From contamination to carbon storage, 2019 Hack Graduate Awardees take on water-related issues

Written by
Morgan Kelly, for Princeton Environmental Institute
June 25, 2019

The Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) has selected nine Princeton University graduate students representing six departments and programs as 2019 recipients of the Mary and Randall Hack ’69 Graduate Awards for Water and the Environment. The awards provide up to $8,000 in research funding to Princeton Ph.D. candidates exploring water and water-related topics in various disciplines, including climate science, biology, engineering and environmental policy.

Two of the nine recipients, Christopher Browne and Shuwen Yue, are graduate students in chemical and biological engineering.

Christopher Browne

“Unstable Polymer Solution Flow for Groundwater Remediation”

Adviser: Sujit Datta, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Browne will continue his research of using 3D printing to model the microscopic channels in soil to help improve the remediation of groundwater contamination, particularly from oily contaminants such as gasoline. Tests have shown that polymer solutions containing oxidants and surfactants can be effective in removing petroleum contaminants from aquifers, but how is not well known. Browne is studying how these materials flow through soils so that he can determine the best conditions for delivering oxidants and surfactants directly to contaminants during groundwater cleanup and, ultimately, how to help increase public access to clean water.


Shuwen Yue

“Polarizable and Machine-Learning Models for Aqueous Electrolyte Solutions”

Adviser: Athanassios Panagiotopoulos, Susan Dod Brown Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Yue will develop molecular models to better understand the behavior of carbon dioxide in saline aquifers deep underground. Saline aquifers are thought to be ideal for storing carbon emissions because of their large capacity and natural porousness. These aquifers are saturated with brine, or electrolyte solutions, which significantly affect carbon dioxide solubility, as well as the contraction and expansion of the surrounding rock. Yue seeks to create and test machine-learning ion models that accurately capture the interaction between carbon dioxide and the ions in electrolyte solutions under a wide range of temperatures, pressures and chemical compositions.


The other seven awardees are: 

Sassan Hajirezaie, Civil and Environmental Engineering;

Matthew Hutchinson, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology;

Wenying Liao, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology;

Jack Murphy, Geosciences;

Shiv Priyam Raghuraman, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences;

Danielle Schlesinger, Geosciences;

Jennifer Willemsen, Civil and Environmental Engineering.

For descriptions of their proposals, see the original PEI announcement.