preparing for Water Scarcity
Professor Gregory Characklis wrote an op-ed, published in the News and Observer, about the importance of making wise water decisions in times of plenty and planning for times of drought. Given the abundant rainfall in central North Carolina in the Spring of 2014, it is easy to forget that within the last 15 years North Carolina has experienced the state’s two most severe droughts on record. Read the full article here.


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.


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.”